Freight hauls away its third Klassic crown

Monday, June 16, 2008

KELSO -- Vandalia Freight hurler Brad Sturdy has had some discomfort in his neck and the right side of his shoulder recently, prompting him to have an ultrasound performed Friday -- the first day of the Kelso Klassic.

The test revealed Sturdy had a pulled muscle. But he still pitched over the weekend after taking some painkillers. And he threw well, leading his team to the tournament title.

Sturdy was named the pitching MVP of the Kelso Klassic after posting victories in three of his team's four games, including a gem against a talented Pete's Blues (Belleville, Ill.) lineup in Sunday's championship, which the Freight won 8-1 in six innings at Kelso City Park.

Vandalia was the favorite entering the tournament Friday. It has now won the Kelso Klassic three times. The other two times were in 2003 and 2006.

"When the drugs wore off it hurt a little, but it wasn't too bad," said Sturdy, a member of two of the three title teams to win at Kelso.

"It's great for us," Sturdy said about earning the title. "This is actually the first time this year we've played together. So it's a great thing for us to start our season off like this, and we've got a lot of veteran guys who've been around the game so it's really good to get off to a good start."

Sturdy knew he had his work cut out for him against the Pete's Blues, a squad that smashed the ball over the park in its 14-13 semifinal win against the Southern Illinois Pirates right before the championship game.

"Over the past couple years we've played them quite a few times, so we've seen them, we know them, and we know they're a really good hitting lineup," Sturdy said. "We've got a pretty good lineup, too, so we put up a lot of runs and it helps a lot."

Sturdy threw five innings for the win against Pete's. He gave up one earned run on five hits. Overall in the Klassic, he tossed 14 1/3 innings, surrendering just two runs on 10 hits while striking out 16 batters.

"Sturdy is always tough," Pete's cleanup hitter Jim Pecoraro said. "He moves the ball in and out, and then he got his changeup working late and kept us off balance real well. He's just a good pitcher. He always works both sides of the plate real well."

Sturdy said the tournament used harder balls than in the past, which helped every squad hit the ball with more power. He added that he just tried to take advantage of Pete's fatigue.

"I think at this point of the week everybody is tired, so you've got to change speeds, mix and hit spots, and that's what I tried to do -- change speeds and mix it up a bit and just do the best I can keeping them off balance and let the defense make plays," Sturdy said.

Vandalia scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning. Mike Simmons led off with a single. Two outs later, Simmons scored on a double by Nick Hatten. The Freight added two more on a triple and single to make it 3-0.

"It's huge to get off to a good start because they've been playing all day, so I think it could've taken the wind out of out their sails," Sturdy said.

Pete's pulled within 3-1 in the second, but Vandalia got that run back in the third when Sturdy stroked an RBI single to put his team ahead 4-1.

Brian Buscher, who started the game on the bench, stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth. Buscher blasted a three-run double to left to give Vandalia a 7-1 advantage.

"We have so many people on this team who can play different spots," Buscher said. "I'm just a role player. There was one out and I was just tying to hit a sacrifice fly basically to get one run in. And I took a good swing at it."

Hatten blasted a homer in the sixth to make it 8-1.

Pecoraro said Pete's offense was tired in the title game. He added that starting pitcher Dan Linton does not throw much and that Pete's entered the tournament without its ace.

"We played three games in a row today," Pecoraro said. "I think two of them went extra innings. We were running out of gas by the time the third game rolled around."

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