Patriot League Division Series – Game 7

PBL Eastern Division Series, Game 7

KNOXVILLE SMOKIES 7, JACKSONVILLE DRAGONS 5

When telling the story of the Knoxville Smokies’ 7-5 win over the Jacksonville Dragons in the deciding game of the Patriot League’s Eastern Division Series, there are a lot of names worth mentioning.

There’s Smokies RF Jackson Campo, who had a game for the ages, going 3-for-4 with 5 RBI.  There’s Dragons LF Rob Hartley, whose three-run upper-deck homer in the 5th looked for a while like it might carry Jacksonville to a shocking upset.  There’s the Knoxville relief trio of Jerry Tile, Rick Wilkins, and Charlie Pasternak, who combined to throw 4 scoreless innings to put the home team in position to win.  There’s Jacksonville starter Bryce Hobbs, a rookie who posted a 16-3 regular-season record but couldn’t get his team over the hump.  There’s Smokies manager Snuff Wallace, who guaranteed a victory before Game 7 and saw his team come from behind to pick him up.

But no account of this game would be complete without mentioning one key player, one who didn’t appear in the game at all: Dragons ace Biggs McGee.

After McGee turned in a strong outing on short rest in Game 4 to save his team’s season, he promised that he would deliver a repeat performance today. “If there’s a Game 7, guess who’s going to be on the hill gunning for glory?” McGee asked reporters.  “Yep, it’s your boy.  They’re gonna get a face full of Biggs McGee whether they like it or not.”

But when Game 7 rolled around, McGee didn’t get the start; Hobbs did.  And when Hobbs began to struggle in the middle innings, manager Steve Califano never summoned his ace, even though McGee was reportedly warming up in anticipation of a call that never came.  The big-talking pitcher who was determined to carry the team on his back never got the chance.

Califano declined to answer questions about his pitching decisions after the game, saying only that “I went with the guys who I thought could deliver for us.”  Why those guys didn’t include McGee, who was by all accounts ready and willing, is a question that will hang over this game for the ages.

The fact that Hobbs got the ball to start Game 7 wasn’t a surprise.  Although McGee and Kyle Palmer were able to start on short rest in Game 4 and 5, Hobbs told Califano that he couldn’t do the same in Game 6.  The Dragons started Juan Sarmiento instead.  So it made sense that Hobbs, on full rest, would be the starter in Game 7.

But all signs pointed to McGee being available at least in relief for today’s contest.  Califano yanked McGee in Game 4 after only 82 pitches, saying that he wanted to “keep my power dry.”  Asked before today’s game if he was ready for a relief appearance if needed, McGee said, “You bet your rosy-red butt cheeks.  I’m chomping at the bit to get in there.”

But when Hobbs allowed a three-run bomb to Campo in the 4th to overturn an early Jacksonville lead, Califano didn’t call on McGee.  When Campo stroked an RBI single in the 6th to cut the Dragons’ edge to 5-4, Califano stuck with his struggling starter.  It wasn’t until Smokies LF Track Johnson’s fielder’s choice in the 7th tied the game with only one out that the Jacksonville manager finally took Hobbs out, in favor of… Razor Corridon, the losing pitcher in Game 6.

According to team sources, McGee had started warming up when Hobbs began struggling in the 6th.  By the time Johnson tied the game in the 7th, he was “ready to go 100%.”  When Califano summoned Corridon instead, McGee slammed down his glove and sat down in disgust.

The manager allowed that he hoped that Corridon would get a couple groundball outs to escape the inning.  “In that situation, you need a guy who can keep the ball on the ground,” said Califano.  “Biggs is more of a fly-ball guy.  So right there, you figure the Razor gives you the better shot.”

Corridon did get Smokies 2B Jeremiah Campo to hit a grounder to first, allowing the Dragons to throw out DH Adam Valentim at the plate.  But the next two batters, 1B Eddie Battin and Jackson Campo, hit line-drive singles that brought home the runs that wound up deciding the game.

McGee claimed no hard feelings after the game.  “He’s the boss man, and he makes the call,” said the ace.  “That ain’t my job.  My job is to get guys out.  And I sure would have liked a chance to do that.”

Over in the victor’s locker room, Wallace said the win was “proof that my guys deliver when it counts.  We’re the champions, and we just showed it.  Now let’s go get the big trophy!”

The Smokies now go on to meet the Silver City Outlaws in the Patriot Series.  The Dragons head back to the weight room, where they’ll try to lift their way to a championship.

