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2014: 65+ Wood Bat Kickoff Classic

 

'Ludwig and Young lead the Ports'

Redwood Empire Ports 9, American Nat'l. Wildcats 3

By Jeff McGaw, MSBLNational.com

Las Vegas, Nev., March 3, 2014 -- A year ago the American National Wildcats finished 0-3 in the 65-and-over division, while the Redwood Empire Ports finished 0-3 in the 55-and-over division.

This year was a different story. Dick Giberti’s Ports from Northern California wine country picked up some talent, and said "see ya” to the 55-and-over division. Ron Michaelson’s Wildcats added three key players and said "howdy-do” to the win column in the 65-and-over division.

The two revitalized, 3-1 squads met in the 65-and-over finals at the Kickoff Classic and when the wheels on the Kickoff Classic slot machine stopped spinning the Ports had hit the jackpot with a 9-3 win.

Hal Young tossed a complete game for the Ports scattering three runs on nine hits. He did not allow a run until the fifth inning when Ben Cabanas committed an error at third.

Cabanas would more than make up for the miscue when, in the top of the eighth inning, with the ‘Cats threatening, he made two spectacular diving plays on hard shots by Michaelson and Larry Sample and converted both into outs. "Those were two great defensive plays,” Michaelson said. "The left side of their infield played extremely well.”

Ed Harmon led all Port hitters with a 2-for-4 showing and two RBI. Cy Rogers added two hits and Dick Giberti knocked in two runs with a seventh-inning single. Tex Parrott had and single and two RBI in a losing cause for the largely Springfield Ill.-based Wildcats.

John Ludwig was named the overall tournament MVP for the Ports as he batted over 400, stole 12 bases, and played a youthful center field. "He was on base all the time,” Giberti said. Eddie Harmon, batting in the heart of the order, "hit the crap out of the ball,” Giberti said. Harmon’s bat was apparently still warm from the 2013 World Series in which he got on base in 17 consecutive at-bats.

Young, who won rings in three different divisions – 55, 60, and 65 – in Arizona last fall, tossed six innings in the second tournament game on the previous Saturday, and came back to throw all nine in the finals.

It was the first Kickoff Classic win for Giberti’s Ports – a team built on speed, pitching and defense. "It was a pleasure playing with these guys,” Giberti said.

"We just ran into a better team,” said Michaelson, "but were very happy with how we played.” The Wildcats got contributions from many guys. Larry Sample pitched well in the finals, and Michaelson had a strong offensive tournament. Jerry Johnson, in a must-win game on Sunday to put the team into the finals, threw a complete game to beat San Antonio. Center fielder Dan England played great defense and recorded assists to second, third and home during the three day tournament.

The ‘Cats scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat the California Dons 9-8 in the second game of the tournament atHadland Park, but the most remarkable part of that win was the triple play they turned in the top half of the inning when the Dons were poised to blow the game open. The Dons attempted a hit-and-run with runners on first and second and none out. The batter hit a liner to Bob Hayes in left field who caught it at the knees. Hayes threw to second base for the second out, and they still had enough time to throw to first to triple-off that runner.

That the tournament got started and finished on time was a modern field maintenance miracle. Heavy rains on the Friday dampened expectations for a smooth start on Saturday. "It looked depressing,” Michaelson said. Tournament field crews worked furiously and all fields were ready for the opening bell on Saturday morning. "It was more than ready,” Giberti said, "it was in great shape.”

"They did a wonderful job on those fields,” Michaelson added.


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