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Most managers heading to Arizona for the MSBL World Series hope they’ll have enough pitching depth to get through a rigorous, six-game schedule and playoffs, but few enjoy the wealth of arms that San Antonio Bombers’ manager Gary Spencer enjoyed.
The Bombers used seven different starters in going 7-0 en route to the 50 Wood Bat National title. They capped their title run with a 4-1 win over San Jose at Maryvale Stadium.
"This is pretty special,” Spencer said. "Every one of them went at least seven innings, I think, and give us as chance to win. We just had a great week. We more than doubled the amount of runs scored than anyone else (in their four-team division).”
The man on the mound for the Bombers’ final game was 48-year-old right-hander Mike Smith. Smith, 48 threw a complete game seven hitter in which he allowed one run, and struck out five while walking only one. He faced one over the minimum over the final three innings and had three of his five strikeouts.
"I was throwing strictly fastballs until the sixth inning and then I showed them a little curveball just so they knew I had it,” Smith said. "I was able to spot (the fastball) real good and the defense did the work behind me.”
Smith was a major league prospect who was drafted by the Reds in the fifth round of the 1984 amateur draft. He played as high as AAA ball, and was drafted again by the Baltimore Orioles from the Cincinnati Reds in the 1988 Rule 5 draft. He played with the Orioles for two seasons and was 2-0 in 13 appearances. He was released in 1990 but continued playing in Independent leagues through the age of 42 in 2006.
Smith’s opponent, 59-year-old Mike Denevi, threw well in defeat. Denevi, a high school baseball coach in Los Gatos, Ca., spent four years in the minor leagues as a shortstop and third baseman, playing as high as AAA ball for the Kansas City Royals.
As good as Smith was throwing, San Jose led 1-0 before the Bombers plated four in the fifth inning. Smith had an RBI single to tie it and then John Lerette ripped a single to left to clear the bases for a 4-1 advantage.
Lerette was named the team MVP for his performance all week. The right-handed swinging Texan has a sweet, fluid swing while his knees only have fluid. "You run into pitches every now and then,” he said. "I’ve been doing this for 18 years (after a collegiate career that included a NAIA World Series appearance with SE Oklahoma). I can’t run but I can still swing it a little bit.”
It’s the second championship since 2006, and third appearance after losing in the 2010 finals, for the Bombers. "It takes a little luck, defense, good pitching and timely hitting,” Spencer said. "We had it all working this week.”
San Jose, which has made 16 finals and won seven rings over the years, showed some grit considering its start to the week. The team dropped it first four games, including two extra innings games against San Antonio, in divisional play before putting it together for three straight wins to make the championship game. San Jose beat the Rhode Island Salty Dogs 10-0 for the right to play in the championship game.Eddie Delzer was the winning pitcher in that game. That same Dogs team handed San Jose an opening round, 3-1 loss.
"We came back from the abyss at 0-4 to get into the finals,” manager Mike Zamba said. "That’s a good sense of pride there.” They had the lead in the title game but couldn’t finish it off.
Since last winning a title in 2005, San Jose has finished second five times. They were runners up to the Sacramento Giants in 2011.
"We had some chances and squandered them,” Mike Zamba. "They were better us today. It takes some luck and you have to play a perfect game on defense. They did and we didn’t”