 

9/26/2017, JAX16-KNX16, Rocky Top Park
 
                       1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     R  H  E   LOB DP
2016 Dragons           0  0  0  2  3  0  0  0  0     5 11  0     6  0
2016 Smokies           0  0  0  3  0  1  3  0  x     7 10  0     6  0
 
Dragons              AB  R  H BI   AVG    Smokies              AB  R  H BI   AVG
Taliaferro        2b  5  1  2  0  .226    Johnson           lf  5  3  2  1  .276
Kapoor            3b  5  2  2  1  .407    Campo             2b  4  1  1  0  .250
Hartley           lf  4  1  2  3  .333    Battin            1b  3  1  1  1  .269
Soria             1b  4  0  0  0  .185    Campo             rf  4  1  3  5  .370
Hopps             rf  4  1  2  1  .308    Moriarty          ss  4  0  1  0  .357
Leon              cf  4  0  1  0  .154    Credle            c   4  0  1  0  .308
Soltero           dh  3  0  1  0  .208    Blair             cf  3  1  1  0  .125
 Patterson        ph  1  0  0  0  .500    Valentim          dh  2  0  0  0  .286
Teachout          c   4  0  0  0  .160     Bossard          ph  1  0  0  0  .000
Herdt             ss  4  0  1  0  .381    Figeroa           3b  2  0  0  0  .227
                     38  5 11  5           Vernon           ph  0  0  0  0  .000
                                           Aceuedo          3b  1  0  0  0  .500
                                                               33  7 10  7
 
Dragons                          INN  H  R ER BB  K PCH STR   ERA
Hobbs            L 1-1           6.1  7  7  7  2  3  88  57  6.43
Corridon                         0.2  2  0  0  0  1  12   9  6.75
Newman                           1.0  1  0  0  1  3  20  11  0.00
                                 8.0 10  7  7  3  7 120  77 
 
Smokies                          INN  H  R ER BB  K PCH STR   ERA
Green                            5.0  9  5  5  0  4  81  58  9.00
Tile             W 2-0           2.0  1  0  0  0  3  27  17  0.00
Wilkins          H 1             1.0  0  0  0  0  0  11   6  0.00
Pasternak        S 3             1.0  1  0  0  0  1  15   9  0.00
                                 9.0 11  5  5  0  8 134  90 
 
JAX: Patterson batted for Soltero in the 8th
KNX: Vernon batted for Figeroa in the 7th
     Aceuedo inserted at 3b in the 8th
     Bossard batted for Valentim in the 8th
 
2B-Taliaferro(2), Credle(1). HR-Kapoor(4), Hartley(5), Hopps(1), Campo(2). 
RBI-Kapoor(6), Hartley 3(13), Hopps(2), Johnson(1), Battin(4), Campo 5(10). 
K-Kapoor, Soria, Leon, Soltero, Teachout 2, Herdt 2, Johnson, Campo, 
Moriarty, Credle, Valentim, Aceuedo, Bossard. BB-Battin, Blair, Valentim. 
SH-Vernon. 
GWRBI: Battin
Temperature: 57, Sky: partly cloudy, Wind: left to right at 17 MPH.

 

PBL Western Division Series, Game 7

SILVER CITY OUTLAWS 5, CALIFORNIA SHARKS 3

The Silver City Outlaws are a team steeped in the mythology of the Old West.  Their stadium is called The Corral, and the home-run landing ground in right field is called Boot Hill.  Both GM Hank Stroman and manager John Jarha liberally lace their public remarks with cowboy slang.  And the famously rowdy crowds often give off the vibe of a lawless frontier town, Tombstone or Dodge City.

If the Outlaws are a Western movie, RF Nathaniel Wason is their John Wayne.  Wason is tall, handsome, and laconic.  And when the situation calls for it, he doesn’t hesitate to play the hero.

Throughout the Western Division Series, facing a talented and dangerous opponent in the California Sharks, Silver City needed Wason’s heroism.  And as he has so often this season, Wason delivered.  During the seven-game series, Wason hit .481 and went deep five times.  And in today’s deciding game, the slugger went 2-for-4 and drove in four of the Outlaws’ five runs, including a game-winning homer in the 9th.

“Nate’s not the kind of guy to brag on himself, so let me brag on him a little,” said Jarha.  “This guy’s tougher than saddle leather, and he’s got nerves of cast iron.  No matter the situation, no matter the opponent, he doesn’t get rattled.  He’s a quick draw and his shot is true.  I’m not sure he’s human, to tell you the truth.”

Wason was the man the Outlaws needed today.  In the 3rd inning, with California ahead 2-0, Silver City had the bases loaded with two outs when Wason came up against Sharks lefty Stu Palmeiro.  “There was still a lot of game left after that,” said Jarha.  “But if we’d let Palmeiro wriggle out of that jam, it was gonna be a long day.”

