Patriot League Division Series – Game 3

PBL Eastern Division Series, Game 3

JACKSONVILLE DRAGONS 9, KNOXVILLE SMOKIES 3

When last we saw the Eastern Division Series, the Knoxville Smokies had demolished the Jacksonville Dragons in a rout to take a 2-0 series lead.  According to Smokies manager Snuff Wallace, the only question left was whether his team would win the series in four games or five.

Well, Wallace’s dreams of a sweep are now dead.  Thanks to a late rally and the support of the home crowd at Tesla field, the Dragons thumped the Smokies 9-3, a result that suggests the series will be competitive after all.

“Looks like there will be a Game 5 after all!” said Jacksonville skipper Steve Califano after the game.  “I know Snuff was hoping to get out of here quick and maybe get some golf in before the Patriot Series, but it looks like he’ll have to keep doing his job a while longer.  Too bad!”

On paper, this looked like a solid pitching matchup.  The Smokies’ Scott Green has been a tremendous find, a rookie virtually stolen from Carolina in a preseason trade, who put up an 18-6 record with a 3.23 ERA.  The Dragons’s Bryce Hobbs, meanwhile, posted a gaudy 16-3 record with a less-impressive 4.16 ERA.

And through the first 6 innings, the game was dead even.  Jacksonville’s offense was a one-man show, with 3B Jake Kapoor homering in his first two at bats to drive in three runs.  Knoxville, meanwhile, countered with a pair of RBI singles and a run-scoring double to score three of their own.  It would have been more, but a strong throw from RF Roderick Hopps and a great relay from 2B Emerson Taliaferro nailed Smokies C Jon Credle, who tried to score from first on CF Joe Blair’s two-bagger in the 3rd.

In the top of the 7th, Knoxville had another chance to go ahead when RF Jackson Campo doubled with 1B Eddie Battin on first.  But again, a strong relay from Hopps to Taliaferro to C Judson Teachout got Battin at the plate.  “You just don’t run on Hopper,” said Kapoor.  “He’s got a cannon for an arm.”

In the bottom of the 7th, the Dragons broke the game open.  DH Sandy Soltero and SS Alan Herdt both doubled, giving Jacksonville its first lead since the 1st inning.  Taliaferro’s grounded out to the mound for the inning’s second out, but then Green (0-1) melted down.  He uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Herdt to scamper home, then gave up a single to Kapoor.  The Smokies hurler then fell behind LF Rob Hartley 2-0 before firing a fastball down the middle, which Hartley crushed out to left-center to make it 7-3.

Wallace faced criticism after the game for sticking with Green all the way through the 7th inning, despite clear evidence that he had run out of steam.  “What, it’s a bad thing if I’ve got faith in my guy to get the job done?” the manager snapped to reporters.  “Y’all can kiss my [expletive].”

Hobbs (1-0) pitched into the 8th before yielding to rookie lefty Lance Newman, who recorded the final four outs to earn a save.

The Smokies’ sweep chances might be shot, but Wallace’s bravado remains intact.  “Y’all don’t really expect me to piss my pants just ‘cause we lost a game do you?” said the Knoxville skipper.  “We’re still the best team, and we’re going to get this done.”

 

9/21/2017, KNX16-JAX16, Tesla Field
 
                       1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     R  H  E   LOB DP
2016 Smokies           0  1  2  0  0  0  0  0  0     3 11  1    10  0
2016 Dragons           1  0  2  0  0  0  4  2  x     9 14  1     6  0
 
Smokies              AB  R  H BI   AVG    Dragons              AB  R  H BI   AVG
Johnson           lf  4  0  0  0  .308    Taliaferro        2b  5  1  2  0  .267
Campo             2b  5  0  0  0  .231    Kapoor            3b  4  3  3  3  .364
Battin            1b  4  1  2  0  .333    Hartley           lf  5  1  1  2  .231
Campo             rf  5  1  2  1  .308    Soria             1b  4  0  1  0  .308
Moriarty          ss  3  1  1  0  .500    Hopps             rf  4  1  2  0  .364
Credle            c   4  0  1  0  .333    Leon              cf  4  1  2  0  .273
Blair             cf  4  0  1  1  .100    Soltero           dh  4  1  1  0  .250
Valentim          dh  4  0  2  0  .455    Teachout          c   4  0  1  1  .273
Figeroa           3b  4  0  2  1  .455    Herdt             ss  3  1  1  2  .444
                     37  3 11  3           Burt             ss  0  0  0  0  .000
                                                               37  9 14  8
 
Smokies                          INN  H  R ER BB  K PCH STR   ERA
Green            L 0-1           7.0 10  7  7  0  9 118  84  9.00
Provenza                         1.0  4  2  2  1  2  30  18  9.00
                                 8.0 14  9  9  1 11 148 102 
 
Dragons                          INN  H  R ER BB  K PCH STR   ERA
Hobbs            W 1-0           7.2 11  3  3  3  6 141  88  3.52
Newman           S 1             1.1  0  0  0  0  1  12   8  0.00
                                 9.0 11  3  3  3  7 153  96 
 
JAX: Burt inserted at ss in the 9th
 
E-Blair, Taliaferro. 2B-Campo(2), Blair(1), Valentim(2), Taliaferro(1), 
Soria(1), Soltero(1), Herdt(2). 3B-Battin(1). HR-Kapoor 2(3), Hartley(1). 
RBI-Campo(4), Blair(1), Figeroa(4), Kapoor 3(5), Hartley 2(2), Teachout(2), 
Herdt 2(2). K-Battin, Campo 3, Moriarty, Blair, Valentim, Kapoor, Hartley, 
Soria, Hopps, Leon 2, Soltero 3, Teachout 2. BB-Johnson, Battin, Moriarty, 
Kapoor. SF-Herdt. WP-Green, Hobbs. 
GWRBI: Herdt
Temperature: 80, Sky: clear, Wind: out to left at 7 MPH.

