Valle Catholic wins second straight state title

As first baseman Dan Bergtholdt squeezed the final out, Valle Catholic pitcher Andrew Basler knew what was coming next.

Dog pile.

Basler flung off his glove and waited just a split second for catcher Cole Wood to do the deed — a flatout tackle midway between home plate and the pitcher's mound at T.R. Hughes Ballpark in O'Fallon.

Whooping and hollering teammates quickly piled on in celebration of Valle Catholic's 7-1 victory over New Bloomfield in the Class 2 Missouri state baseball championship game June 4.

Good thing for Basler that the Warriors have only 19 players.

"It hurts a little bit," Basler said, with a laugh. "It does hurt."

Not that he minded.

"You've got your adrenaline running," he explained. "You're just happy you won it all; you're happy you ended up in a dog pile."

Basler also ended up at the bottom last year, only he was tackled by Cole's brother Nolan in celebration of another title.

"It's better this time, especially being a senior," Basler said.

Just a sophomore, Cole Wood relished keeping the tackle all in the family.

"I was really looking forward to it," he said, wearing a big smile, a victor's smile. "I didn't really play last year, but just being there was awesome. Then actually playing in this one felt really good."

The back-to-back titles give the St. Genevieve high school three state championships in four final appearances over the past seven seasons. The Warriors also won in 2009 and lost by a run in the '12 title game.

They finished 30-5 this season, winning it all this time with stellar pitching, timely hitting and one big bopper.

In the title game, Basler struck out four and walked two, and induced three double plays. He generally kept New Bloomfield hitters off balance with off-speed pitches and a fastball.

"He's got a lot of pitches he can throw at you at any time; he likes switching it up," Wood said. "When he keeps it low, he gets a lot of ground balls."

Basler allowed only three hits and one run, but other than losing the shutout, no worries there. Valle Catholic had the game well-in-hand by then, up 7-0.

At the plate, he smacked the first of two run-scoring doubles in the decisive four-run third; Koltyn Schilly had the other, and both scored.

Bergtholdt delivered the big blow, a towering two-run blast in the first inning. After the lefthanded hitter connected, the only question was whether the ball would clear the 50-foot wall — "a lot of drywall," Bergtholdt quipped — in right field 299 feet from home plate. It did, with room to spare.

"I was not even thinking of hitting a home run," said Bergtholdt, a senior. "I hit exactly zero until this game. Great time for it to happen."

As for the pitch, he was looking for a curveball but "pretty sure" he got fastball instead. He adjusted and ba-boom.

"He started me off low and outside, and I didn't think he'd come back with a fastball," Bergtholdt said. "I was sitting on a curve, but he threw a fastball and I turned on it."

The towering homer gave Valle Catholic momentum and set the tone for the game, similar to the semifinal contest the previous day. The Warriors scored two runs in the first and three in the third en route to an 11-1 victory over West Platte.

Bergtholdt drove in three runs in that game, with a two-run single and an RBI triple. Wood, Andrew Basler and his brother Conner each went three for four among 13 hits for Valle. Wood drove in two runs, while Andrew Basler scored four times and Conner three.

Not that Bergtholdt needed the run production. The big lefty pitched a one-hitter and struck out 14 among West Platte's 18 outs, striking out the side in the third and fourth innings. At 6-4, Bergtholdt threw heat.

"I got ahead in the counts," he said. "I was able to get ahead in the count and finish."

After the dog-pile celebration and postgame awards ceremony, the Valle Catholic players and coaches gathered along the first baseline to finish their performance — in prayer. The team prayed before and after practices and games all season.

"That means everything to us as a team and a school," Andrew Basler said. "It allows us to come together, and from start of the prayer to the end, we're totally focused."

The focus of the prayer at T.R. Hughes was thanksgiving.

"We have a lot to be thankful for," rookie head coach Nathan Gegg said, before eloquently articulating several. "We live in a great town with hard-working people, and have a great school with hard-working people. We get unbelievable support from our parents. Baseball can be a demanding sport at times, but the parents work hard for their kids.

"The guys know they're very lucky and have a lot to be thankful for, and it's because of God."

Amen to that. 

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