Wason took a strike, then roped a Palmeiro sinker into the gap in left center for a bases-clearing double.  The hit took the air out of the crowd at Blue Note Stadium, but it fired up the Outlaws dugout.  “He hit a damn good pitch like he had it on a tee,” said 1B Muzz Elliott.  “He just went in there and dug it out.”

As the innings wore on, though, Palmeiro dug in and kept the Outlaws from further damage.  2B Palmer Strachan tied the game with a two-out double in the 5th, and it looked like neither Palmeiro nor Outlaws starter Rob Tildon would budge any further.

Finally, the 9th inning came around, and Palmeiro remained on the hill for California.  Wason led off the inning for Silver City.  The Sharks southpaw nibbled around the edges of the plate, trying to get Wason to hit a weak groundout.  But the slugger wouldn’t budge, running the count to 3-0.  Palmeiro fired in a get-me-over fastball, and Wason let it go by for strike one.

For his next pitch, Palmeiro tried to climb the ladder.  He fired a fastball up and in, and Wason hit a towering fly ball down the right-field line.  It had the distance, but would it stay fair?  As Palmeiro and RF Jessie Corona watched helplessly, the ball stayed just inside the foul pole.

Another hitter might have flipped his bat or Cadillaced it around the bases.  Not Wason.  The Silver City slugger kept his head down and circled the bases as nonchalantly as if it were spring training.

“Just doing my job,” Wason said.  “Not out to show anybody up.  Just playing for the W.”

The loss brings a disappointing end to an exciting season for the Sharks, who finished the season with 95 wins but couldn’t pull out four more.  “There is no shame in this ending,” said California manager Eduardo Aponte.  “Only heartbreak.”

The Outlaws move on to face the Smokies in the Patriot Series.  The Sharks head over to Zuma to get in some surfing before the season is over.

 

9/26/2017, SCO16-CAL16, Blue Note Stadium
 
                       1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     R  H  E   LOB DP
2016 Outlaws           0  0  3  0  0  0  0  0  2     5  9  0     5  2
2016 Sharks            2  0  0  0  1  0  0  0  0     3  5  0     1  0
 
Outlaws              AB  R  H BI   AVG    Sharks               AB  R  H BI   AVG
Ivey              dh  5  1  1  0  .143    Corona            rf  4  0  1  0  .250
Brewmaker         3b  4  0  0  0  .172    Ortiz             1b  4  1  1  0  .333
Taylor            ss  2  1  0  0  .185    Smyth             ss  4  1  1  2  .276
Wason             rf  4  1  2  4  .481    Mader             lf  4  0  0  0  .250
Elliott           1b  4  1  2  0  .214    Nix               dh  3  0  0  0  .160
Cardona           cf  4  0  0  0  .304    Canales           cf  1  1  1  0  .208
Whittier          lf  4  0  1  1  .250    Lockley           c   3  0  0  0  .273
 Baynes           pr  0  0  0  0 1.000    Oller             3b  3  0  0  0  .286
Barkan            2b  4  1  2  0  .238    Strachan          2b  3  0  1  1  .391
Barraza           c   4  0  1  0  .200                         29  3  5  3
                     35  5  9  5
 
Outlaws                          INN  H  R ER BB  K PCH STR   ERA
Tildon                           7.0  5  3  3  2  8 119  74  5.56
Abbas            W 3-0           1.0  0  0  0  0  0   8   5  0.00
Matsumoto        S 2             1.0  0  0  0  0  2  13   8  6.00
                                 9.0  5  3  3  2 10 140  87 
 
Sharks                           INN  H  R ER BB  K PCH STR   ERA
Palmeiro         L 0-2           8.0  7  5  5  1 10 135  89  4.50
Arzola                           1.0  2  0  0  0  1  17  11  0.00
                                 9.0  9  5  5  1 11 152 100 
 
SCO: Baynes ran for Whittier in the 9th
     Baynes moved to lf in the 9th
 
2B-Wason(3), Whittier(1). HR-Wason(5), Smyth(2). RBI-Wason 4(12), 
Whittier(2), Smyth 2(5), Strachan(6). SB-Barkan(3), Canales(1). CS-Ivey, 
Canales. K-Ivey, Brewmaker 2, Taylor, Wason, Elliott 2, Cardona 2, Barraza 2, 
Corona 2, Ortiz, Smyth 2, Mader 2, Lockley 2, Strachan. BB-Taylor, Canales 2. 
HBP-Taylor. HB-Palmeiro. 
GWRBI: Wason
Kent Whittier was injured for this game and 3 more days
Temperature: 64, Sky: cloudy, Wind: right to left at 13 MPH.

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