 

PBL Western Division Series, Game 3

SILVER CITY OUTLAWS 4, CALIFORNIA SHARKS 3

After coming up on the short end of the two one-run games in Long Beach, the Silver City Outlaws came home to The Corral hoping that the hot air and the rowdy home crowds would tilt things in their favor.  It was another close run, but this time it was the Outlaws who handed the Sharks a 4-3 loss.

“Now we’re playing our game,” said Outlaws manager John Jarha.  “We got a strong outing from [David] Otto, great work from the pen, and our bats came through when it counted.  I like our chances the rest of the way.”

Otto, a 19-year-old lefty, reminded the Silver City faithful of last year’s wunderkind, Pedro Rodriguez.  Though he lacks Rodriguez’s physical stature and gaudy strikeout totals, Otto proved just as effective through the first 6 innings.  A homer by 2B Palmer Strachan was the only run California was able to push across.  Meanwhile, CF Javier Cardona and SS Danny Taylor homered off of Sharks starter Stu Palmeiro in the first 3 innings to stake the Outlaws to a 3-1 lead.

California roared back in the 7th inning, however, as 3B Johnnie Oller and pinch-hitter Aaron Brown led off with back-to-back jacks that knocked Otto out.  That put the game in the hands of Silver City’s bullpen, which has proven to be a hit-or-miss proposition.

Today, though, the Outlaws relief corps was rock solid.  Right Emilio Abbas (1-0) faced only three batters in escaping the 7th.  Left-handed knuckleballer Cliff Humphrey worked out of a two-on threat in the 8th.  Then closer Go Matsumoto retired the Sharks in order in the 9th to pick up the save.

Meanwhile, Silver City’s hitters manufactured the winning run in the 7th.  2B Dominique Barkan drew a one-out walk – the only free pass Palmeiro would allow in the game – then stole second before C Carlos Barraza doubled him home.

This meant that Palmeiro – who pitched a complete-game six-hitter and struck out 13 – wound up with a loss for his effort.  “Baseball’s a cruel mistress,” said the left-hander with a shrug.  “If you’re expecting everything to be fair, you’re in the wrong line of work.”

Silver City will look to veteran right-hander Cloyce “Hoss” Benson to even the series tomorrow, while the Sharks will counter with knuckleballer Todd Warrant.  “This is anybody’s series,” said California manager Eduardo Aponte.  “You have two strong teams playing excellent baseball.  This is a wonderful series to watch.  To manage, however, it is a bit nerve-wracking.”

 

9/21/2017, CAL16-SCO16, The Corral
 
                       1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     R  H  E   LOB DP
2016 Sharks            0  0  1  0  0  0  2  0  0     3 10  1     8  0
2016 Outlaws           0  1  2  0  0  0  1  0  x     4  6  0     4  1
 
Sharks               AB  R  H BI   AVG    Outlaws              AB  R  H BI   AVG
Corona            rf  5  0  1  0  .308    Ivey              dh  4  1  0  0  .000
Ortiz             1b  5  0  1  0  .308    Brewmaker         3b  4  0  0  0  .250
Smyth             ss  4  0  1  0  .385    Taylor            ss  4  1  2  2  .333
Mader             lf  3  0  1  0  .250    Wason             rf  4  0  1  0  .417
Nix               dh  4  0  1  0  .091    Elliott           1b  4  0  0  0  .000
Canales           cf  4  0  1  0  .091    Cardona           cf  3  1  1  1  .200
Lockley           c   4  0  1  0  .200    Whittier          lf  3  0  0  0  .000
Oller             3b  3  1  1  1  .375    Barkan            2b  2  1  1  0  .111
Strachan          2b  2  1  1  1  .333    Barraza           c   3  0  1  1  .250
 Brown            ph  1  1  1  1 1.000                         31  4  6  4
 Gonzalez         2b  0  0  0  0  .000
 Gerke            ph  1  0  0  0  .000
                     36  3 10  3
 
Sharks                           INN  H  R ER BB  K PCH STR   ERA
Palmeiro         L 0-1           8.0  6  4  3  1 13 121  89  3.38
                                 8.0  6  4  3  1 13 121  89 
 
Outlaws                          INN  H  R ER BB  K PCH STR   ERA
Otto                             6.0  8  3  3  1  6  97  60  4.50
Abbas            W 1-0           1.0  1  0  0  1  0  16  10  0.00
Humphrey         H 2             1.0  1  0  0  0  1  10   8  0.00
Matsumoto        S 1             1.0  0  0  0  0  1  17  10  9.00
                                 9.0 10  3  3  2  8 140  88 
 
