November 12th, 2018
CARDINALS GAIN NARROW VICTORY ON VETERANS DAY:
Just like last year and many years before that, the HDL Championship game came down to the two best teams. I stated this last year and it applies again this year. The Cardinals and A’s had these qualities: <> Grit & Grind <> Intensity <> Perspiration <> Inspiration <> Never say die <> Focus <> Competitive Fight <> Respect for each other <> Unity <> Pride, Personal and Team, but most of all – HEART. If I left out something more obvious or more appropriate, please post your perception in a comment.
For this important game, the weather for the past 2 weeks had been uncooperative. On Sunday the HDL was blessed with dry conditions. It started out chilly but once the Sun popped out, conditions became almost ideal. The biggest noise that sounded like thunder was the post game fireworks that Robert Miller exploded to celebrate the final results. Each team was happy to be playing baseball in this extended season.
The game started on-time at 10:00 AM. Home Team was the Cardinals since the Athletics were home team in round one where the Cardinals came from behind to win 8-6.
EARLY LEAD BY THE A’s
The V-Brother A’s, came out firing on all cylinders when they posted 3 runs in the first and 3 runs in the 2nd inning to take an early 6-2 lead. Travis Hill got his chance to be Starting Pitcher for the Cardinals. In Travis’s previous Start against the Tigers he struggled and took the loss. Against the A’s, Travis mixed up his pitches and did what he was supposed to do – get the A’s to hit Ground Balls. The only problem was some of the ground balls found holes for base hits or the Cardinals infielders were pressing and failed to get outs on the balls they fielded. Giving the A’s 5 outs in an inning is digging a deep hole for your offense to climb out of.
TRAVIS HILL FINDS HIS GROOVE
After the second inning, Travis and the Cardinals defense tightened up and shutdown the A’s scoring binge for the next 5 innings. This allowed the veteran Cardinals hitters to work on A’s starting pitcher, Ben Eldred. Ben held the Cardinals to just 3 runs in the first 6 innings. Then in the 7th inning, the Cardinals put together some good AB’s and rallied to take the lead 7-6. One of the main reasons was the clutch hitting from Kevin High who had a triple and a double for the game.
With the score being close, it was obvious the Cardinals were wondering when it would be smart to insert their “Closer”, Nick Harris. But Travis was still throwing good. When Travis got the 1st two A’s batters in the 8th Inning “Out”, the Cards were down to their last 4 outs. But then the game got interesting. Travis had 2 strikes on Juan Polanco when an inside pitch hit Polanco. Then the very next batter, Carlos Varela, was hit by Travis Hill pitch to put the tying run in scoring position. A’s veteran outfielder, Johnny Gonzalez knock in the tying run before Travis got the third out of the inning.
GAME GETS TIGHT
In bottom of the 8th inning, Travis Hill led off the inning with a double down the left field line off of new A’s pitcher, Alex Vivas. This brought up the hot hitting Kevin High who placed a soft liner inside the third base line to score Travis for the go-ahead run.
The Cardinals once again had a one-run lead. And once again, Travis Hill remained on the mound. With the Cardinals up 1 game to none, they knew if the A’s won this game they would need Nick to pitch the third game of the “Best 2 out of 3”, so they wanted Travis to go as long as he could.
The A’s were determined to find a way to win this critical game. The first 3 batters Travis faced, loaded the bases. Now the Cardinals had no choice but to make a move. They brought in Nick. Bases Loaded. No Outs.
The situation did not look good (for Cardinals). Being the Home team, the Cardinals knew if they could minimize the damage, maybe their bats could recover in the bottom of the 9th.
The first batter that Nick Harris faced was Alex Vivas. Alex is known to be a good contact hitter with a .300 average. The Cardinals played their infielders “IN” for a possible play at the plate. With 2 strikes, Alex swung his bat and made solid contact. The hit immediately looked like it was destined to end up in the gap and clear the bases for the A’s. One problem, it was a line drive that was within reach of Travis Hill who had moved to Shortstop. Travis speared the ball out of the air and quickly looked at 2nd base and saw that the base runner might beat the throw and give Ben Eldred, who was on third base, a chance to score the tying run. Travis surprised everyone when he pivoted 180 degrees and fired to Cory Morgan to double-off Ben at 3rd base.
Now all Nick Harris had to do was find a way to get one more out. The next batter, Oscar Zamudio was hitting almost .350 for the year and with his speed there would be a lot of pressure on the Cardinals defense to cover any ground ball. Nick Harris and catcher, Judson Belote, called “Time” to discuss their pitching strategy against Oscar. Nick executed his pitches perfectly and Oscar failed to make contact for the final out of the game.
GOOD SPORTSMANSHIP BY BOTH TEAMS IS COMMENDED
Game Over, Final Score 8-7, Season Over. The Cardinals win the Play-off Series and end up with a record of 12 and 8. The V-Brother A’s end the season with a 12 and 6 record with the fewest losses by any team in the HDL this season. The A’s had a fantastic season. But a lot of credit goes to the Cardinals for sticking together and playing without one of their best players, Patrick Belote, who was unable to finish the season due to an injury.