Any notion that the Valle Catholic baseball program was gradually fading to the Class 2 pack was emphatically answered during a stellar postseason pursuit in May.
The Warriors defeated Mansfield 12-5 at CarShield Field to punctuate a 9-game win streak with their fifth state championship since 2009 and fourth over the last five years.
Seven consecutive two-out hits formulated a six-run fifth inning that broke a 3-3 tie. Carter Roth and Tyler Blum each finished 3-for-4 with two runs scored to highlight a 15-hit attack.
The Class 2 semifinal result was just as convincing. Chris Loida pitched a third consecutive complete game in his last varsity start to turn aside Skyline 6-1.
Valle Catholic was rewarded for its 25-9 season with six all-state selections – Carter Roth, Tyler Blum, Loida, Kyle Roth, Kellen Blum and Jacob Bieser.
For the 12th straight year, the Warriors claimed the MAAA Small-School title as their incredible regular season conference win streak reached 89 games. Arcadia Valley presented the most formidable challenge April 10 at Alumni Field before falling 6-5.
Potosi and West County joined Valle Catholic in collecting district baseball titles, and all three teams advanced deeper with sectional triumphs.
The Trojans topped Notre Dame 5-2 in Class 4 before being eliminated by St. Mary’s 8-5 in their first quarterfinal appearance since 1998.
The Bulldogs rolled past Hancock 6-1, then suffered season-ending heartache in Class 3 as Malden prevailed 4-3 on a wild pitch in the eighth inning.
The MAAA Large-School division ended with a 3-way split between Ste. Genevieve, North County and Central, but the Dragons emerged with their first conference tourney crown since 2011 behind flashy team defense and solid pitching by Derek Morganthaler.
Those teams were part of a wild rain-affected Class 4, District 2 bracket that saw Potosi edge Central 7-3 in the final after top two seeds Ste. Genevieve and Festus were ousted.
Potosi was the No. 5 seed, and stunned North County on a grand slam by Garrett Wilkinson after a late home run by Layton Mallow had brought the Raiders even.
Central escaped De Soto 3-2 in the same first round with a ninth-inning rally that ended on a bases-loaded hit batsman. The Rebels enjoyed an impressive turnaround season, increasing their win total to 17 from seven in 2017 and beating rival Farmington for the first time in nine years.
North County was involved in several exciting finishes. Senior Sean Pruneau produced game-winning RBI in the sixth inning or later in three separate contests, and Drew Forney hit a go-ahead home run to beat West County 5-4 on March 22.
Perhaps the most peculiar score of the spring happened amid unyielding wind in Salem. Potosi prevailed 23-12 behind eight home runs, including two each from Noah Jacobsen and Bailey Crump.
All-state baseball honorees included Isaiah Gibbs and Tatum Jones of AV, Ty Simily and Zach Francis of West County, pitching ace Dillion Manion of Central, Logan Dunn of Bismarck and Potosi’s Jacobsen.
Logan Winkelman and Clark Penuel threw a combined no-hitter for Fredericktown against Bismarck on March 24. West County benefited from a pair of 12-strikeout, 1-hitters from Francis over Ellington and Dakota Dowd against Grandview.
Arcadia Valley freshman Taylon Jones 1-hit Bismarck, and Loida did likewise for Valle with 14 strikeouts in a state sectional triumph over Van-Far nearly four hours from home.
Central beefed up the schedule for its first season as a spring softball program, hoping that a steady diet of tough competition would prepare the team for a deep playoff run.
That plan came to fruition as the Lady Rebels reached the final four, and placed second with a 22-4 record after losing 3-0 to undefeated reigning champion Strafford in Springfield, Mo.
Numerous single-season and career program records were broken as Kimmy Wallen, Karissa Belfield, Caitlyn Holmes, Jessica Hulsey and Kerston Furry achieved all-state recognition for Central.
A 5-1 semifinal result against Adrian marked the Lady Rebels’ 11th straight win. A showdown triumph over Scott City in the District 4 title game provided the springboard.
Holmes homered twice during the same inning of a 16-0 sectional rout of Malden. Wallen struck out 14 and retired 20 of her first 22 batters during a 7-2 quarterfinal romp past Kennett.
Central won the Old Settlement tournament with a 14-0 blitzing of Oran on April 21, and topped fellow district champ West County 15-4 five days earlier as Belfield homered twice and Wallen went 4-for-4.
Three of the Lady Rebels’ losses were sustained against unbeaten or No. 1 ranked opponents Strafford, Columbia (Ill.) and Valley View (Ark.)
West County increased its string of district titles to five before suffering a tough defeat to Clearwater, which took the sectional matchup 5-4 on a two-RBI, walk-off double.
The Lady Bulldogs went 8-0 in conference play, and withstood hard-charging Valle Catholic to claim MAAA tournament and Class 4 district championships.
Ivy Meinershagen threw a six-inning no-hitter against Valle in early April, but the Lady Warriors showed drastic improvement in subsequent clashes while setting a program high with 17 total wins.
West County prevailed 7-4 in the MAAA title tilt, and 4-3 in the district showdown as Meinershagen fanned 10 batters and stranded runners at second and third as the game concluded.
