Courier Sports Staff
---- — OSKALOOSA — The Otttumwa Senior Babe Ruth baseball team battled back from near oblivion to capture a fifth-straight Iowa State Babe Ruth Championship this past weekend.
After they dropped the first game of the double-elimination tournament to Oskaloosa, the boys ticked off five-straight wins, two of them over Oskaloosa; to take home the state title.
“Essentially we had to knock off every team in the tournament and that’s what we did,” Babe Ruth coach Rich Kennedy said. “We were behind every single game, except the championship, when went ahead early and stayed ahead.”
For five of Ottumwa’s players — Curtis Schneckloth, Spencer Nelson, Spencer Fuller, Seth Staton and Cooper Smith — it was a special day. For these athletes have been a part of all five of Ottumwa’s championships. After they dropped their first-round game to Oskaloosa 8-7, the boys bounced back to score a 7-3 victory over Van Buren, which they followed with a narrow 6-5 win over Albia. This set the stage for a rematch against Oskaloosa.
This time, however, the boys wouldn’t be deterred, as they edged Oskaloosa 7-6. Ottumwa then had to turn around and face Oskaloosa one more time, except this time it was for the state championship. The boys managed to jump out to an early lead and went on to pick up an 8-5 victory to earn a berth in the Midwest Plains Regional Tournament.
“I’m crazy proud of these kids,” Kennedy said. “It’s definitely intestinal fortitude that got them through.”
Ottumwa pitchers Blake Mooney, Jake Black, Smith and Cody Miller did the pitching for boys. Mooney gave up an earned run average of 2.25 in eight innings while striking out six and Jake Black struck out nine and yielded an average of 3.21 runs in 14 innings. In addition, Miller struck out 13 hitters and Smith saw three innings of action on the mound.
Collin Schulz was red-hot at the plate, batting a blistering .750 and driving in five runs and Karsten Van Velsor, Schneckloth and Jesse Hannam all batted .500 in the tourney. The boys went into the tourney as the No. 1 seed after they finished the season at 8-0-1.
Ottumwa’s regular season batting leaders were Fuller, who batted .421, and Smith, who batted an impressive .600 and drove in nine runs. The boys’ pitching leaders were Mooney, who had an earned run average of 2.50, and Black, who sported a 1.8 ERA and struck out 21 batters.
The Midwest Plains Regional Tournament will run from July 31 to Aug. 5 in Burnsville, Minn. The tournament will feature seven other teams from surrounding states. If the boys win the tourney, they will get a chance to compete in the Babe Ruth World Series in Andalusia, Ala., from Aug. 14 to Aug. 22.