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Peru wins Miami County Classic

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CHAMPS: Members of the Peru baseball team celebrate after regaining the Miami County Classic title following a 4-1 win over Maconaquah Saturday. The Tigers made up for last year's final as well, defeating Oak Hill after a sixth inning rally turned a 4-1 deficit into a 5-4 win over the Golden Eagles.
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LONG ARM OF THE LAW: Peru senior Lucas McConahay was proficient throughout Saturday night’s Miami County Classic championship game against Maconaquah, making up for an earlier defeat this year by tossing seven innings of four hit baseball, giving up one run while striking out four, including the final batter of the game, as the Tigers defeated the Braves 4-1.
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WHOOPS: A missed steal sign led to Maconaquah shortstop Ethan Larason (Back) tagging out Peru's Robert Cunningham (Front) during the seventh inning of Saturday night's Miami County Classic championship game, one the Tigers won 4-1 over the Braves.

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

Earlier this season, Maconaquah rocked Peru for the first time in four years, winning the TRC meeting between the two schools 9-1.

A repeat performance was not on the cards in the championship game of the Miami County Classic Saturday as the Tigers rode the efficient arm of Lucas McConahay to a 4-1 win in the final over the Braves.

Peru head coach Chuck Brimbury said the players came in focused on the task at hand and got the job done in the end.

“We got started through Nathan (Brimbury), who’s had timely hits all season and banged out a two-out single to give us a lead,” Brimbury said. “Lucas was dialed in for this game by the middle of the week and was looking forward to pitching in the final.

“His pace on the mound is effective because he pounds the zone and works fast, to the point guys were trying to slow him down. He threw a ton of strikes and while he doesn’t strikeout a lot of batters, he pitches to contact and the defense backed him up.”

Maconaquah head coach Dustin Hays said the team struggled to get the hits needed to score runs.

“Bryce (Ward) pitched very well in this game but we made some physical errors that put us in a hole,” Hays said. “We just didn’t get timely hits.”

The two teams reached the final after wins earlier in the day as the Tigers defeated Oak Hill 5-4 and the Braves edged out North Miami 4-3.

By the way the schedule had worked out, Peru played as the visiting team on the scoreboard and utilized the first at-bat to score the opening run.

Blake Edwards reached base on an error and stole second to move into scoring position, allowing Nathan Brimbury to plate the third baseman with a single for a 1-0 lead.

McConahay went to work from there, only allowing two base runners through the first five innings.

Hays said the team didn’t have the same handle on McConahay as they did in the first meeting.

“We told the guys we had to have the same philosophy we had in the first game because McConahay was going to be throwing in the strike zone,” Hays said. “We just didn’t make the adjustments.

“We didn’t wait on the ball, rolled over too many balls and hit a lot of pop flys. Credit to McConahay, who did what he was supposed to do and kept us off balance.”

The only issue for the Tigers was that Ward was keeping the hosts off the scoreboard as well, a problem Brimbury said had the coaching staff digging for answers.

“There was a point where, even though the pace favored Lucas, we were starting to get worried because we hadn’t added to the lead,” Brimbury pointed out. “At 1-0, a bloop and a blast and suddenly we’re in trouble.

“We tried to find ways to get a run in and the runs eventually came. Lucas did what a senior No. 1 pitcher is supposed to do, Nathan did what a No. 1 catcher does at the plate and behind the dish and we got great defense around the field, including from Isaiah Reese, who stepped up for us at second base.”

The answer would come in the fifth as Edwards tripled and scored on a wild pitch to double the lead.

Nathan Brimbury was hit by a pitch and courtesy runner Kade Townsend eventually scored on a McConahay single for a 3-0 lead.

Daunte Majors drew a walk, moved to third on an overthrow and scored on a wild pitch in the sixth to give Peru a 4-0 lead before Maconaquah finally plated a run.

Cole Alspaugh led off the bottom half of the inning with a double and Zac Snyder singled in the runner to cut into the gap slightly at 4-1.

McConahay did not give in, however, getting a fly ball to right field that Austin Caldwell snagged to end the inning.

Braxton Dewey took over on the mound for Maconaquah and though an error on a dropped third strike gave the Tigers a chance to put more runs up, a mix-up on a double steal allowed the Braves to keep the gap at three heading into the bottom of the seventh.

The visitors could not crack McConahay, however, and the Peru senior closed out the game with a strikeout of Dewey to spark a celebration at the pitcher’s mound.

Brimbury was happy for the players and was happy with the way all four teams approached the day.

“One thing that stood out to be was that all four games were competitive,” Brimbury noted. “The first game was 5-4, the second game was 4-3, the final was 4-1 and even the consolation game, through five innings, was 4-1.

“All four teams came in playing good defense, the pitching stood up for everyone and it was a great tournament.”

For Maconaquah, the day was a setback on the season but there was another title out there as the team remains in contention for the TRC baseball crown.

The Braves faced Whitko Monday and Hays said the team needed to find the bats again as the pitching was holding up well in recent outings.

“We told them after the game we still have something to shoot for,” Hays said. “We can’t have a letdown like we did last Monday.

“We didn’t want to break up the pitching momentum we’ve had lately with Cody (Koebler) on Monday and Ethan (Larason) on Wednesday. We just have to get back to the way we were playing when we played six games in a week and we were pounding the ball.”

Peru faced Southwood Monday and closes conference play against Northfield Wednesday.

Brimbury said the team was rounding into postseason form and was building up momentum along the way.

“Our last two conference games are against two tough teams in Southwood, who is playing everyone tough, and Northfield,” Brimbury said. “Both teams are well coached so we need to do what we do, which is to come in every day wanting to play baseball, get a lot of at-bats, pound the zone and play good defense.

“If we do those things, we will give ourselves a chance to win every night, advance in the tournament and be a team that, in these last few days of May and June, maybe people don’t want to play. The players come in every day wanting to come to the ball park, so we’ll work on getting a little bit better at thing, work on the bunt game and stay focused as while other players may be looking forward to graduating, Peru players are looking forward to winning championships and we already have one this year.”