Oakville boys win conference title

By Stephen Glover

When a team plays six games in six days, it demonstrates just how tough it is and what kind of heart it possesses.

By far, last week was the most grueling week for the Oakville Senior High School boys’ baseball team as the Tigers (14-7, 5-3 Suburban South) won five of those six games and also captured the Suburban South Conference Tournament championship.

Oakville head coach Rich Sturm was nothing less than impressed with the Tigers’ grit and determination.

“We’ve been playing pretty good,” Sturm told the Call. “The kids just played their rear ends off and it was pretty neat to see.”

On Monday of last week, the Tigers opened the Suburban South tournament against Northwest-House Springs, which had defeated Oakville 8-5 a week earlier.

The big story of the game was not that the Tigers thumped Northwest 7-0, however, it was the no-hitter performance by junior Andy Marks as the left-handed hurler retired seven batters via strikeout and walked three in seven innings pitched.

“He was just unbelievable,” Sturm said. “He was incredibly efficient and faced just 23 batters in seven innings. As a coach, it was really neat to be a part of it.”

Senior shortstop Ryan Gray more or less served as a one-man wrecking machine against the Lions as he went 4-4 with two runs batted in on one home run and two doubles.

“Ryan summarized the season that he’s had in that game,” Sturm said. “He does such a good job at staying within himself and doing what he does best.”

In the tournament semifinal against Parkway South Tuesday, the Tigers found themselves battling Mother Nature as rain delayed the game to the following afternoon.

“We played Parkway South at home two weeks before and Chris Panopoulos ran out of gas,” Sturm said. “We have a lot of respect for Parkway South, but we definitely felt that we could beat them.”

Despite the rain delay, Oakville starting pitcher Chris Panopoulos threw a solid seven innings, giving up just one run on four hits. The senior hurler struck out three and walked one in his first win of the 2004 season.

“He (Panopoulos) should have shut them (Parkway South) out,” Sturm said. “Their only run scored was an unearned run.”

The Tigers only had a few hours to rest before they turned around and faced Eureka in the championship game of the tournament. Yet that didn’t seem to matter much as Oakville came away with a 4-3 win in eight innings.

Oakville starting pitcher Eric Brewer threw a solid seven innings, allowing three runs on six hits. The senior hurler retired 11 batters on strikeouts and walked just four in his third win of the year.

“He (Brewer) was just awesome,” Sturm said. “He was throwing his fast ball past everybody.”

Sophomore reliever Matt Pressler found himself in a jam after plunking Eureka’s No. 8 and 9 hitters with two outs in the top of the eighth inning. So with the potential game-winning run on second and the count being 3-1, Pressler pitched two solid strikes for the save and the conference championship.

On Friday, Pressler threw a solid six innings in a 10-2 thrashing of CBC in the first round of the Ballwin Tournament.

Pressler gave up just two runs on four hits as he threw a solid six innings pitched. He also walked one and struck out two in the win.

Saturday afternoon saw the Tigers thump Pattonville 12-2 as Marks again was solid on the mound and received the win. Oakville also had four home runs against the Pirates.

“Pattonville threw Ryan Fitzler at us in that game,” Sturm said. “He had an ERA of under one going into that game.”

The Tigers finally ran out of game later that evening as they dropped a 7-6 decision to Kirkwood in the third game of pool play.

Despite the loss, Sturm was quite proud of how his team played and battled throughout the week.

“I’m certainly not making any excuses for us, but fatigue was definitely a factor,” Sturm said. “To give credit to our kids, they just didn’t quit. Kirkwood was just a little bit better than us that game.”