San Diego Mudcats 7, Sacramento Solons 4

By Doug Haller

SCOTTSDALE – Rob Walberg pitches like he’s been on the mound his whole life. Steady, in control. Nice command of two pitches. Always around the zone.

“I started pitching when I was 49,” Walberg said.

Well, in that case, call him a late bloomer.

Walberg pitch nine innings, leading the San Diego Mudcats to a 7-4 win over the Sacramento Solons in the 65-and-over American World Series Final at Salt River Fields, the new spring training home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Relying mostly on a fastball and slider, Walberg scattered 11 hits, striking out two and walking one. Even when the Solons strung together a few hits, Walberg never looked like he was about to fold. He just went back to work, throwing strikes, relying on his defense, working out of jams.

“Our pitcher was awesome,” San Diego manager Mike Briggs said. “He had pinpoint control, good speed, good movement on his curve and slider. He’s a fighter. He’s tough. Nothing gets him down.”

The effort finished off a good week for the Mudcats. The team has been around three or four years, but several members recently moved up to the 70-and-over division, leaving about half a dozen players behind.

You never would’ve noticed.

The Mudcats finished round-robin play unbeaten. They never trailed for a full inning, beating Sacramento twice, both times with Walberg on the mound.

“He was very good,” Sacramento manager Irv Scott. “Went nine innings in both games.”

In the finale, the Solons helped him. In the first, with Don Frantz on the mound throwing looping breaking pitches, Sacramento committed three errors, leading to a quick 5-1 deficit.

The Solons never recovered. They scored in the fourth and plated two more in the sixth to bring themselves to within 6-4, but the Mudcats manufactured a key insurance run in the seventh, removing the game’s suspense.

“Down here, if you throw strikes and play good defense, you’re going to win,” Scott said. “We didn’t do that today.”

The Solons finished 4-2, their only losses to the Mudcats. It was disappointing, but they kept it in perspective. Losing a teammate to cancer will do that to a team. Play hard, have fun, go home.

Baseball is baseball, played the same way by little leaguers as well as retires, just perhaps at a difference pace.

Frank Weishaar had two hits for the Mudcats. Ron Damschen got on base three times. For the Solons, Gary Ewbank, Lanny Ropke and Frantz all had two hits. Against Walberg, it just wasn’t enough.

“I’m going to be sore tomorrow,” Walberg said, “but it’s worth it.”

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Sacramento Salons 1 0 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 4 11 3
San Diego Mudcats 5 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 x 7 7 2

Frantz, Scott (5) and Ewbank. Walberg and Briggs and Anderson (6). WP: Walberg LP: Frantz. Leading Hitters: Ewbank (SS) 2×2, RBI; Ropke (SS) 2×3, RBI; Frantz (SS) 2×4, RBI; Weishaar (SM) 2×4. SB: Ropke 2, Ron Williams (SS), Ken Adams (SS), Lew Decker (SM), Gordy Gutierrez. LOB: SS 8, SM 9. Total game time: 2:45.