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In one dugout was Lou Gordon, the manager of the Chicago
North Cubs who had been to 21 World Series, played or managed in three
championship games, and had no rings to show for it. Like so many old-timers
who make the annual trip to the Grand Canyon State for this tournament, Gordon
has put his heart and soul into managing his team for the last 15 years, and
what he wants more than anything is for his players to get a ring.
In the other dugout at Maryvale Stadium was the Agua
Dulce Reds, a perennial powerhouse and one of the more decorated teams
(although they played in other names through the years) in the MSBL. Several
Reds, including manager Gary Firestone, had been to the MSBL mountain top over
the past 20 years.
It was the have’s versus the have-nots. It was, for
Chicago, a storybook finish in the making and proof that hard work and paying
dues can pay off.
One problem -- somebody forgot to tell the Reds how the
story was supposed to end, and when the
dust settled the Reds were 4-2 winners.
In an almost comical twist of fate the Reds’ win was keyed
by Tony Couarrubias and Roy Herrera – both of whom were playing in their first
tournament. As the rookies prepared to
get sized for their rings, an emotional Gordon reflected. "What are you gonna
do?” he said. "It really pulls at my heartstrings. We can’t get it done in that
final darn game. We were right there again but we just can’t get over the top.
Agua Dulce, which went 4-2 in division play and 4-0 in a
grueling playoff schedule that included a win over Quad City -- the division’s
The Reds put early pressure on the Cubs scoring twice in
the first off Chicago starter Bob Korvas.Marcelino Escalante had an RBI single and Herrera had an RBI groundout. It was a great boost for Herrera who had
already thrown about 20 tournament innings prior to the game.
"I didn’t have whole lot because I was pitching all week
long,” said Herrera, who allowed one unearned run in 5-and-a-third innings.
"It’s great. My first time out and we are champs. It’s a pretty good deal.”
When he got in trouble, team MVP Couarrubias came to the
rescue. Already with two complete-game wins under his belt, Couarrubias chimed
in with with 3 2/3 innings of solid relief allowing just one run. "First ring
and it is awesome,” he said. "At this age (51), it is totally awesome.”
The Reds ring party might never have been possible were
it not for Pedro Mata’s ninth inning catch. Trailing 4-2 and runner on first
base, the Cubs’ Alden Stiefel sent a looping drive to the right-field corner
that looked for all the world like the first blow in a storybook finish for the
Cubs. Instead, Mata made a full-extension diving catch for the second out.
"That was the game
right there,” Couarrubias said. "It was an amazing play.”