Ste. Genevieve and Potosi began their own planned transitions from fall to spring softball, joining Central and St. Paul as local independents.
Alyssa Huber provided several statistical highlights for the Dragons, including the first no-hitter pitched in eight seasons. She also hit a grand slam in the first ever meeting against Valle Catholic, and took over the single-season RBI mark from teammate Julia Koetting.
TRACK & FIELD
Although the baseball team grabbed headlines with its Class 2 championship, the boys track and field squad at Valle Catholic also hauled away a Class 1 state trophy this spring.
Junior Ryan Grein was the key catalyst in a third-place overall outcome, notching 22 of the Warriors’ 32 points in Jefferson City.
He captured medals in four separate events, including a runner-up showing in the 110-meter hurdles. He was third in 300-meter hurdles and triple jump plus seventh in the long jump.
Central picked up three state medals in Class 3 boys competition one week later, paced by a brilliant third-place effort by the 4×100 relay team.
Triston Campbell returned from knee surgery to secure his second all-state performance throwing the javelin, and Jeremy Jones took sixth while debuting in the 110-meter hurdles.
Sophomore Blaine Fingers was a two-time sprint medalist for rising Fredericktown, which had cross country approved as a new fall activity during an April school board meeting.
Potosi junior Peyton Skiles finished fourth in high jump for her third all-state honor in the event. Ste. Genevieve got eighth in the boys 4×800 relay, and Jesse Pinkley did the same in 300-meter hurdles.
The Central boys became team champions and Lady Rebels were second at the Class 3, District 1 meet. Fingers won all four of his events for Fredericktown, while Gabe Greminger was a three-time champion for Ste. Genevieve in Class 4, District 1.
The track and field season was plagued by cold conditions that carried well into April. Shorts and sleeveless jerseys were replaced by sock caps, earmuffs and sweat pants during several competitions.
The Ste. Genevieve boys prevailed at home in the Old Settlement, and grabbed five event titles while taking third at the Simpson Relays.
The Potosi boys stood atop the Jefferson meet and edged both Central and Ste. Genevieve at home by one point. But the Dragons earned top honors on the girls side in Potosi.
Farmington registered an 11th MAAA girls team championship in 12 years. Ste. Genevieve notched the boys title as the top four schools were separated by just 19 points.
Dragons freshman Megan Aubuchon tallied 38 points and three event wins in the conference gathering, while Greminger was top scorer for the Ste. Gen. boys with 36 points.
The overall profile of high school girls soccer among local schools received a welcomed boost this year, thanks to vast improvements by the North County and Fredericktown programs.
The Lady Raiders achieved their first winning season in team history, while the Lady Blackcats posted their most wins with 12.
Fredericktown was victorious in both head-to-head battles, first a muddy 2-1 triumph at home and then a wild 5-4 overtime outcome in Bonne Terre.
While Farmington struggled more in the win-loss column, the Knights were the lone local club to advance past the opening round of district play.
They upset top seed Sikeston 2-1 as Riley Turner scored twice and Rachel Turner made 12 saves, but dropped the title match 3-0 to Cape Central.
Adding to the season’s unpredictable nature, both Fredericktown and North County defeated Cape Central two days apart. The Lady Raiders prevailed 1-0 as Jill Wruck scored in the 98th minute, and the Lady Blackcats dominated 6-2 with an Abby Parson hat trick and 12 saves by Marissa Hale.
North County freshman midfielder Ella Gant secured all-state status after netting 29 goals. One of her several hat tricks powered a big 5-4 comeback win over Farmington.
Fredericktown forwards Arika Buxton and Alayna Buxton landed all-region recognition along with Gant.
Several golf teams in the MAAA had moments to celebrate on the links from team accomplishments to individual excellence.
Central sophomore Trevor Bradley separated himself from the crowd at key moments, and capped a superb spring by placing eighth (+9) in the Class 3 state tournament at Old Kinderhook.
Bradley was conference medalist with a two-stroke win at Terre Du Lac, and tied for a district title the following week by shooting 78 at Crown Pointe.
West County senior Reid Pratt shared an individual title while helping West County secure the first Class 2, District 1 team championship for its program by a 6-shot cushion over Saxony Lutheran.
Pratt was among seven local players to reach the state level. MAAA runner-up Dalton Singer of Potosi emerged from the sectional round for a second time.
Farmington finished the MAAA regular season as champion at 7-0, clinching that crown at Fourche Valley with a 176-181 victory over nearest challenger North County.
But the Raiders surged to victory over 13 opponents in the Festus Invitational before edging the rival Knights 335-336 for the conference tournament title.
Nathaniel Greif and Drew Adams highlighted the boys tennis season for Farmington by bringing home the Class 2, District 1 doubles title.
Their 6-2, 6-2 dominance over a pairing from Poplar Bluff included a berth in the state sectional phase, after the Knights endured a hard-fought district semifinal team loss to Oakville.
Potosi was also eliminated in a Class 1, District 2 semifinal by Windsor, and split a pair of 5-4 clashes during the regular season against North County.
Matt King is the sports editor for the Daily Journal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org