"What he couldn't do with his arm, Bob Bentley did with his legs here Wednesday night."
That lead paragraph, written by assistant sports editor Osy Gerhardt on the Clinton Herald's Aug. 8 sports page, explained the success of the 1963 St. Mary's High School baseball team in capturing the Iowa High School Athletic Association's summer baseball championship in Ames the night before.
The Irish, coached by Gary Herrity, a former St. Mary's athlete, had beaten Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson 2-1 in 12 innings, the longest baseball championship game at the time.
Ed Hyde and Bob Lonergan started the St. Mary's baseball program in 1960. The Irish defeated previously unbeaten Van Horne 6-2 in the state quarterfinals and shut out unbeaten Rockwell-Swaledale 2-0 in the semifinals, their seventh consecutive victory.
But Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson shut out St. Mary's, 3-0, to win the state title that year behind the one-hit pitching of Bill Drummond. The only hit off Drummond was a two-out single in the seventh inning by Gary LaCourse in the game played at Rippey.
The Irish beat Burlington 4-3 in a first-round substate contest the next year but lost to Fredericksburg 6-2 in the substate final. St. Mary's did not get out of sectional tournament play in 1962, losing to Clinton High School 6-1 in spite of a one-hitter tossed by Bentley.
In 1963 the Iowa High School Athletic Association ruled all summer high school baseball teams must have a coach who had a teaching certificate. Neither Lonergan nor Hyde had teaching certificates, so they were forced into giving up pitching reins at St. Mary's High.
Herrity, a Washington Junior High School teacher, received special permission of Clinton Public Schools Supt. J. R. Mounce to serve as St. Mary's baseball coach.
The Irish and Iowa City City High both captured district tournament wins and faced each other in the district final at Durant. In first-round district play, St. Mary's beat Burlington, 4-2, its 20th victory of the year, on a three-hitter by Bentley. City High had beaten Muscatine, 3-2.
St. Mary's reached the summer substate tournament edging City High 4-3. The Irish won when Jim Dalton scored from second base in the last half of the seventh inning on Bob Jensen's single to right-center field. The only earned run came off Bentley in the second inning.
Bentley, who had pitched two tournament no-hitters and had beaten Burlington on Saturday night, tired after two innings and was replaced by sophomore Larry Brennan, who gave up just two hits, struck out seven and walked one in the last five innings to become the game-winner.
It was Bentley again the winner in a first-round substate battle against Keystone at Wyoming. He struck out 17 and allowed two hits — a single and a double in the sixth inning, producing Keystone's only run. They were the only two balls hit out of the infield, according to the Herald's story written by Gerhardt.
St. Mary's scored run in the third inning when Steve Mueller singled in Chuck Blessington, then added the game-winner in the sixth when Brennan doubled to right and scored on Bill Nitschke's single.
The Irish reached the state finals against C.B. Thomas Jefferson with a 3-1 victory over tournament-wise Mason City at La Porte City in the substate final. Bentley again whiffed 17 batters and allowed one hit in earning his fifth tournament victory.
St. Mary's drew first blood in the title game in the bottom of the first inning when Brennan singled and Chuck Nicholas doubled to the center-field fence. Brennan ran home when shortstop Zimmerman missed the relay throw. Bentley was scored upon when T.J. tied the game 1-1 in the sixth inning on a walk, an infield tap single and a bunt to the right of the mound.
Under high school rules, a pitcher could go only nine innings so both starters, Bentley and the Yellowjackets' Jim Butler, had to leave the game when the 10th inning began. Bentley had struck out 15 and allowed just two hits but had walked 10 batters.
Brennan, "a remarkably poised sophomore," retired the side in order in the 10th, gave up a single and a walk in the 11th, then got the last three men without trouble collecting his seventh win of the season against two losses.
Bentley scored the winning run in the bottom of the 12th. He singled then stole second. TJ catcher Jim Barritt's throw went into center field. The center fielder juggled the ball as Bentley rounded third and raced home, giving the state title to St. Mary's.
When accepting the championship trophy, Coach Herrity said, "We won this one (title game) for (coaches) Bob Lonergan and Ed Hyde and all of our fans"
(Note: George's next Gourmet column will be about Clinton High School's championship baseball team of 1964.)
George Kampling is the former longtime sports editor of the Clinton Herald who writes occasional columns and still helps out around the office a few hours each week.