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Cubs Sweep Yankees in Championship Series of Saratoga (NY) MSBL

Saratoga MSBL

Cubs 3, Yankees 2 (Game two)

Front Row L-R: Andy McMaster, Dave Martin, Marcus Maringola, Jason Whitbeck, Heath Morris. Back Row L-R: Dave Milligan, Wally Dow, Derek Harrison, Jon Tellstone, Matt Steinfort, Dave Hertzner, Eric Thompson, BJ Kanar, Jack Sullivan. Not pictured: Rob Palumbo and Lance Bull

 

‘Defense Hold Yankees to Four Runs in Two Games’

The Cubs defeated the Yankees by scores of 19-2 and 3-2 to sweep the best of three Saratoga MSBL finals. The Saratoga MSBL is a 10 team over 28 league based out of Saratoga Springs, New York.  Teams play a 22 game regular season with the top 8 teams qualifying for the playoffs and advancing through best of three game series.  The Cubs finished the regular season with a 16-6 record while the Yankees had an impressive 19-2 regular season.

But as Cubs assistant manager Dave Martin noted, after a slow start the veteran Cubs got hot towards the end of the regular season and were able to ride that momentum into the playoffs.  "We’re the oldest team in the league with an average age of 45 and it has showed at times over the past couple of years but it was pretty impressive to see the way the guys were swinging the bats up and down the lineup and flashing the leather down the stretch.”

The Cubs swept the Dodgers in the opening round of the playoffs and then faced off with a tough Brewers squad that knocked the Cubs out of the playoffs last year.  The Cubs’ ace hurler Wally Dow went down with a back injury midway through game one which brought back nightmares for the Cubs as this same scenario played out the prior year in which the Cubs were not able to overcome the loss of their ace.  This year proved different as the Cubs turned to newcomer Eric Thompson and veteran Matt Steinfort to carry the pitching load while the Cubs offense was clicking on all cylinders as the Cubs swept the Brewers in back to back games.

In the finals, the Cubs squared off with the defending champion Yankees who had knocked off the Cubs in both meetings in the regular season.  In game one, the Cubs bats exploded for 16 hits while Cubs hurler Eric Thompson held the Yankees bats in check for a 19-2 win.  Both teams knew that game two would be much different as Yankees flamethrower Nick McPartland matched up with Cubs veteran Matt Steinfort

McPartland held the Cubs offense in check through four innings, staking the Yankees to a 2-1 lead.  But Steinfort was equally effective, shutting the Yankees down in the top half of the fifth inning before the Cubs tied the game in the bottom half.  Dave Milligan led off with a walk and BJ Kanar laid down sacrifice bunt moving Milligan to second.  Two batters later, Marcus Maringola laced a single to center field to drive Milligan in to knot the game at 2-2.  Steinfort went back out and shut down the Yankees again in the top half of the sixth before the Cubs clawed out the go ahead run.  Dave Martin led off with a walk and advanced to second on a fielder’s choice which was followed by a huge RBI single off the bat of Derek Harrison to give the Cubs a 3-2 lead heading into the seventh. 

The Yankees threatened in the seventh as Jose Segura singled and Bellargo doubled setting up runners on second and third with one out.  The Cubs’ manager Jon Tellstone made the call to walk the dangerous Nick McPartland to load the bases and put the double play in order.  The call worked perfectly as the next batter, Anthony Brea hit a hard ground ball just to the right of shortstop Jason Whitbeck who made a great stab and feed to second baseman Dave Milligan who turned a textbook double play to end the game and secure the title for the Cubs.

Dave Martin stated that it was a fitting way to complete the title run.  The Cubs have always been predicated on playing solid defense and moving runners into scoring position. "Our defense really showed up in the playoffs.  We were able to keep veteran catcher Heath Morris off the mound this year in order to keep his arm fresh which proved to be a huge weapon in shutting down the opposition’s running game.  The double play combination up the middle of Jason Whitbeck and Dave Milligan has been solid for years."  Martin continued,  "Dave Milligan is 57 years old but still makes all the plays and I would put him up against anyone else in the league when it comes to turning the pivot on a double play. 

And then there’s our center fielder Marcus Maringola whose been playing with us for seven years now. It’s amazing the jump he gets on balls and the amount of ground he covers.  It’s equally remarkable that teams continue to try and run on him as it seems like he piles up a dozen assists or more every season."

Martin stated he also didn’t want to diminish the importance the pitching staff had on the Cubs title run. "Wally Dow has been our ace for the past several years and was pitching great when he went down with another back injury in the semi-finals.  Eric Thompson, who’s been a workhorse for us all year really picked up the slack.  And then there’s Matt "Big Game” Steinfort. We call him "Big Game” because he always pitches his best in big games.  I believe he’s pitched the clinching game for all five of our titles over the past six years.  Matt’s not overpowering on the mound although he can reach back and throw one by guys when he wants to.  He does a great job of mixing up his pitches and keeping the hitters off balance. Steinfort and battery mate Morris have had great chemistry working together for years."

Martin said that this title was very special to a lot of the guys because after losing last year and with all of us getting up there in years, they didn’t know whether they had another title run in them. 

"It’s a special group of guys as most of us have been playing together for the past 15 years and a couple of guys longer than that.  We’re a very closely knit group and we get together for a variety of things whether it’s catching a baseball or football game, fantasy football drafts, fishing trips, or camping trips with the families.  We’re always looking for excuses to get together," Martin explained. "We’re all trying to figure out what we’re going to do once our baseball days are over.  But we’re all hoping that we’ve got a couple more years left on the field!"

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