For those who had other commitments today and missed the championship match-up between Peterbilt Red and CDS Gray, all I can say is, you missed a fantastic game. Watching these two teams prepare for the game and plan their strategy, you could feel the anticipation of all team players. They wanted to play their best. They wanted to win but knew that to win the game, everyone had to contribute in some way, shape or fashion. Mistakes at crucial points in game of this magnitude had to be avoided.
The CDS Gray team made up of predominately first year HDL members have played the best of all the other HDL teams down the stretch. Prior to Sunday’s game, the Gray team had won 6 of their previous 7 games. Their only loss was to the Red Team in the 2nd game of the play-offs. After hanging on the previous week to beat the Red Team by score of 9-7, the Gray team was confident but not over-confident. They knew to win the game they had to beat Andrew Waddell who they had faced on September 21st and held their own until they fell apart in the 7th and 9th innings of that game. In their previous game against A-Wad the score was 1-1 going into the top of the 7th inning. The one thing the Gray team knew they had going for them on Sunday was the previous game they had faced the Red team without Wes Hill.
These Two Teams Played Their Best
When I titled this Blog “Not Again”, it made perfect sense. Especially after I read my Blog posted after the 2012 Championship game where I pointed out how the Red Team during that 2012 season went through many game-after-game disappointments and went into the post-season play-offs with a losing record. Yet despite their dismal 4 and 16 record entering the 2012 Play-offs they were still able to keep their “eye on the prize” and come out on top. It is unbelievable that this season the Red Team record was 4 and 15 when the 2014 Play-offs started. Almost identical.
So Sunday’s final game had the “new kids on the block” verses a “rode hard and put up wet” bunch of veterans who had been down this road before. The Red Team knew if they didn’t give up, they had a chance. And the Gray team knew if they could get a lead, their “baseball” ready players would be unstop-able. There was no way they could lose if they had a lead.
But let’s examine how this game unfolded and how the ending surprised everyone who was involved in the game and those who attended as avid HDL spectators.
To start the game, the umpire, Steve Berkley, flipped a coin to determine “Home” team. Robert Miller called “Heads” and Heads it was. For a 2 out of 3 match, CDS Gray team had been the Home team in two previous play-off meetings with Peterbilt Red.
In the first inning, Andrew Waddell pounded the strike zone to force Gray’s top 4 batters to swing the bat. Wes Hill flew out to right, Ramon Moreta bounced back to Waddell and was thrown out. Juan Blanco, undisputedly the best hitter in the HDL this season, drilled a bouncer down the 3rd base line but the inning ended on Juan Castilla’s first pitch swinging bouncer to Jose Ortiz.
In bottom of first, Wes Hill used the same strategy against Tim Harris (4 to 3 – out), Kevin Latham (K-looking) and Jose Ortiz (F4). No score after one.
Second inning was all pitching. 3-up/3-down.
With 2 out in the top of the 3rd inning, Gray team lead-off hitter, Wes Hill, singled. Ramon Moreta knocked in Carlos Canelo, Jr. who ran for the pitcher. Juan Blanco made it 2 hits in a row to keep the inning alive. Back-to-back hits by Juan Castilla and Carlos Medina made the score 3-0 in favor of Gray team.
In bottom of the 3rd the Peterbilt Red team manufactured a run when Glen Coombs was safe on a fielders choice for out number one. Jeff Allen hit the ball hard and got a timely double that allowed Coombs to score and cut the lead to 3-1. This was critical because it helped the Red team to keep the score respectable.
In top of the 4th inning some poor relay throws on the infield almost allowed the Gray team to get another run but clutch pitching by Waddell ended the threat. Nothing happened in the 5th inning as both pitchers were in control and that always makes the defense play better.
In the top of the 6th, Juan Castillo lead off the inning with a walk. Then with consecutive singles by Carlos Medina and Johnny Gonzales. Gonzales’s hit knocked in Castillo to make the score 4-1.
