St. Matthews wins fifth straight church league crown
St. Matthews won its fifth straight Princeton Fastpitch Church League championship, defeating United Methodist 15-7 Saturday night at West Side Park.
St. Matthews now has the second longest streak in Church League history, topped only by Bunker Hill, which won seven straight from 2005-11. St. Matthews, which has won six of the past seven championships, has won 10 titles dating back to 1980.
“Our guys showed a lot of perseverance this year. I don’t think we were at full strength for any of our games. All 15 guys on the team contributed in a big way at some point. It was “next man up” sort of a year for us,” St. Matthews captain Eric Waca said.
“Every year I say the same thing about our team. ... We have a good group of guys that love to play softball together. We never get down on each other, always staying positive with the occasional rib. We pick each other up. It’s a group effort.”
It was certainly a rough start for Methodist. The boys in blue scored one run in the top of the first, but had a shaky go of it in the bottom of the inning defensively.
The Methodist committed three costly errors that fueled a lengthy at-bat for St. Matthews on the way to a 12-1 lead. St. Matthews also rapped out nine hits, including a two-run homer by Jake Reinhardt.
The Methodist battled back for four runs in the top of the fifth, to avoid losing by the 10-run rule, including a two-run triple by Jerry Lanham and RBI hits by Noah Hoffman and Bret Lasson, and added another run in the sixth to pull within 12-7.
St. Matthews tacked on three runs in the bottom of the sixth, helped by another UMC error, to give pitcher Brad Snethen a little more breathing room, up 15-7.
“We lost to St. Matthews 11-10 just three weeks ago, so we knew we had a shot, but they had (nine) of their 12 hits in the first innings and we had three errors,” longtime UMC captain Rex Lasson said.
“It’s always a fun challenge in the Church League. St. Matthews and Malden are two of the heaviest hitting teams I have seen in my 34 years in the league.”
Waca was not surprised to see Methodist not only battle back in the game, but battle back from a surprising opening 14-11 loss to sixth-seed People Church.
“Methodist is a good team and always have been,” Waca said. “Offensively, we knew going into the game that we had to make Bret (Methodist pitcher Lasson) work, and put pressure on their defense. Bret threw a lot of games and innings to get them back to the championship. Defensively, we had a good tournament, and we knew we had to limit our mistakes and couldn’t give them any outs.”
Levi Bates and Reinhardt each had three hits for St. Mathews as did Methodist’s Noah Hoffman.
Church bulletin: Reinhardt receives the BCR Gordie Shipp Tournament MVP Award. He went 6-14 (.429) in four games, including two homers (one in the title game), two doubles and six RBI. ... Top-seed Malden Methodist, formerly known as St. Louis/Catholic, finished third in the tournament, losing to both St. Matthews and Methodist. Princeton Bible, which took the 7 seed into the tournament, claimed fourth in the tournament, battling Methodist to a 9-8 elimination game. ... Other championship streaks in league history include four each for Bible (1986-89) and Methodist (1991-94).