CAL: Brown batted for Strachan in the 7th
     Gonzalez inserted at 2b in the 7th
     Gerke batted for Gonzalez in the 9th
 
E-Smyth. 2B-Lockley(1), Wason(1), Barkan(1), Barraza(1). HR-Oller(1), 
Strachan(1), Brown(1), Taylor(1), Cardona(1). RBI-Oller(1), Strachan(1), 
Brown(1), Taylor 2(2), Cardona(1), Barraza(1). SB-Barkan(1). K-Corona, Smyth, 
Mader, Canales 3, Lockley, Gerke, Ivey, Brewmaker 2, Taylor, Wason 2, 
Elliott 2, Cardona, Whittier 2, Barraza 2. BB-Mader, Oller, Barkan. 
GWRBI: Barraza
Temperature: 92, Sky: partly cloudy, Wind: in from right at 1 MPH.
Advertisements

Patriot League Division Series – Game 2

PBL Western Division Series, Game 2

CALIFORNIA SHARKS 6, SILVER CITY OUTLAWS 5

Although the California Sharks were built to win on pitching, they’ve thrived thanks to an surprisingly potent offense.  They hit .298 this season as a team, only one point behind Jackson for the league lead.  Their 257 homers were good for third behind Silver City and Orlando.  And they were the runaway leaders in OPS (.878) and runs scored (929).

“We’ve got a lineup like a Mack truck,” said Sharks DH Eddie Nix.  “We can just flat run you over if we have to.”

California’s hitting prowess was on full display in today’s game, as they twice came from behind and ultimately walked off with a 6-5 win and a 2-0 lead in the Western Division Series.

“We have shown that even when our pitching is not at its sharpest, we still can win games,” said Sharks manager Eduardo Aponte.  “It is a joy to manage such a balanced and capable team.”

After being largely muzzled by righty Kevin Conner in Game 1, the Outlaws offense showed up in Game 2 eager to even the score.  Facing California’s Pierre LaRue, the would-be ace who has struggled a bit this season, Silver City found success.

LaRue has struggled with gopher balls this season, and he displayed that same troubling tendency in today’s game.  RF Nathaniel Wason started the party off with a two-run blast to right-center in the first.  After the Outlaws strung together some singles to plate another run in the 3rd, 3B Rusty Brewmaker belted a solo shot in the 5th that landed in virtually the same spot that Wason’s ball did.

While the Outlaws were feasting on LaRue, the Sharks were struggling to get going against Silver City starter Rob Tildon.  Through the first 4 innings, California managed only three weak singles.  If anything, Tildon seemed to get strong as the game went on.  After Tildon struck out the side in the 4th, you could hear a pin drop inside Blue Note Stadium.

But then came the 5th.  3B Johnie Oller led off and worked an eight-pitch walk against Tildon.  After 2B Palmer Strachan flied out to left, RF Jessie Corona punched a single through the right side on an 0-2 count.  Next, Game 1 hero Max Ortiz slashed a ball to left, scoring Oller.  California had broken the shutout and gotten back-to-back hits for the first time in the game.

SS Rubin Smyth was the next man up.  On a 2-2 count, Tildon tried to finish the Sharks shortstop with a big curveball.  But the ball spun a bit, and Smyth caught it cleanly and hit a laser that just cleared the wall in left.  Suddenly, the score was tied and the seemingly invincible Tildon was finished.

“That’s how dangerous this team is,” said Smyth.  “One minute, it looks like we’re going to get stomped; the next, we’ve pulled even.”

California’s elation was short-lived, however, as LaRue allowed yet another homer to C Toby Watson in the top of the 6th to give the Outlaws a 5-4 lead.  But the Sharks didn’t panic, even as Silver City relievers Aurelio Menard and Emilio Abbas blanked them in the 6th and 7th.

“We know we’ve got the ability to get back at any time,” said Smyth.

Their chance came in the 8th.  Lefty Cliff Humphrey recorded the first two outs, but both came on fairly deep flyballs.  With C Thaddeus Lockley coming to the plate, Outlaws manager John Jarha decided to go to closer Go Matsumoto for a four-out save.  It was a decision he would live to regret.

Matsumoto got a 1-2 count on Lockley, then tried to finish him with a back-door slider.  The pitch broke back over the heart of the plate, though, and Lockley jumped on it.  He hooked it so sharply, in fact, that he thought he’d hit it foul.

“I watched it curling toward the foul pole and I was like, ‘Damn.  That was my pitch and I got on it too early,” said Lockley.  As it turned out, though, the ball stayed just fair and tied the score.  Lockley kissed his bat and flexed his muscles toward the California dugout as the crowd roared.

In the 9th, the score was still tied and Matsumoto was still on the hill.  He got the first two outs quickly ahead of dangerous LF Kenneth Mader.  He got ahead 0-2, then tried to finish it off with a slider.  This one broke as intended.  “Only Superman could hit that one out,” Jarha said later.

Superman did.  Mader dug it out and sent a towering fly to left.  Outlaws LF Marlon Hintz sprinted back to the wall and leapt for it.  The ball just cleared his glove for a game-winning homer.

The famously low-key Mader didn’t shout, gesture, or kiss his bat.  Instead, he put his head down and circled the bases as quickly as he could.  He managed to dodge the Gatorade shower awaiting him at home plate; he couldn’t quite escape the mob of teammates there to congratulate him, but he broke away as quickly as he could and dashed for the locker room.

“When we finish this thing off, then maybe I’ll celebrate,” said Mader.  “We’ve still got work to do.”

 

9/19/2017, SCO16-CAL16, Blue Note Stadium
 
                       1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     R  H  E   LOB DP
2016 Outlaws           2  0  1  0  1  1  0  0  0     5  7  0     3  0
2016 Sharks            0  0  0  0  4  0  0  1  1     6 11  0     8  0
 
Outlaws              AB  R  H BI   AVG    Sharks               AB  R  H BI   AVG
Ivey              dh  2  0  0  0  .000    Corona            rf  5  1  2  0  .375
Brewmaker         3b  4  3  2  1  .375    Ortiz             1b  4  1  1  1  .375
Taylor            ss  4  0  2  0  .250     Gerke            ph  1  0  0  0  .000
Wason             rf  4  1  2  3  .500    Smyth             ss  5  1  3  3  .444
 Whittier         rf  0  0  0  0  .000    Mader             lf  5  1  1  1  .222
Elliott           1b  4  0  0  0  .000    Nix               dh  4  0  0  0  .000
Barkan            2b  4  0  0  0  .000    Canales           cf  4  0  0  0  .000
Watson            c   4  1  1  1  .167    Lockley           c   3  1  1  1  .167
Cardona           cf  4  0  0  0  .143    Oller             3b  2  1  1  0  .400
Hintz             lf  3  0  0  0  .200    Strachan          2b  4  0  2  0  .286
                     33  5  7  5                               37  6 11  6
 
Outlaws                          INN  H  R ER BB  K PCH STR   ERA
Tildon                           4.1  6  4  4  2  5  92  55  8.31
Menard                           1.2  2  0  0  0  0  29  17  0.00
Abbas            H 1             1.0  0  0  0  0  0   9   5  0.00
Humphrey         H 1             0.2  0  0  0  0  0  10   7  0.00
Matsumoto        BS 1, L 0-1     1.0  3  2  2  1  2  28  20 18.00
                                 8.2 11  6  6  3  7 168 104 
 
Sharks                           INN  H  R ER BB  K PCH STR   ERA
La Rue                           6.0  7  5  5  2  5  93  58  7.50
Abernathy                        2.0  0  0  0  0  3  20  16  0.00
Arzola           W 1-0           1.0  0  0  0  0  0   7   5  0.00
                                 9.0  7  5  5  2  8 120  79 
 
SCO: Whittier inserted at rf in the 8th
CAL: Gerke batted for Ortiz in the 9th
 
2B-Strachan(1). HR-Brewmaker(1), Wason(1), Watson(1), Smyth(1), Mader(1), 
Lockley(1). RBI-Brewmaker(1), Wason 3(3), Watson(1), Ortiz(4), Smyth 3(3), 
Mader(1), Lockley(1). CS-Ivey. K-Ivey, Brewmaker, Wason 2, Barkan, Cardona 2, 
Hintz, Corona, Smyth, Mader, Nix, Canales 2, Lockley. BB-Ivey 2, Lockley, 
Oller 2. 
GWRBI: Mader
Temperature: 74, Sky: partly cloudy, Wind: out to left at 1 MPH.

 

PBL Eastern Division Series, Game 2

KNOXVILLE SMOKIES 9, JACKSONVILLE DRAGONS 1

After surviving a scare from the Jacksonville Dragons in Game 1, the Knoxville Smokies reasserted their dominance in Game 2, getting a fine outing from southpaw Elicio Santana and rolling to a 9-1 thrashing for a 2-0 series lead.

“Now there’s the [expletive]-kicking I was waiting for!” crowed Smokies manager Snuff Wallace.  “We put our spikes right on top of their windpipe and crushed it.  Now the only question is whether we’re gonna go ahead and sweep this thing, or if we’re gonna be nice guys and let ‘em win one.  And I ain’t a nice guy.”

Perhaps surprisingly, Jacksonville actually struck first in this game, as RF Roderick Hopps singled in a run in the top of the 1st.  When 1B Miguel Soria tried to score from second on CF Alfonso Leon’s subsequent single, though, he was nailed by a perfect strike to the plate from Smokies CF Joe Blair.

And after that, Santana (1-0) had the Dragons eating out of the palm of his hand.  The lefty was far from perfect; he was throwing extremely hard but very wild, allowing six walks over 8 innings.  But he also struck out nine, and managed to work out of the jams he got himself into.  Jacksonville stranded 12 runners on the evening.

“I was maybe a little too excited,” said Santana.  “But maybe that helps me too.  When fastball might be coming for your head, it’s maybe kind of scary.”

“Santana had all that knucklehead energy going for him out there,” said Wallace.  “I wouldn’t have been digging in too deep against him, for sure.”

