Weeks of rain and match cancellations gave way to sunny skies, a pleasant spring breeze and an open green pasture in Murphysboro, Illinois.
On that meadow was renewed a friendly competitive spirit shared by two fine clubs of southern Illinois – the Belleville Stags and the Murphysboro Clarkes. During their inaugural season of 2012, the Stags bested the Clarkes in just one of six attempts, but the closely-contested nature of those games tempered the expectation for the May 11 matches.
Indeed, the day ended with a split of the matches, the Stags winning the first 16-3, while the Clarkes triumphed in the afternoon’s finale, 8-3.
In game one, the Stags’ mighty offense topped 15 runs for the fourth time in six matches this season. The first five strikers of the game eventually rang the tally bell for Belleville, which added a single run in the third round, three in the fourth, four in the sixth, and three more in the seventh.
Six in the Stags’ lineup tallied multiple aces, while the middle of the order provided the power to push those runners across the home plate. Dutch Eschman had five aces batted in, including three on a sixth inning home run. Stir Fry Kohlenberger knocked home four himself, two of them on a fourth round triple. Der Kaiser Fink, hitting eighth to lend some power to the bottom of the order, knocked home three aces on two hits and a sacrifice fly.
Belleville continued to hit, though with less power, in the second match. But the Murphysboro nine showed outstanding defensive skill to hold the Stags to three aces. Short Scout “Bags” made an outstanding play at the third sack, reaching behind his falling body to apply a tag out Kohlenberger. “Legs” may have robbed Eschman of extra bases by chasing a well-struck ball beyond the left field shelter and dodging a host of obstacles to field the smash on a bound.
Down by one tally in the fourth, the Clarkes took the lead with three runs, then added three more for good measure in the fifth to secure the well-earned victory.
The clubs enjoyed camaraderie and an Italian-derived concoction of baked dough with tomato, cheese and meat baked into a delicious pie. The Clarkes graciously sponsored the repast.
Stags strikers for the day: Scrap Iron Marcinkowski 6-9, 2R, 1 ABI; Buzz Saw Eschman 5-9, 2B, 3R; Slats Kniepkamp 7-9, 2 2B, 3R, 3 ABI; Stir Fry Kohlenberger 5-9, 2 2B, 1 3B, 4 R, 4 ABI; Dutch Eschman 6-9, 2B, HR, 4R, 5 ABI; Rooster Mentzer 6-9, 2R, 1 ABI; Monk Lewis 2-6, ABI; Kaiser Fink 4-8, 2B, 4 ABI, SAC; Mule Garrett 4-9, R.
Belleville travels to Indianapolis May 17 for four matches in the Indianapolis Blues Festival.