SL St. Mary's begins quest for state crown

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Panthers take on Martensdale-St. Mary's in first round of state on Wednesday night

One team hits a lot of home runs, the other relies on manufacturing runs.

But one thing they both share - dominant pitching.

Martensdale-St. Mary's and Storm Lake St. Mary's lock horns in what should be a tightly-contested first-round game in the state baseball tournament on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. at Carroll Stadium.

St. Mary's coach Ryan Berg knows all about the home-run hitting prowess and pitching depth of the Blue Devils.

"They're a really good hitting team and they hit lots of home runs," he said. "They have at least two guys in their lineup who have at least seven home runs each. They've got two decent pitchers. One is a sophomore."

That sophomore is Matt Davitt. He has a 9-2 record with a 0.68 earned-run average and 101 strikeouts in 61 1/3 innings pitched.

Ryan Martin is 9-0 with a 1.40 ERA and Justin Courtney is 5-1 with a 1.33 ERA. Eric McClain is 7-0 with a 0.64 ERA. The pitching staff has allowed 36 earned runs out of 89 with an ERA of 1.12.

Martensdale-St. Mary's is hitting .343 as a team and have slugged 24 home runs. Davitt is hitting .488 with seven home runs and 42 RBIs. Sean Smith is batting .471 with seven home runs and 36 RBIs and clean-up hitter Wes Demdinski is batting .394 with five homers and 48 RBIs.

Seven players are batting over .300 and the other two are hitting .298 and .294. Martensdale-St. Mary's is averaging 9.8 runs per game.

Berg talked about what will be important for his team to do in order to beat the Blue Devils.

"We need to make sure that we play as mistake-free as possible," he said. "I think being able to execute our running game and bunting game and being able to manufacture a few runs will be important because I think it will be a close game."

The Blue Devils are the No. 2 seed and the Panthers are seeded seventh.

"In my mind it doesn't matter because anybody who makes it to the state tournament is going to be a pretty solid team," Berg said. "You know you're going to have to play a good game regardless of who you're playing. Records can sometimes be deceiving."

Eric Wordekemper will get the start for the Panthers. He is 10-2 with a 1.37 ERA. He has 164 strikeouts in 76 2/3 innings pitched.

Berg talked about what knid of an outing Wordekemper will need to have.

"We'll need a similar performance from Eric than what he gave against Spalding," he said. "They'll probably be as good a hitting team or even better than Spalding was. It'll take that same kind of performance. He'll need to pitch on the corners and establish his curveball a lot sooner because if they're as good of a hitting team as what I've heard, then we can't let them have the opportunity to get onto that fastball right away."

St. Mary's doesn't know who it will face on the mound, but the approach at the plate will not be altered.

"We'll just be looking to make solid contact and hit line drives to gaps," Berg said. "The biggest thing that's worked for us is getting some hits bunched together. If we can have a big inning or so, we'll be all right."

Coach Jim Donohue has been at the school for the past 30 years and has sent five teams to state. Martensdale-St. Mary's plays in the Pride of Iowa Conference, which consists mainly of Class 2A schools.

The Blue Devils, who start six seniors, beat Southeast Warren 17-1, Des Moines Christian 16-0 and Earlham 4-0 in districts before beating Diagonal 18-0 in the substate game. Davitt struck out 17 batters in the win over Earlham.

The Blue Devils lost four games - to Interstate 35 twice, Van Meter and Pleasantville.

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