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High School Baseball: Saxony Lutheran cruises through Oak Ridge Tournament

The Saxony Lutheran baseball team managed to win the Oak Ridge Tournament for a second-straight year this weekend by defeating St. Vincent handedly at 18-2 in the championship game on Saturday, April 7.

The Crusaders have been able to make easy work of the tournament over the last two seasons as they outscored opponents 37-9 in 2017 and 43-7 this year.

“It’s been a while since we won the tournament two years in a row,” Saxony head coach Paul Sander said. “We’ve usually done fairly well in it, but it’s nice to win it back-to-back.”

It only took two innings for Saxony to take a 10-run lead over St. Vincent in the title game as it scored 11 runs in the top of the second inning off 16 plate appearances.

Leading the inning off was  the team’s designated hitter in senior Austin Jarvis, who has been unable to play defense in the last few games due to a shoulder injury.

Jarvis started the season batting second and is now slated sixth in the lineup, where he recorded three runs and two runs batted in off two walks against the Indians.

“[Jarvis] is struggling a little bit to stay back on balls at the plate by lunging and getting out infront, but he’s getting closer,” Coach Sander said. “He is a good hitter, but so far he has been a little bit inconsistent. We know he’s a good hitter, so we’ll just keep throwing him out there. Sooner or later we know he’s going to get in a groove.”

Saxony loaded the bases three times while also forcing St. Vincent to replace its starting pitcher in the second.

Junior Jed Jones loaded the bases with a bunt for a single as fellow junior Austin Fritsche was walked after that to bring the second run of the game home for Saxony.

With the bases loaded for a second time, sophomore Mason Lewis sent home two runners off a grounder for a single to make it 4-0.

Senior Jakoata Walther, who had a game-high four hits along with two RBIs and two runs, hit a fly ball for a one-run single.

Next up was senior Andrew Hartman, who hit a two-run single after Walther advanced to second base off a steal to make it 7-0.

Jarvis was then walked in his next at bat to bring up sophomore Jack Foeste, who hit a two-run single of his own for a 9-0 lead.

Fritsche batted in the next two runs on a double that hit the center field wall before junior Zach Meyr drove in the final run of the inning off a grounder past third base.

“I told our kids there are some things going on with us that are positive right now,” Coach Sander said. “We’re seeing the ball really well at the plate. Early on, not so much, but right now we’re hitting the ball with authority and hitting it well.

“We are also working counts — we are not swinging at bad pitches. We are being patient at the plate, and the hitters are starting to get in the stride of playing more ball instead of playing one game a week.”

St. Vincent was able to answer Saxony with two runs in the top of the third inning as the Indians loaded the bases twice against freshman Tanner King, who received the start on the mound for Saxony.

King pitched 3.1 innings with three strikeouts while allowing two runs off four hits and three walks.

This was King’s second start at pitcher this season as he earned the win to advance to 1-0 this season.

“For a freshman to come out here in a championship game and give us 3.1 [innings] — that’s not easy,” Coach Sander said. “You have a little pressure on you to start there to perform against a team that went to the Final Four last year. He battled, and he did well enough to hold them to two runs. As you see the years roll along as well as this year, Tanner will get a lot better than he was today because he’s quite the talent.”

Saxony scored three more runs in the third inning as Foeste, Fritsche and the team’s lead-off hitter in sophomore Hunter Bilek all drove runners. Bilek was able to make it 15-2 off a line drive to center field.

Walther recorded his final hit of the game in the top of the fifth with a line drive to left field for a one-run double.

Walther is also one of Saxony’s four starters with a batting average over .400 with a .423 while also having 11 hits for 12 RBIs and four runs.

Bilek (.455), Lewis (.481) and Meyr (.462) are the three other starters hitting above .400 so far this season.

“We’ve tried several different combinations [with our batting lineup], and right now we’re trying Hunter Bilek at the top,” Sander said. “He’s a fast base hit, slap hitter, and he’s a smart, fast base runner. We’ll see how that works out over the long haul.”

Coming out of the dugout hitting .500 are both Jones and junior Isaac Ringwald, who saw plenty of playing time against St. Vincent as Jones started, rotating between left and right field.

Jones also pitched the fifth and final inning to close the game as he recorded two strikeouts and walked only one batter for no runs.

“I felt like our team wasn’t really together early in the year,” Coach Sander said. “We just weren’t right. The chemistry on our team and the players supporting each other has been so much better the last two or three games. Part of that comes from winning, but part of it is that these guys are starting to buy into each other and buy into this season.”

Jarvis could return to the lineup as a defender instead of a designated hitter this week as Sander said he hopes to be cleared by his doctor this week.

The Crusaders have one game today against Meadow Heights at home before starting the seventh annual Saxony Showdown, which begins on Friday. Saxony will first face Meridian at 2 p.m. on day one then Delta 10 a.m. Saturday.

Whichever team places first between the three teams in the round robin portion will then face the winner of a four-team bracket that includes Charleston, Herculaneum, Leopold and Meadow Heights 4 p.m. Saturday for the title.

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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