SPRINGFIELD — Minster still has that big stage presence.
The defending state champions rallied back with three runs in the bottom of the fifth and defeated South Charleston Southeastern 6-3 in a Division IV regional semifinal.
It sets up a regional title rematch with Sidney Lehman Catholic today at 5 p.m. at Springfield.
Minster head coach Mike Wiss said his team is again relishing the big moments.
“When you get out of district and you’re back to where most people think you should be, you can relax and play baseball,” Wiss said. “That’s the approach we took. A lot of these guys are taking after last year’s group, because it was a group that was very loose. As tight as their coach may get sometimes they keep me loose. I’m happy for them.”
While Minster (23-6) rose to the occasion, Southeastern cracked under the regional pressure. The Trojans committed five errors in the game — three of them in the deciding fifth inning.
Minster’s Jay Eilerman belted an opposite field double into the right field gap to start the fifth and moved to third on Austin Knapke’s sacrifice bunt. Adam Niemeyer then knocked in the tying run with a groundball single through the left side to make it 3-3.
Then the defensive meltdown by Southeastern.
Devon Poeppelman hit a lazy fly ball to left field that Southeastern dropped, putting runners on the corners with one out.
Minster squeezed in the go-ahead run. Doug Huber laid down his second bunt of the day, this one well-placed down the first base line to allow Niemeyer to slide into home safely and moved Poeppelman to second.
The game-winning run in Minster’s last two games has crossed the plate via a squeeze from Minster’s third and fifth-place hitters in the line-up.
“We’ve worked and worked and worked on that small part of the game that can be such a big part of the game,” Wiss said.
Poeppelman scampered to third on a wild pitch and the catcher’s throw down to third went into left field to bring home the Wildcats’ fourth run.
“When somebody makes a mistake, you have to take advantage of it,” Wiss said.
Minster now will try to get past Sidney Lehman, the team that proved to be the toughest hurdle during last year’s run to the state title.
The Wildcats and Cavaliers played a wild one last May in which Minster rallied back to earn the 8-7 win. Minster went on to win the state championship.
“Lehman is going to bring a lot of energy and a lot of intensity, because that’s what they do,” Wiss said.
Minster won the regular season match-up with Lehman, 5-0, but that came in just the second game of the season for the Wildcats on March 20.
The Wildcats used the same combination of pitching that served it so well at the Coldwater district.
Minster starter Doug Huber worked the game’s first four innings, giving up three runs on four hits. He walked two and struck out three.
“Doug Huber did exactly what Doug does well — and that’s pitch well the first two times through the order,” Wiss said.
Wildcat senior Austin Knapke finished things off and earned the win, working three scoreless innings. He gave up two hits, walked one and struck out three.View more articles in: