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Bluejays Play in Championship Series in Redwood Empire after 3-18 in 2015

 

By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications

In the bottom of the ninth of the Redwood Empire Baseball League’s 35+ Continental division’s championship series, the ‘Jays had runners on first and second with the tying run at the plate. The hitter: 2016 league MVP/team manager, Nathan Ehni. Already down 1-0 in the series, the ‘Jays were looking to avoid a two game sweep and force a decisive "game three”. Their opponent was the back-to-back division champion Pirates. The Pirates, managed by Rick Cantor, had given the ‘Jays trouble all season. They consistently demonstrated good defense, dominant pitching, and featured a batting order consisting of two "scrappy” top of the one see batters followed by ten cleanup hitters. 

The ‘Jays’ felt confident as one of their best hitters was at the dish and in a position to make it interesting with just one swing. In his at bat, Ehni hit the ball really hard, a scorcher. Unfortunately, it was a one-hopper right to the Pirates shortstop, who tossed it to second base for an easy force out, ending the game; season. Seeing the Pirates celebrate their third consecutive championship was a disappointment to the ‘Jays as their goal for the season was to "win it all”. The ‘Jays then congratulated the Pirates as the two shook hands after the game. Although the Jays lost the series 2-0, the Pirates players showed great class and appreciation to the ‘Jays for making it to the championship series.

In the winter of 2015, the ‘Jays were a dissolved team with only two holdovers from the previous year heading into the season. The remainder of the team was then assembled at the league’s draft. Being a first year team in a very competitive division, the ‘Jays finished the 2015 season with a 3-18 record. Although the team’s record may not have been as good as they would have liked to have been, the team started to develop a core of players consisting of Ehni (C), Adam Turrey (SS/P), Bryan Mackin (3B/P), Evan Rosenbaum (IF/OF), Mark Meinhofer (P/1B), Jason West (OF) and Aaron Cargile (OF).

Before the 2016 the ‘Jays added key players Skyler Delzell (IF), Dodds Delzell (1B/OF), Dan Wood (P/OF) and Ian Keane (P/OF). The team had two players selected to the division’s all star team (Wood/Ehni) and finished the season with a 9-11 record. They also narrowly qualified for playoffs as the division’s number four seed (of four). In the first round of the playoffs the ‘Jays lost to the top seed (and very tough) Giants team two games to one with scores of 12-2, 12-1 and 9-3.

After making the playoffs the previous season and even being one win away from competing for the league championship, the ‘Jays felt very confident heading into the 2017 season. The ‘Jays felt that they could become a championship contender if they added a few pieces to their roster, adding Wayne Pelletier (P/IF), John Rossi (C/1B), Tom Hoobler (C/3B) and Aneury Ventura (P). The Jays improved upon their previous season’s regular season record, finishing with a record of 10-10. This time the ‘Jays had four players selected for the all star team, with Turrey, Rosenbaum, Wood and Ehni notching the honors. Again, the ‘Jays squeaked their way into the playoffs as the division’s number four seed, slated to play against manager Kenton Lewis’s top-seeded Giants for the second consecutive postseason. 

During game one of the series on Saturday, September 23rd, neither team played their best defensive games, which was probably attributed to unsettled nerves that the playoffs can bring. The scoring went back and forth throughout the contest with the ‘Jays pulling off a 12-10 victory. Wood pitched eight solid innings (5k’s, 8h, 2bb, 2hbp, 10r/2er) followed by Meinhofer’s no-sweat ninth inning save where he struck out one and yielded only an infield single.

The offense had solid contributions throughout the lineup, led by Turrey (4/4, 2 2b, 1bb, 1hbp, 2r, 2rbi), followed by Skyler Delzell (3/6, 3r, rbi), Mackin (2/5, 2b, r, 3rbi), Pelletier (3/5, bb, rbi, 2r), Rossi (2/4, bb, r), Meinhofer (2/5, r) and Rosenbaum (1/3, 3bb, r). Wood added two sac fly RBI’s along with one by Cargile. Giants Lefty Michael Hall pitches a very gritty complete game for the Giants.

On Sunday, September 24th, the Giants came prepared to fight to continue their season,putting on a nine inning power display at the dish and silencing the ‘Jays bats. Although the Jays offense was for the most part silenced by Giants pitcher Casey Thornhill, there were solid contributions from Turrey (3/4, 2 2b, 2r), Rosenbaum (1/3, bb, 2 r), Mackin (1/3, bb, r) and a two run double by Wood. The loss allowed the Giants to tie up the series at one win a piece, and force a "winner takes all” battle for the second year in a row immediately following the game.

Thankful to have a clean slate in the "rubber match”, Wood took the ball for the ‘Jays’ on zero days rest having pitched eight innings the previous day. It was also his 36th birthday. Wood had kept the ‘Jays in the game through four innings, before the fatigue and soreness set in, allowing the Giants to take a lead. Keane took over on the hill from Wood with one out in the fifth inning. Keane was also pitching on short rest, with his recovery not being from throwing, but a minor (major) operation. Keane picked up Wood and put on a legendary performance the rest of the way, shutting the Giants down for the remainder of the game. His dominant performance allowed the ‘Jays to nibble at the Giants lead before breaking the game open in the top of the ninth inning, winning the decisive game 14-9.

Offensive heroes for the game included Wood (3/4, 2 2b, r, 3rbi), sac fly), Rosenbaum (3/6, 2b, r, 3rbi), Turrey (2/5, hbp, 2r, 2rbi), Mackin (2/4, bb, 2r), Pelletier (1/4, bb, r, 2rbi), Skyler Delzell (1/5, bb, 3r), Dodds Delzell (2/5, 2r, 2rbi) and West(2/4, 2b, hbp, 2r). 

The victory over the top-seed Giants led the ‘Jays to the championships series, where they eventually lost to the Pirates.   Although the ‘Jays goal before the season started was to win the championship, the team is working on preparing to win it all next year.

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