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MINSTER — A rough start to Tuesday night’s game didn’t deter the Minster ACME baseball team from assuring itself of a trip to the district tournament.
Minster pushed a run across in the bottom of the sixth inning and advanced to the title game of the Auglaize County sectional tournament with a 5-4 win over top-seeded St. Marys at Hanover Street Park.
St. Marys (12-4) jumped out of the gate in the top of the first inning with three of its first four hitters doubling to left field. Kalobb Dodson, Michael Huber and Jarrett Taylor doubles along with a dropped fly ball in center field by Jay Eilerman put the Roughriders ahead 3-0 after a half inning.
Minster starting pitcher Doug Huber and Eilerman would both find redemptive ways to lead Minster the win even after the whiplash-inducing top of the first.
Huber settled down to hold St. Marys to one run and four hits over the next six innings. Huber struck out 10 St. Marys hitters, including a strong top of the seventh inning after Minster grabbed the lead in its last at-at in the bottom of the sixth thanks to Eilerman.
Huber struck out the side in the seventh to nail the game down and send Minster to the sectional title game tonight against Wapakoneta. Both teams are assured of a trip to the district tournament at dual sites of Celina and St. Henry beginning on Saturday.
Huber, one of Minster’s most experienced players and who started the state semifinal game against Newark Catholic in June, didn’t back down even after being shelled in the first inning.
“I knew Doug was going to stay out there and fight and just keep battling,” Minster coach Alex Brandewie said. “That’s exactly what he did for us for seven innings...He started coming into the dugout in a way that I just knew I wasn’t going to get him out of this game. He kept feeling better and better as the game went on with more confidence.”
St. Marys, which had those three extra-base hits in the first four at-bats of the game, mustered four hits the rest of the game and struck out looking seven times. Only one of those four hits was an extra-base hit. Nick Vogel doubled in the third inning before being caught stealing at third base with one out.
“I thought we got a little too contented,” St. Marys coach Alan Huber said. “We’ve been preaching all year long that when you have an opportunity to take another team out of the game, you have to do it. You cannot let a good team like Minster hang around. They’ll come back and bite you. They did.”
Minster’s ninth-place hitter Eilerman, who had gone 0 for 2 and committed that first-inning error earlier in the game, redeemed himself with a jolt off the bat. Eilerman jumped on a Nick Vogel pitch and blasted it to straightaway center field over the head of the Rider outfielder for Minster’s lone extra-base hit of the game. Eilerman, one of the fastest Wildcats on the team, cruised into third base with a head-first slide.
“He had a bit of a rough evening,” Brandewie said. “He dropped a fly ball and things weren’t quite going his way. I went up to him (before the sixth inning) and told him their corner infielders have been back and if he wanted to he could bunt for a hit. He said, ‘No, I want to hit.’ Then he hit a laser to center field. And then I knew at least he knew what he was talking about.”
Two batters later, Austin Knapke lifted a sacrifice fly to medium center. Eilerman beat the throw easily and Minster had a 5-4 lead.
Minster rallied from its early 3-0 deficit to grab a lead in the bottom of the third with a four-run inning. The Wildcats led off the inning with five straight singles by Austin Knapke, Ryan Hoying, Doug Huber, Rob Wente and Drew Elson. Huber’s single drove in Minster first run of the game and Wente’s hot grounder through the box plated two runs.
Andrew Knapke added the go-ahead run with a single to make it 4-3.
“When we get a couple hits, if we can string them together, we can run the bases and really string something together,” Brandewie said. “We pressed the issue on them. That works into our favor when we can turn things into a running game.”
St. Marys tied the game in the top of of the fifth inning after the first two batters were retired. Michael Huber was hit by a pitch and stole second base before coming around to score on a single to left field by Nick Vogel.
Codie Deaton started for St. Marys and gave up four runs over 2 1-3 innings. Vogel worked the next 2 2-3 innings, giving up one run before giving way to Brad Sawmiller in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Doug Huber and Drew Elson each collected a pair of hits for Minster to lead the way.
Nick Vogel and Steven Paulus both had two hits for St. Marys.
St. Marys won the first three meetings this summer against Minster, but the fourth and most important went the way of the Wildcats.
“It’s tough to beat a team four times, let alone a team like Minster,” Alan Huber said.
Huber said his team took strides forward this summer and has set itself up with a strong returning class to do well next spring in the Western Buckeye League.
“The way this team is set up, there’s no reason it can’t compete for a league championship,” Huber said.
Minster, which entered this ACME season with a slow start after the decompression period after the Division IV state championship in the spring and had to adjust to the loss of key seniors on the field to graduation, is now headed to the district tournament following Wednesday night’s sectional final (or finals).
If Wapakoneta wins the 6 p.m. game tonight, the Redskins are the sectional champions. If Minster wins the first game, the two teams will square off in a second game to decide the sectional champion.
ST. MARYS 4
123 456 7 R H ELOB
SM 300 010 0 4 7 1 4
MIN 004 001 X 5 9 1 9
WP — Doug Huber (7 IP, 7H, 3ER, 4R, 10 SO)
LP — Nick Vogel
2B — SM: Kalobb Dodson (1st), Michael Huber (1st), Jarrett Taylor (1st), Nick Vogel (3rd).
3B — MIN: Jay Eilerman (6th).