Meanwhile, Knoxville’s hitters teed off on Dragons starter Kyle Palmer (0-1).  Like Santana, Palmer racked up strikeouts – eight in 5 1/3 innings – but he didn’t miss nearly as many bats, allowing 11 hits.  C Jon Credle tied it up with a solo shot to lead off the 2nd, and back-to-back doubles from DH Adam Valentim and 3B Curt Figueroa gave the Smokies the lead.

After a sac fly from 2B Jeremiah Campo tacked on another run, a two-run blast from Figueroa in the 6th spelled the end of the line for Palmer.  In the 8th, Campo’s twin brother Jackson smacked a three-run homer to the upper deck in left-center, capping off a four-run inning that put the final nails in Jacksonville’s coffin.

Heading home with an 0-2 deficit, Dragons manager Steve Califano remained confident.  “There’s a lot of life left in us,” the manager said.  “We’ll have the home crowd behind us now, and we’ve got Bryce [Hobbs] going in Game 3.  Let’s get that one, and we can start building from there.”

 

9/19/2017, JAX16-KNX16, Rocky Top Park
 
                       1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     R  H  E   LOB DP
2016 Dragons           1  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0     1  7  0    12  2
2016 Smokies           0  2  0  1  0  2  0  4  x     9 17  2     8  1
 
Dragons              AB  R  H BI   AVG    Smokies              AB  R  H BI   AVG
Taliaferro        2b  5  0  1  0  .200    Johnson           lf  5  0  3  0  .444
Kapoor            3b  4  0  0  0  .143    Campo             2b  4  1  2  1  .375
Hartley           lf  3  1  0  0  .250    Battin            1b  4  1  1  1  .250
Soria             1b  4  0  1  0  .333    Campo             rf  5  1  1  3  .250
Hopps             rf  4  0  2  1  .286    Moriarty          ss  5  0  3  0  .556
Leon              cf  4  0  1  0  .143    Credle            c   4  1  2  1  .375
Soltero           dh  4  0  1  0  .250    Blair             cf  3  1  0  0  .000
Teachout          c   3  0  1  0  .286    Valentim          dh  4  2  2  0  .429
Herdt             ss  3  0  0  0  .500    Figeroa           3b  4  2  3  3  .429
                     34  1  7  1                               38  9 17  9
 
Dragons                          INN  H  R ER BB  K PCH STR   ERA
Palmer           L 0-1           5.1 11  5  5  2  8  91  56  8.44
Khan                             2.2  6  4  4  0  0  53  33  6.75
                                 8.0 17  9  9  2  8 144  89 
 
Smokies                          INN  H  R ER BB  K PCH STR   ERA
Santana          W 1-0           8.0  6  1  1  6  9 134  79  1.13
Provenza                         1.0  1  0  0  0  1  17  12  0.00
                                 9.0  7  1  1  6 10 151  91 
 
E-Moriarty, Figeroa. 2B-Campo(1), Moriarty(2), Valentim(1), Figeroa(1). 
HR-Campo(1), Credle(2), Figeroa(1). RBI-Hopps(1), Campo(2), Battin(3), 
Campo 3(3), Credle(2), Figeroa 3(3). K-Taliaferro, Kapoor, Hartley 2, Soria, 
Leon 2, Soltero, Teachout, Herdt, Battin 2, Campo 2, Moriarty, Blair 2, 
Figeroa. BB-Kapoor, Hartley 2, Soria, Teachout, Herdt, Battin, Blair. 
SF-Campo. WP-Palmer 2. 
GWRBI: Figeroa
Temperature: 65, Sky: partly cloudy, Wind: right to left at 10 MPH.

Patriot League Division Series – Game 1

PBL Eastern Division Series, Game 1

KNOXVILLE SMOKIES 8, JACKSONVILLE DRAGONS 7

In the Jacksonville Dragons locker room after loss, SS Alan Herdt sat in front of his locker and stared at the floor.  Around him, his teammates went about showering and getting dressed, but Herdt sat there in full uniform, drawn in on himself.  Every once in a while, he’d bark a curse or slam his glove against his stool, causing everyone to look up briefly.  The quiet and mild-mannered veteran rarely attracts much notice, but today, everyone was doing their best to give him space.

No one asked why Herdt was so upset.  No one had to.  Even though the shortstop had gone 3-for-3 and scored a pair of runs, he also made a pair of crucial errors in the 4th inning that allowed the heavily favored Knoxville Smokies to wriggle off the hook and escape with a narrow 8-7 win in Game 1 of the Patriot League Eastern Division Series.

“I lost the game,” said Herdt when he finally faced reporters.  “If I make those two plays – plays I’ve been making since I was in Little League – we win this game.  I let everybody down.”

Herdt’s manager, Steve Califano, was quick to dispute Herdt’s assessment.  “No way was that game all Alan’s fault,” said Califano.  “We’re a team here; we win and lose as a team.  If we’d gotten a little better pitching, or if a couple of those balls that died at the track made it out, we’re not talking about this.  Alan’s one of those lunch-pail guys who just shows up and does a job, never flashy, but steady.  For the spotlight to find him like this… that’s cruel.  I really want us to win this and pick him up, because he deserves it.”

