STE. GENEVIEVE – The recognition of experienced pitching depth is arguably the chief reason why Ste. Genevieve entered this year’s MAAA conference baseball tournament as the No. 1 seed.
When senior ace Drew Toombs reached his mandated limit on a walk and Logan Gegg allowed two men to reach in relief on Friday, junior Derek Morganthaler was waiting to slam the door.
The Dragons protected an early lead against Valle Catholic for a 5-2 victory in the semifinal round of the MAAA conference tournament, topping the Warriors for the second time in eight days.
Toombs (5-0) allowed two runs on four hits and struck out five for the win before departing in the top of the sixth. Five walks elevated his pitch count.
Morganthaler faced six batters and earned a five-out save after inheriting the bases loaded with a 5-1 lead. He also paced Ste. Genevieve (15-5) from the leadoff spot with two hits while scoring twice.
He will likely get the start on Saturday when the Dragons host Large-School division rival Central for the tournament championship at 3 p.m.
Valle Catholic (16-8) was on the short end of a complete game 4-hitter by Morganthaler on April 26, and was not rewarded for the solid contact made against him in the rematch.
Tyler Blum lined sharply to Chase Koller in left field to end the sixth after a ground out by Carter Roth pushed one run across the dish. Zach Grain stung a drive to Gegg at third base to end the game.
Although both clubs were displeased with the strike zone at times, the Ste. Genevieve lineup found an early groove for two runs against right-hander Chris Loida in the opening frame.
Chad Donze singled home Morganthaler following a sacrifice bunt by Koller, and took second base on the throw home before Toombs made it 2-0 with an RBI single to center.
Kyle Roth and Loida each finished 2-for-3 to pace the Warriors, and singled back to back with two outs in the top of the first before being stranded.
Toombs skirted a pair of walks in the third as Brady Boyer sprinted deep into the left-center gap to track down a long fly ball, and maintained a shutout bid until the fifth.
Boyer delivered a crucial swing following an error with two outs in the home half of the third. His sharp grounder redirected off a diving Tyler Blum in the hole, and became a hustling, two-RBI double.
An RBI ground out by Koller made it 5-0 in the fourth after Keaton Boyer and Brian Selby singled ahead of another Valle miscue along the infield.
The Warriors left 10 runners on base, and settled for a single tally in the fifth on Kyle Roth’s sacrifice fly after Carter Roth walked and Loida one-hopped the left-field fence for a double.
Loida allowed seven hits and fanned three without issuing a walk in defeat. Two of the five runs scored against him were unearned.
Tyler Blum relieved and worked around an error in the sixth. Kellen Blum was 1-for-2 plus a walk, and Chase Dunlap singled for Valle Catholic.
The Warriors will face North County in the third-place game on Saturday. The same two squads are scheduled for a contest in Bonne Terre on Tuesday.
Matt King is the sports editor for the Daily Journal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org