No one will confuse St. Anthony head coach Tony Kreke for Nostradamus, but on Monday, one couldn’t blame him if they did.
Kreke predicted good things for his starting pitcher as the Bulldogs defeated Cowden-Herrick Beecher City 3-2 to go to the National Trail Conference Tournament semifinals Wednesday.
“Brody (Niebrugge) has been competing all year on the mound,” Kreke said. “He puts up a lot of strikes. He’s commanding the zone pretty well. He did that all game. In that situation, when I pulled him, I told him, ‘Bud, you’re going to have an opportunity to win this ball game.’ I don’t know if he remembers that, but I remember telling him, ‘I know you want the ball, but I need you to stay within yourself and be able to put together a good at-bat.’”
A good at-bat is what he wanted and what he got.
Stepping up to the plate in the bottom of the eighth with one out, Niebrugge took a knee-high pitch from CHBC pitcher Silas Buzzard and drilled it to shortstop Quaid Schlanser.
Bulldogs’ infielder Colton Fearday then ran with the pitch and scored, beating the throw to Bobcats’ catcher Wyatt Rueff.
“We knew he was going to go fastball, curveball, but I saw a fastball right at the knees,” Niebrugge said. “I just tried to drive it up the middle. Quaid was out there, and he’s a heck of an athlete. He made a great catch. You just got to hit it hard and hope something good happens.”
All of this came after trailing 2-0 on a two-run single by Schalanser.
Even though St. Anthony was down, the upperclassmen stepped up when called upon, namely Fearday.
“At that time there, we’re just trying to make them throw strikes and get some guys on base,’ Kreke said. “We were able to do that, and Colton is hitting his stride here the last three or four games. I told him, ‘I’m going to free you up. If you see a fastball, blow it up.’ Sure enough, he did.”
With two on and no outs, Fearday lined a triple to right-center field, scoring Brady Hatton — who singled — and Angelo Mendella — who walked to tie the game — setting up Niebrugge’s heroics.
“Colton Fearday is an animal,” Niebrugge said. “You give that kid something to hit, and he’s going to hit it. You can’t give him anything great because he’ll put the bat on it and find the gaps. He’s been hitting like that for us ever since he was a sophomore. I wouldn’t say I’m surprised to see him come through in that situation.”
For a moment, though, it appeared that CHBC had bested the Bulldogs, as Buzzard’s defense took care of five of the Bulldog’s seven hits rendering them ineffectual, until Hatton’s single and Fearday’s triple.
“It was a perfect storm for CHBC,” Kreke said. “Wherever they put their guys, we hit to them. We had three or four line drives to the second baseman, a couple of hard-hit balls to the centerfielder. That’s baseball. That’s why you play the game. Fortunately, there we were able to string some hits together.”
Kreke added, “Right now, it’s survive-and-advance. That’s what we were able to do today. I think we’ll put together a good day of practice tomorrow and chomp at the bit to play Wednesday.”