Before Herdt’s gaffes, it looked like Jacksonville might be able to steal Game 1 on the road and throw a scare into the Smokies.  Knoxville drew first blood in the game in the very first inning; leadoff hitter Track Johnson leaned into a fastball from Dragons ace Biggs McGee, and 2B Jeremiah Campo followed up with a triple down the right-field line.  1B Eddie Battin followed with a sac fly, and the Smokies led 2-0 only five pitches in.

But 3B Jake Kapoor launched a two-run bomb to left center in the 3rd to tie the game.  Knoxville grabbed the lead back in the bottom of the inning with two-out back-to-back jacks by SS Armand Moriarty and C Jon Credle, but then Jacksonville broke out in the top of the 4th and threatened to leave the Smokies in the dust.

1B Miguel Soria got things started by dropping an 0-2 slider into left for a single.  RF Roderick Hopps worked a walk, and then CF Alfonso Leon dropped down a surprise bunt and almost beat it out.  After that, the hits kept coming like cannon shots, as the Dragons jumped on the first pitch again and again.  DH Sandy Soltero drilled a triple down the right-field line, scoring Soria and Hopps to tie the game.  C Judson Teachout hit a grounder to short, and Soltero beat the throw home to give the Dragons their first lead.  Herdt lined a ball that fell just fair for a double.  2B Emerson Taliaferro dropped a single into right that brought Teachout and Herdt home.

Suddenly, the Dragons led 7-4.  They had Jack Jacques, Knoxville’s most reliable starter, on the ropes.  The orange-clad crowd at Rocky Top Park had fallen silent.  Were the underdog Dragons about to seize the upper hand in the series?

Then came the bottom of the 4th.  Campo drew a one-out walk, but Battin hit a roller to short that looked like a tailor-made double play.  Herdt glided into position, bent down, went to grab the ball… but it squirted between his legs.  No double play; both runners were safe.  That meant that McGee’s strikeout of Campo’s twin brother Jackson, which should have ended the inning, was only the second out.  That allowed Moriarty to bat, and he spanked a hanging 2-0 curve from McGee to the gap in left-center for a double.  Jeremiah Campo scored easily, but Leon got to the ball quickly and fired it to Herdt.  Battin, no speedster, was still a good 12 feet from the plate.  A strong throw from Herdt would nail Battin, allowing Jacksonville to escape the inning with a 7-5 lead.

Herdt didn’t make a strong throw.  In fact, his pitch bounced well wide of the plate, and Teachout couldn’t come up with it.  Battin slid in safely, and Moriarty made it to third.  That allowed the Smokies shortstop to score on the ensuing passed ball that Teachout allowed, deadlocking the score at 7.

Although Knoxville didn’t score the winning run until the 6th, when Battin hit a solo shot off of reliever Blueberry Jackson (0-1), everyone agreed that the bottom of the 4th swung the game.

“It was real sweet of [Herdt] to gift-wrap the game and hand it to us,” said Smokies manager Snuff Wallace.  “He ain’t even on my payroll!”

If the Dragons lose this series, they may look back at this game as a golden chance squandered.  But Califano has no interest in playing the what-if game.  “As far as I’m concerned, this game showed that we can hang with them,” said the Dragons skipper.  “If Snuff’s boys aren’t worried, they ought to be.”

 

9/18/2017, JAX16-KNX16, Rocky Top Park
 
                       1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     R  H  E   LOB DP
2016 Dragons           0  0  2  5  0  0  0  0  0     7 12  2     6  0
2016 Smokies           2  0  2  3  0  1  0  0  x     8  8  0     7  2
 
Dragons              AB  R  H BI   AVG    Smokies              AB  R  H BI   AVG
Taliaferro        2b  5  0  1  2  .200    Johnson           lf  4  1  1  0  .250
Kapoor            3b  3  1  1  2  .333    Campo             2b  4  2  1  1  .250
Hartley           lf  5  0  2  0  .400    Battin            1b  4  2  1  2  .250
Soria             1b  5  1  2  0  .400    Campo             rf  3  0  1  0  .333
Hopps             rf  3  1  0  0  .000    Moriarty          ss  4  2  2  3  .500
Leon              cf  3  0  0  0  .000    Credle            c   4  1  1  1  .250
Soltero           dh  4  1  1  2  .250    Blair             cf  3  0  0  0  .000
Teachout          c   4  1  1  1  .250    Valentim          dh  3  0  1  0  .333
Herdt             ss  3  2  3  0 1.000    Figeroa           3b  3  0  0  0  .000
 Patterson        ph  1  0  1  0 1.000                         32  8  8  7
                     36  7 12  7
 
Dragons                          INN  H  R ER BB  K PCH STR   ERA
McGee                            3.2  7  7  4  3  5  79  49  9.82
Jackson          L 0-1           1.2  1  1  1  2  1  41  21  5.40
Khan                             2.2  0  0  0  0  0  25  15  0.00
                                 8.0  8  8  5  5  6 145  85 
 
Smokies                          INN  H  R ER BB  K PCH STR   ERA
Jacques                          5.2  9  7  7  3  7  97  63 11.12
Tile             W 1-0           2.1  2  0  0  0  3  29  20  0.00
Drawdy           H 1             0.1  0  0  0  0  0   2   1  0.00
Pasternak        S 1             0.2  1  0  0  0  0   6   4  0.00
                                 9.0 12  7  7  3 10 134  88 
 
