ST. CHARLES—With one eye on the Doppler Radar, and the other on the playing surface at Lindenwood University’s Lou Brock Sports Complex, Diamond Sports Promotions’ St. Louis 18U Championship Tournament director Jim Brownlee waited as long as he could Sunday afternoon before he finally made a decision.
After nearly an hour of waiting, Brownlee, the former Illinois State University head baseball coach, knew what he had to do.
“That’s it,” he said. “Field’s too wet. We’re going to have to call it.”
And with that, one of the biggest and best summer baseball tournaments to annually come through St. Louis was over, and a champion would have to be declared without even playing the championship game.
“I wish we didn’t have to do this,” Brownlee said. “But the field just can’t hold that much water.”
Brownlee notified the teams, thanked Lindenwood head baseball coach Doug Bletcher for all of his help and hospitality, and sent everyone home.
But before Brownlee left, he made sure to find St. Louis Sting head coach Earl Green. He wanted to present him with the DSP St. Louis 18U Championship trophy. The Sting were declared champions because they were the highest seed left after one semifinal had been played, and the only team to go unbeaten over the tourney’s three days.
“I’ll take it,” Green joked. “That’s the easiest win I ever got.”
Easy indeed, considering the Sting won the championship without playing either its semifinal game against the Midwest Chiefs, nor a potential championship game against the St. Louis Browns, who had knocked off top-seeded BNBA Gold, 13-6, in the first semifinal on Sunday.
But the Sting definitely proved its championship mettle over the first three days of the tournament, when it defeated three opponents by a combined 23-2 score.
Members of the Sting roster includes recent high school grads center field Trevor Jones (Hazelwood West), shortstop Zak Larkin (De Smet), right fielder Jarod Hahn (Ft. Zumwalt West), first baseman Juan Bowers (Trinity Catholic), and third baseman-pitcher Rich Dimock (Triad).
When the rains came, it was in the bottom of the first inning of the second semifinal game, and the Sting were actually trailing 1-0 to the Midwest Chiefs, a team of 18-and-under college freshmen mostly from the West and South County areas of St. Louis.
Francis Howell Central grad Justin Henning, who plays his college ball at St. Charles Community College, gave the Chiefs their lead with a long home run over the left-center field wall.
It marked the only time all weekend the Sting had trailed, and most observers agreed it would’ve been fun to see how the tournament’s best team would’ve handled being behind for a change.
The winner of that Sting-Chiefs game would have played the St. Louis Browns in the championship game.
The Browns, a team of recent high school grads from West County, earned their spot with an impressive 13-6 win over the BNBA Gold.
In that game, the Browns banged out 19 hits against the Gold, including three each for Zach Knese (Vianney) and Sean Keeney (Oakville).
But the real star was first baseman Zack Caldwell (De Smet), who had two hits and three RBI, including his fourth home run of the summer, a two-run shot in the top of the first that gave the Browns an edge they would never relinquish.
Four other Browns players had at least two hits apiece on Sunday, including Brandon Schlicting (Vianney), Matt Seevers (Marquette), Nolan Komnick (Marquette), and Ryan Snyder (Vianney), another slugger for the Browns who has four homers this summer.