Tigers baseball team falls 5-4 to Vianney in district title game

By STEPHEN GLOVER

When the Oakville Senior High School baseball Tigers walked away from a 5-4 loss to Vianney in the District 3 championship game, they had no reason to be ashamed.

In fact, the Tigers (14-9, 5-3 Suburban West) toed the line with the best team in the area and battled the Golden Griffins to an astounding 10 innings before Vianney’s Jon Moran drove in Tommy Cochran on a one-out single.

Oakville head coach Rich Sturm was more than pleased with his team’s performance despite the disappointing loss.

“My kids absolutely played their hearts out,” Sturm told the Call. “When you play as hard as we did and then lose, it’s tough. But I could not have asked any more from my kids. We played them as hard as anybody had all year long.”

Oakville starting pitcher Matt Pressler took the loss, giving up five runs in 6 2⁄3 innings. The senior hurler walked four and struck out four in his fourth loss of the 2006 season.

Pressler pitched the first 5 1⁄3 innings before being replaced by senior teammate Pat Doyle. Pressler then relieved Doyle in the ninth inning after about 30 minutes of rest.

It was Pressler’s gutsy showing on the mound both as a starter and a reliever that left the Tigers’ head coach in awe.

“You talk about a guy with guts,” Sturm said. “He played like it was his last high school game of his career. He wanted the ball and he wanted to win the game for us.”

Doyle was also solid on the mound for Oakville after going seven innings the previous day against Mehlville in the district semifinal game. He gave up one hit against Vianney after pitching himself out of a jam in the sixth inning with runners on second and third base.

“The game was tied 4-4 with runners on second and third and he didn’t allow them (Vianney) to score,” Sturm said. “He’s one of two seniors that really stepped up to give us a chance to win.”

Oakville had found itself down 2-0 after one inning of play until senior second baseman Ronnie Ballard drove in three runs on a double that clearly changed the momentum of the game. Ballard was one-for-four at the plate with a double and three runs batted in.

“There are not as many kids in the nine hole that have as many extra base hits as Ronnie does,” Sturm said. “What a huge momentum shift that was for us. I thought that it gave us a lot of confidence.”

The Tigers’ fourth run of the game came in the top of the sixth when catcher Chris Kaestner drove in third baseman Dan Rohlfing on a two-out single. Kaestner had missed most of the season due to a severely sprained ankle, but clearly made up for his absence in the final weeks of the season, according to Sturm.

“What a hard-nosed, tough kid,” Sturm said. “He was very clutch for us when he came back.”

Oakville graduates 10 seniors this spring — Ballard, Doyle, Kaestner and Pressler, along with Adam Boyer, Greg Dambach, Casey Jones, Tim Kappel, Kevin Stockmann and Tim Thomas.

“I think that Cody Terry and Dan Rohlfing are going to be our guys next year,” Sturm said. “They’re going to be the ones that are going to need to step it up.”