JAX: Patterson batted for Herdt in the 8th
     Patterson moved to ss in the 8th
 
E-Herdt 2. 2B-Herdt(1), Campo(1), Moriarty(1). 3B-Soltero(1), Campo(1). 
HR-Kapoor(1), Battin(1), Moriarty(1), Credle(1). RBI-Taliaferro 2(2), 
Kapoor 2(2), Soltero 2(2), Teachout(1), Campo(1), Battin 2(2), Moriarty 3(3), 
Credle(1). CS-Kapoor. K-Taliaferro 2, Hartley 2, Soria 2, Hopps, Leon, 
Soltero 2, Johnson, Campo, Battin, Campo 2, Blair. BB-Kapoor 2, Hopps, Campo, 
Campo, Blair, Valentim, Figeroa. SH-Leon. SF-Battin. HBP-Johnson. 
PB-Teachout. HB-McGee. 
GWRBI: Battin
Temperature: 80, Sky: clear, Wind: in from left at 10 MPH.

 

PBL Western Division Series, Game 1

CALIFORNIA SHARKS 3, SILVER CITY OUTLAWS 2

Max Ortiz has played a lot of different roles for the California Sharks.  When he arrived at the trade deadline last season, he quickly became a favorite among both fans and teammates for his excellent bat, his upbeat personality, and his reputation as a clubhouse “glue guy.”

The 35-year-old corner infielder proved popular enough that when the Sharks dealt him away during the offseason, the outcry was strong enough that the team made another deal to get him back.  He’s served as half of a first-base platoon that shored up a major hole in California’s order – hitting .362 in 68 games – but Ortiz has worn many more hats than that this season.  He’s served as assistant hitting coach, life advisor, unofficial translator, father confessor, older brother, clubhouse DJ, and much more.

“What Max has given us, it means more than you can imagine,” said Sharks manager Eduardo Aponte.  “Team chemistry is a difficult thing to measure, but guys like Max bring so much to the table.”

And now, after Game 1 of the Western Division Series, Ortiz can claim a new role: hero.  His three-run homer in the bottom of the 3rd inning was responsible for all of California’s runs, lifting the Sharks to a 3-2 victory over the Silver City Outlaws.

“I’m glad I came through when I had the chance,” said Ortiz, who went 2-for-4 on the day.  “In the playoffs, a game can turn on one or two runs, so you have to make the most of your chances.”

Ortiz’s blast couldn’t have come at a better time.  The Outlaws had grabbed the lead in the top of the inning without the benefit of a hit.  C Toby Watson worked a leadoff walk, then stole second.  California starter Kevin Conner quickly retired the next two hitters, and appeared to be out of the inning when DH Brant “Poison” Ivey hit a grounder to the right side of the mound.  But as Conner ran to field it, he looked up for a second and failed to grab the ball.  Ivey wound up reaching, and then he and Watson pulled off an audacious double steal that scored the game’s first run.

“A little old-fashioned small ball,” grinned Silver City skipper John Jarha.  “We knew Conner was dealing, and we decided to take a shot at manufacturing something there.”

The Sharks came to bat looking for some quick retribution.  3B Johnie Oller rapped a solid single to right, and one out later, RF Jessie Corona worked a walk on a full count.  That brought Ortiz to the plate against the Outlaws’ hard-throwing lefty, Pedro Rodriguez.

Ortiz doesn’t have a reputation as a power hitter, so he figured Rodriguez might start him with a fastball.  “I decided to go up dead red, and see if I could ambush him,” said the Sharks veteran.  “Against a guy like Pedro, it doesn’t pay to wait around.”

Sure enough, Rodriguez (0-1) started Ortiz with an inside fastball, but not quite as inside as he wanted it.  Ortiz met it squarely and sent it soaring toward the wall in left center.  Outlaws CF Javier Cardona could only watch helplessly as the ball sailed a dozen rows deep.  Ortiz pumped his fist and circled the bases as the crowd at Blue Note Stadium roared.

“The right man at the right time,” said Aponte.  “If you were making a movie of this game, it could only have been better if he had hit it in the 9th.”

Armed with a lead, Conner (1-0) disposed of the Outlaws with near-lethal efficiency.  Silver City put another run on the board in the 5th on LF Marlon Hintz’s RBI double, but that was it.  Conner allowed only four hits through 7 innings and 107 pitches before hitting the showers.  “We want him to keep something in the tank for later,” Aponte explained.

The California pen picked up where Conner left off, with lefty Olen Abernathy working a hitless 8th and closer Chris Lendon staring down the heart of the Outlaws order in the 9th for the save.

“We’ve got plenty of bullets left in our gun,” said Jarha.  “This series is just getting started.”

