Clearwater wins 12-2, advances to state quarterfinals
By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
For a while there, it looked like this might be the year the Brentwood High School baseball team would break through the glass ceiling. After losing district championships to Maplewood-Richmond Heights the past two years, they destroyed the Blue Eagles 12-2 on May 19 to reach the sectional. They were knocking on the glass ceiling.
The ceiling was the BHS baseball program’s inability to win a sectional since the 1980s. They came close with a one-run loss in 1994, but since then had been outscored 37-4 in three appearances. Of course, all four of those losses were on the road and this time they’d get to host Clearwater, a team that had to travel 160 miles north from Piedmont to reach Brentwood Park.
You could almost hear the tap-tap-tap on that ceiling.
But on Monday Clearwater proved to be about as good a team as BHS has faced in the past three sectionals. The Tigers struck early, held off a Brentwood comeback, then combusted for eight runs in the final two innings, including two homers, for a 12-2 victory in six innings. They went on to lose 3-0 to Scott City in the Class 3 quarterfinals.
Errors, strikeouts fatal
Eagles starting pitcher Mike Mills struck out six and gave up only three earned runs in five innings, but he and his teammates committed six errors. It explains how the Tigers so efficiently squeezed 12 runs out of 13 hits.
“They capitalized on every mistake we made and that was the difference in the ball game,” said BHS coach Mike Imergoot.
The Eagles struck out 11 times, but Imergoot was more troubled about the errors. Erase a few of them, he said, and the final score would not have resembled those in the past three sectionals.
“Strikeouts are going to happen but errors in the field come and get you,” he said. “This was a team we could beat. They were not great. They had some good hitters and an excellent starting pitcher but we made mistakes, and the difference between winning and losing is mistakes. … This was probably the best shot we had of winning a sectional. We were in there until the home runs.”
Homers end comeback
The two homers were the only earned runs Mills surrendered — a two-run shot by Eric Hillis and a solo by Tristan Holmes in the fifth inning — but they broke Brentwood’s back. The Eagles had scored twice in the fourth to make it 4-2, but after the home runs they had only nine outs to score six runs.
Trailing 7-2, John Bischoff relieved Mills on the mound in the sixth inning. But apparently the Tigers smelled the quarterfinals and they scored five more runs on three base hits to end the game on the mercy rule.
Asked if Clearwater was the best team he’d faced, third baseman Charles “Butters” Jones replied, “Hands down. Because they just kept getting hit after hit after hit.”
Pulling starter early
Clearwater’s starting pitcher was Bryce Alcorn but after three innings of shutout he was replaced by Holmes.
“Their coach felt comfortable because he saw the first three innings of him [Alcorn] going through our lineup reasonably easily and he wanted to save him for the quarterfinals,” explained Imergoot. “It was a good decision because he could have come back in if they’d needed him.”
Eagles alive in fourth
Clearwater almost did need Alcorn back in, as the Eagles scored two runs on Holmes in the fourth. Jones singled to left field and moved to third when Mills reached base on a throwing error. With no outs, Skylar Sappington’s sacrifice fly scored Jones to make it 4-1.
Mills moved to second base when Bischoff walked, then scored on Morgan Murphy’s base hit to make it 4-2.
It was the last game in a BHS uniform for seniors Mills, Jones, Seth Winkleman and Sam Tilton.
“I’m definitely sad that it’s over but I thought we played a pretty good game,” said Mills. “They’re a good team that can hit the baseball.”
Said Imergoot, “Mike pitched his head off. He just labored and threw hard and left it all on the field. What more could you ask for?”
The Eagles ended up 13-6 and behind only Valley Park in the conference standings.
“We had six rainouts and five of them were wins, so we could be 18-6 now easily,” said Imergoot. “No one game is going to make the season miserable. They’ll remember the Maplewood game [for the district championship] for the rest of their lives.”
Mills looked glum immediately after the game but 15 minutes later was putting his baseball career in perspective. While being interviewed, he looked over at his mother, Jacqueline, who was removing trash from the BHS dugout.
“She worked her butt off working two or three jobs all the time, always finding ways to get us here, get us fed, get us new cleats, whatever,” he said. “I love her. She does whatever she can for us. I wish she’d clean my room like that.”
Final 2016 stat leaders — offense
Batting average: Sappington, .525; Murphy, .367; Mills, .358.
Slugging average: Sappington, .738; Bischoff, .682; Murphy, .417.
Hits: Sappington, 32; Jones, 23; Murphy, 22.
RBI: Sappington, 22; Bischoff, 20; Stephen Suntrup Jr., 12.
Runs: Sappington, 25; Jones, 20; Mills, 20; Bischoff, 20.
Doubles: Sappington, 9.
Triples: Bischoff, 3.
Home runs: Bischoff, 3.
Stolen bases: Jones, 9; Sappington, 8; Mills, 5.
Final 2016 stat leaders — pitching
ERA: Winkleman, 0.81; Sappington, 1.40; Mills, 4.23.
Record: Winkleman, 4-0; Sappington, 3-2; Bischoff, 2-1; Murphy, 2-1.
Strikeouts: Sappington, 36; Winkleman, 28; Bischoff, 26.
BHS final record: 13-6
4/1: lost at Orchard Farm 12-10
4/7: beat Crossroads 9-1
4/8: lost to DuBourg 17-8
4/13: beat Bayless, 13-0
4/14: beat Hancock 6-4
4/16: Brentwood Invitational
– Beat Barat 4-2
– Beat University City 12-5
– Beat McCluer South Berkeley 4-1
4/18: beat Jennings 19-11
4/19: lost at Valley Park 2-0
4/22: lost at Principia 3-0
4/25: won at MRH 9-5
4/28: beat University City 10-7
5/2: won at Hancock 12-0
5/3: won at Bayless 12-0
5/6: lost to Valley Park 7-2
Class 3, District 4 Tournament in Brentwood
5/18: beat Carnahan 10-0
5/19: beat MRH 12-2 (6 innings)
Sectional championship in Brentwood
5/23: lost to Clearwater 12-2 (6 innings)