In the 6th and 7th innings, Wes Hill allowed no runs and got Red to hit into a 4-6-3 DP to end the 7th. There was probably no one in the park who had any idea what was about to happen. Almost everyone could feel this game was the Gray teams game to win.
Red Team Scores a Run in Bottom of 8th
In top of the 8th the Gray team was retired 3-up/3-down by Waddell on 3 K’s. This must have helped the Red Team to keep their hope alive as after Tim Harris grounded out to Cabrera at 1st base, Kevin Latham worked a base-on-balls which was Wes Hill’s first Walk of the game. After Jose Ortiz singled and moved Latham to 2nd, Andrew Waddell singled to make the score 4-2. This forced Gray team to bring in Juan Castilla to end the Red Team threat.
But with Wes Hill removed from the mound, the Red Team had to be thinking “rally”.
The Gray team maintained their approach at the plate. The Gray team got a break in the top of the 9th inning when Carlos Canelo beat out a slow roller and then stole 2nd base. Canelo scored on Wes Hill’s blast to the Right field gap to make the score 5-2. With a 3 run lead, the Gray team felt it was going to take a miracle for the Red Team to get enough to change the out-come in bottom of the 9th inning. The Red Team came in for bottom of the 9th and Robert Miller called the team together to make a short but forceful speech to get his players to continue to battle every pitch. To say they responded is an understatement.
Dramatic Ninth Inning!
Joe Copen was sent to the plate to start the 9th inning in place of Johnny Houghton. Joe hung in there pretty good but his pop-up in foul ground was caught by Blanco to give Gray team 1 out.
Next batter, Mike Morris was 2 for 2 plus a hit-by-pitch. So Mike had his teammates watching his at bat with their full attention. Morris was 7 for 15 in post-season games and his OBP was even higher at .800%. Mike stayed alive against Juan Castilla until he got the barrel of the bat on a fastball and sent it to the fence in right-center for a double. The next Red Team batter, Glen Coombs, shot a bouncer through the right side that sent Morris across the plate to make the score 5-3.
When Jeff Allen singled, the winning run was represented by Tim Harris. All game long Tim Harris was aggressive at the plate but never hitting the ball solid. Did I mention earlier about a “miracle”? Well Tim Harris used every bit of his strength to crush a fly ball deep to right field. When the ball left Tim’s bat, there was a good possibility the ball would be caught by Gray team right fielder, Carlos Canelo, Jr.
All through the play-off series, Carlos Canelo Jr. had played his best outfield of the season and made several terrific catches. At the time the ball left Tim Harris’s bat the sun had brightened the cloudy skies and that temporary glare could have caused Carlos to mis-judge the flight of the ball as Carlos started immediately “in” toward the infield before he realized the ball was quickly traveling over his head. By the time Carlos recovered his path to the ball, it was too late. The tying runs were crossing the plate and Tim Harris was sliding into 3rd base representing the winning run.
Once the ball was on the infield, the Gray Team called “Time-Out” to discuss their best chance to “hold” the winning run on 3rd base. It was decided that Juan Blanco would take Castillo’s place and Ramon Moreta would go behind the plate. With the infield “In”, Juan Blanco intentionally walked Kevin Latham to set-up a possible double play or at least face a less dangerous hitter in Jose Ortiz. (so they may have thought)
Jose Ortiz got a pitch he could get the bat on and bounced a 2-hopper to Wes Hill playing third. Wes fielded the ball cleanly, looked Harris back toward 3rd and then made an accurate throw to 1st baseman, Carlos Cabrera. Carlos was trying to watch the thrown ball as well as watch Tim Harris to see if he was going to try to go home. At this point in the game, the other piece of this miracle finish was the fact that Carlos Cabrera never secured the ball in his glove as it glanced off his glove and rolled to his rear. This was Tim Harris’s chance to use his legs to try to score.
With players on both teams yelling their excitement of the imminent situation, Cabrera picked up the ball and fired to Moreta covering the plate. As the ball bounced home, Tim Harris slid safely in for the winning run. The Red Team exploded in joy and somewhat disbelief that what they wanted to try to accomplish to start their final at bat actually came true.