 

9/18/2017, SCO16-CAL16, Blue Note Stadium
 
                       1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     R  H  E   LOB DP
2016 Outlaws           0  0  1  0  1  0  0  0  0     2  5  0     3  0
2016 Sharks            0  0  3  0  0  0  0  0  x     3  6  1     5  2
 
Outlaws              AB  R  H BI   AVG    Sharks               AB  R  H BI   AVG
Ivey              dh  4  0  0  0  .000    Corona            rf  3  1  1  0  .333
Brewmaker         3b  4  0  1  0  .250    Ortiz             1b  4  1  2  3  .500
Taylor            ss  4  0  0  0  .000    Smyth             ss  4  0  1  0  .250
Wason             rf  4  0  2  0  .500    Mader             lf  4  0  1  0  .250
Elliott           1b  4  0  0  0  .000    Nix               dh  3  0  0  0  .000
Barkan            2b  3  0  0  0  .000    Canales           cf  3  0  0  0  .000
Watson            c   2  1  0  0  .000    Lockley           c   3  0  0  0  .000
Cardona           cf  3  1  1  0  .333    Oller             3b  3  0  1  0  .333
Hintz             lf  2  0  1  1  .500    Strachan          2b  3  1  0  0  .000
 Barraza          ph  1  0  0  0  .000                         30  3  6  3
 Whittier         lf  0  0  0  0  .000
                     31  2  5  1
 
Outlaws                          INN  H  R ER BB  K PCH STR   ERA
Rodriguez        L 0-1           8.0  6  3  3  2  9 118  78  3.38
                                 8.0  6  3  3  2  9 118  78 
 
Sharks                           INN  H  R ER BB  K PCH STR   ERA
Conner           W 1-0           7.0  4  2  1  1  9 107  67  1.29
Abernathy        H 1             1.0  0  0  0  0  1  10   9  0.00
Lendon           S 1             1.0  1  0  0  0  1  16  12  0.00
                                 9.0  5  2  1  1 11 133  88 
 
SCO: Barraza batted for Hintz in the 8th
     Whittier inserted at lf in the 8th
 
E-Conner. 2B-Hintz(1). 3B-Mader(1). HR-Ortiz(1). RBI-Hintz(1), Ortiz 3(3). 
SB-Ivey(1), Watson 2(2). K-Ivey, Brewmaker 3, Taylor 2, Wason, Elliott, 
Watson 2, Cardona, Smyth 2, Mader 2, Canales 2, Lockley 2, Oller. BB-Watson, 
Corona, Nix. 
GWRBI: Ortiz
Temperature: 65, Sky: clear, Wind: right to left at 5 MPH.

Hammerheads Fire Henley

Today, the Jackson Hammerheads announced that they had fired manager Bob Henley after one season. Henley managed the team to a disappointing fourth-place finish and 79-71 record.  Reached for comment, Hammerheads owner/whiz-kid GM Steven Butler directed reporters to the following statement, which was posted on Twitter and emailed to season-ticket holders.

A LETTER FROM THE BUTLER FAMILY

Dear Jackson Hammerheads fans,

Two seasons ago, when baseball returned to Jackson, we envisioned drunk fans at Cash Carter Downs every night cheering on the hometown team. Your energy until the very end of this year’s season, to be honest, disappointed us as we reflected on how far our team and our fanbase have come (a saying usually reserved for franchises that have accomplished something). As our organization has developed into a perennial contender (though never even making the playoffs), you’ve somewhat stood by our side — cheering our successes, keeping us honest in our approach to improvement, and celebrating with us as we’ve captured no titles or even really been in the postseason conversation.

Together, we’ve brought competitive, winning baseball back to Jackson (even though it has been here for a while at this point with no postseason success) with a passionate fanbase that every team in the Patriot League would be proud to call its own. More than anything, we want to confuse you with this line: “we want to share with you the elation of the final out going in our favor, when we can finally bring a championship home to Jackson.”

Even though this ultimately wasn’t our season, we remain devoted to that cause by firing our manager and in no way maintaining consistency at the position in further pursuit of that goal. This was an incredibly difficult decision for us. Bob Henley represented our get-on-base mentality on and off the field (hey ohhhhhhhhh!). We never really wanted to pay him an amount of money fair to a well-experienced manager with an equally respectable contract term, so we won’t even bother with the well wishes.

We won’t lie-we don’t really have a plan, nor do we expect to change anything about our manager hiring process, so take this for what it is: a self-indulgent ploy to make it seem like we aren’t cheap bastards when it comes to hiring a manager.

 

Sincerely,

The Butler Family (but let’s be real, it’s Sultan)

Final 2016 PBL Standings

West W L Pct. GB L10 Strk RS RA
y-California Sharks 95 55 .633 5-5 L2 929 658
x-Silver City Outlaws 91 59 .607 4 7-3 W1 799 681
Milwaukee Bear Claws 76 74 .507 19 5-5 W2 716 721
Kalamazoo Kazoos 64 86 .427 31 4-6 L1 667 710
Salt Lake Samurai 64 86 .427 31 8-2 W8 681 831
Las Vegas Narwhals 53 97 .353 42 2-8 L7 626 878
                 
East W L Pct. GB L10 Strk RS RA
y-Knoxville Smokies 100 50 .667 6-4 L3 833 580
x-Jacksonville Dragons 85 65 .567 15 5-5 W1 880 739
Orlando Calrissians 81 69 .540 19 9-1 W9 733 739
Jackson Hammerheads 79 71 .527 21 3-7 W1 842 781
New Orleans Sazeracs 66 84 .440 34 3-7 L1 609 743
Carolina Comets 46 104 .307 54 3-7 L1 645 899

x-clinched playoff spot.

y-clinched division title.