Creve Coeur Post 397 looks to keep good season rolling along
By: Warren Mayes
District 10 regular-season champion Creve Coeur Post 397 begins its defense of its postseason tournament title.
No. 1-seed Creve Coeur Post 397 (28-11) will play Manchester Post 208 in a winners’ bracket semifinal at 5:30 p.m. Monday (July 16) at the Ellisville Athletic Association. Post 397 drew a first-round bye for winning the regular-season District 10 championship. Manchester, the No. 4 seed, advanced with an 8-7 victory in 10 innings Sunday over Maryland Heights. Post 208 is improved 17-13 while Maryland Heights dropped to 7-18.
In the other winner’s bracket game, No. 3 -seeded Eureka Post 177 (20-12) will face No. 2 Ballwin Post 611 (14-14) in a winners’ bracket semifinal at 8 p.m. Monday.
Eureka advanced with a first-round an 8-1 victory over No. 6 seed Thoman-Boothe while Ballwin scored a 12-2 victory over No. 7 Florissant in games played Sunday.
Tim Steele, the Creve Coeur general manager, said it’s been a good season for Post 397.
“This is the first time that Creve Coeur has returned to the zone tournament in back-to-back years so we’re very proud of the guys,” Steele said. “Last year, we had two veteran ballplayers that led the club to the title; this year we didn’t have that leadership but were deeper in talent, so it was really a team effort from top to bottom.
“District 10 may be the toughest in the state, and was very evenly balanced. We had to win our last three games to finish first, with Ballwin, Eureka and Manchester all within one or two games of first place. It was extremely competitive, and very exciting.”
It was the first regular season title for Post 397 since 2008.
The key to any good season is pitching and that’s been true for Creve Coeur this summer.
“We have a very strong starting four led by first-year collegian Lucas Mueller, and strong relief anchored by Jon Brand,” Steele said. “It really was a team effort. Someone new contributed everyday, it seemed. We had contributions from everyone at one point or another.”
The starters have been impressive for Post 397 this season. Lucas is 6-0 on the year with a 0.65 ERA. Keith Coulson was 4-0 with a 2.56 ERA and Jonathan Rembold finished 5-2 with a 1.68 ERA. Brian Hillhouse rounded out the rotation at 3-4 with a 2.81 ERA.
Eddie Bargmann, of Principia, led the team with a .412 average and two home runs. Lucas also hit well and finished with a .397 average. Matt Hresko hit .394 and Evan Block owns a .360 average with two homers and 30 RBIs.
Creve Coeur lost to Eureka 10-5. That allowed Post 177 to move into a first-place tie with Creve Coeur. That meant Post 397 had a tall task of if it wanted to capture the championship.
“We needed to sweep Ballwin, Manchester and Florissant to win the title, and that’s what we did,” Steele said. “Yep, we told the guys that it was imperative to win the last three to give us the title, and they stepped up. Once we beat Ballwin, who ultimately finished second, we were able to relax and play our game and win the next two.”
Creve Coeur stopped Ballwin 5-1. Post 397 then defeated 9-3 and stomped Florissant 16-3 to claim the championship.
Going into the season, Steele said he thought Creve Coeur could win the regular-season championship.
“We knew we had a deeper club even though we lost some very good players, so we thought we had a chance,” Steele said. “However, we knew that Manchester and Eureka would be improved and considered them the teams to beat. We knew we would probably finish first in the Northern division but felt that the Southern division was much stronger and the eventual winner would come from there. When we beat Eureka 14-2 at the start of the season we knew we had a chance.”
The first-round bye will help Creve Coeur, Steele said. For the district tournament, that means it will only take three wins to win the championship.
Also, for the zone tournament, it means that Creve Coeur won’t have to play the play-in game.
“We felt (that) cost us the zone title last year,” Steele said. “We had to burn our best pitcher in the play-in game and were not able to bring him back against Dunklin County, who knocked us out of the tournament because we were out of pitching.”
Post 397 won the postseason tourney last year and Steele said he believes that will help the squad this week.
“Sure. We now know that we can win the tournament since we brought back most of our players from last year, and winning the regular-season title helped because we can relax a little bit,” Steele said. “They’re excited but not as apprehensive as last year, since we will advance regardless of the outcome.
“The challenge is to motivate the boys because of that. We’re challenging them to do something that Creve Coeur has never done – win back to back District 10 tournament championships.”
It’s been a good season for all of District 10, Steele said.
“It was a very exciting year,” Steele said. “The district didn’t have a regular season champion until the very last day of play. Looking at our schedule in February, I had a feeling it would come down to that.”