Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University and pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeye baseball team from 1971 through 1974.  He furthered his baseball career as a minor league league umpire for seven years, working in the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA).  He has written for numerous websites, and for eight years served as a regular columnist and photo editor for Gettysburg Magazine, published by Morningside Books, in Dayton, Ohio.  Widely knowledgable on that period of American History, Fulks is a frequent speaker on the Civil War at local roundtables throughout the country.  Involved with a number of writing projects, he and wife Mindy have two grown children and live in Covington, Ohio.

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The Minster Wildcats celebrated Coach Mike Wiss’s 300th win with a significant win of their own…the champsionship of rival Ft. Loramie’s invitational tournament, and against Ft. Loramie!

Hey, it was a very, very good day Saturday for the defending Division IV baseball champion Minster Wildcats and their coach, Mike Wiss.

One, it capped a very, very good weekend for the ‘Cats, following Friday night’s run-rule win over MAC rival Ft. Recovery, their 13th win of the season.

Two, the defending champs played like defending champs on Saturday, winning 13-2 against Covington for their 14th win in the semi-final game of the Ft. Loramie Invitational tournament, the 20th of those events if you’re one to keep track of matters like that.

Three, the ‘Cats pulled off the weekend trifecta with an impressive 10-6 win over rival and host Ft. Loramie in the championship game Saturday afternoon, their red-hot bats hammering out 16 hits on a 44-degree day, seven in the first inning against Redskins’ starter Dylan Fleckenstein.

That one marked their 15th win of the year, yes, but more impressively, the 300th career win for Mike Wiss, a benchmark for which he received the double-whipped-cream-pie-in-the-face treatment after the game, much to his delight.  You just can’t beat good high school horseplay, eh?

It’s not easy to win 15 of 17 games to start the season.

Minster's Rob Wente lunges to avoid the tag attempt of Loramie third baseman Darren Gephart during Saturday's win.

It’s not easy to beat Ft. Loramie in their own tournament.

And it sure as heck ain’t easy to win a second state championship, no matter how hard you try.

But to gauge just how good this Minster team might be (which suddenly everyone’s asking), consider.  At near the same point of the 2011 season, Wiss and the Cats stood at 7-6 before getting hot in their last 10 games, sweeping through the sectional tournament, the district, the regional,  and on to the state tournament and wins over Newark Catholic and Springfield for the Division IV title.

“It’s a good feeling,”  said junior and all-everything performer Adam Niemeyer Saturday, who through 32 innings this season has yet to give up an earned run while leading the ‘Cats with a 5-0 record on the mound.

“We’re playing with a some confidence and we’re getting the opposing team’s best effort every time we play.  To get that and still be 15-2 feels pretty good.”

Playing with a little confidence?  A year ago Devon Poeppelman was a sophomore shortstop on the championship team, who teamed with senior Craig Purpus to form an almost infallible middle infield defense.  With Purpus now striping five irons shots at the University of Dayton as a member of the Flyers’ golf team, Poeppelman returns as a veteran anchor of the 2012 Minster infield, flanked by Knapkes…Andrew at second base and Austin at third.  When he’s not pitching, Niemeyer plays first.

Saturday, Poeppelman stepped up to pitch four innings in the win over Loramie, giving up four runs on four hits as the starter, while striking out four.  And he boomed a home run for good measure, a laser shot to left field in the third inning, that didn’t need one bit of the 15 mile-per-hour wind that was pushing that way.

“We started the year hitting the ball well and we’ve got good pitching,”  he said on the Press Pros Dave Arbogast Star Of The Game interview.  “Now some of the new guys are beginning to come along and play like some of the guys we lost off last year’s team.  It’s good to be where we are, but we want to be at our best when the tournament gets here.”

Loramie's Ty Frilling provided a tournament highlight with this sliding catch against Elida.

In the opposite dugout Loramie coach Bill Sturwold smiled at the suggestion that the Wildcats are playing with the same kind of swagger that his own teams have featured in recent years.

“They’re a good ballclub.  I wasn’t unhappy with the way we swung the bats today…we had some good at bats and hit some balls hard.  But they’re too good a club to get down 7-0 to in the first inning and have much chance of coming back.

“There is a carryover,”  said Sturwold, referring to state champion confidence.  “You do come back the year after you’ve won a state title and play with some swagger and confidence.  But hey, I think our team still has some of that same confidence from 2010.  We got beat today, but I told the kids after the game to just keep playing.  Finish strong and hope we get to play them again (in the tournament).  We’ve still got a lot to play for.”

Trust it, Bill Sturwold does have one thing that Mike Wiss would love to have…a second state title.  “Once you win one, you want to win another, and another, and another,”  Sturwold will tell you.  “You never get tired of it.”

And without saying as much, Wiss and his Wildcats are refining their focus now with two weeks remaining before the sectional tournament draw.  His first title came hard.  The second, regardless of record or ranking, will come harder.  Which, in so many words, is what he told his kids after accepting the champion’s trophy in Loramie on Saturday.

Mike's Milestone...His win over Loramie Saturday marked the 300th win for Mike Wiss as coach of the Wildcats.

“We have a tough week coming up.  We’ll be playing some tough teams in our league that would love to knock us off,”  he said Saturday after wiping the pie from his hair.  “We know we’ll have to beat some really good teams in the tournament to have a chance at repeating.  We need to get better.

“I was happy with the way we came out swinging the first inning today, but I wasn’t so happy with the way we played over the last five innings.  Loramie would score and we’d come back to get that run back…a couple of times.  We have to get better.”

And you know he meant that, because he really didn’t dwell on his 300th win milestone.  No, Mike Wiss was thinking about another state title, knowing that the second will be harder now than the first.  You have to be good, for sure…and they are.  But you’ve got to be lucky, too, because everyone wants to say they’re the team that knocked out the champs.

Still, it takes a long time, about 18 years to amass 300 wins.  So when you think of in those terms a second state title might be easier task for Mike Wiss than winning his second 300.  It’s the ultimate scenario of…one is tough, but the other’s the toughest!  Or is it?

Whichever, they have another month to figure it all out.  Like a good incumbent in a season of would-be repeaters, Saturday the Minster Wildcats more than announced their intentions for another term, if you will.  And they did it with smiles all around.

Like we said…it was a very, very good day.

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