18 Wood Bat National champion SoCal Snappers

SoCal Snappers 11, Dutch Tigers 0
By Jason P. Skoda, MSBLNational.com

Tempe Diablo Stadium, Oct. 21, 2012- It should have been a nice little homecoming for Jesse Smith, the winning pitcher in the So Cal Snappers’ 11-0 championship game win over the Dutch Tigers.

For five innings it seemed like the right handed former Angels’ minor leaguer was having a pretty good time. He was on familiar ground when he took the mound at Tempe Diablo Stadium, and through the first five innings he struck out 10 hitters and did not allow a ball to leave the infield.

But that’s when it got a little crazy. In what might be a first in the 12-plus decade history of the game, Smith was ejected in the sixth inning of his perfect game for arguing balls and strikes. The trouble began when Smith threw a ball inside to the Dutch Tigers’ Mourik Huijser, who was attempting to bunt. Smith didn’t like the call and had some words with the umpire who warned him to drop it.

He didn’t drop it and, so, the umpire dropped him .”It’s a shame,” Snappers’ MVP Greg Martinez. “Anytime you have a chance to be part of something special like that you should let it unfold. Who knows how many of these guys have been part of a no-hitter. It was taken away from him.”

Baseball rules explicitly state that players cannot argue balls and strikes – and it’s not a new rule.

SoCal pitcher Jesse Smith

Left-hander Pete Hartmann relieved Smith and allowed a total of three hits in his four innings. The Snappers, who lost once in round-robin in action before advancing to the finals, had a big offensive game and could have piled on even more runs but shut down the running game and stopped advancing on potential sacrifice flies.

In the early going, Alonso Mendoza had a two-run single and Kjavik Mahon had a bases-clearing double to drive in three runs off Tigers starter Henk van Heijningen, who gave up seven hits and eight earned runs while walking three and striking out two over two-and-a-third innings. “They scored early and they had great pitching,” manager Frank Cramer said. “We learned a lot and we’ll come back stronger.”

The Dutch team had a long 13-hour flight back to the Netherlands where they will have runner-up rings to show off. It’s a young team with all but one player 25 or younger trying to better themselves against some tough American competition.The team went 0-5 in the round robin, but caught fire in the playoffs in order to make the finals. They were clearly over matched, but making the title game in their second year in Arizona was quite an accomplishment regardless of the difficult championship game.

“We are very happy,” Cramer said. “We are very young and these guys are hungry. We spent the early rounds getting to know each other,” said Cramer of his players who came from various teams. “We won when it counted.”

The Snappers nearly didn’t make it to finals. Trailing 4-0 through six innings against the Arizona State Baseball Club, they pulled out an 8-7 victory. Martinez, who played 13 games with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1998, put his imprint on the game by stealing home on an attempted pickoff of a runner at first base. “He’s unbelievably fast,” Snapper skipper Frank Sansone said, adding that daring move energized the ball club.

“We had to do something,” said Martinez, who played 13 years of pro ball. “(ASU) had us down but we got a few big hits, created some havoc on the bases and took control of the game.” The win gave the Snappers their fourth ring overall and second in row. Not bad for a group of guys mostly in their mid-30s playing in the youngest division.

“It’s still a challenge to play at this level and as long as we are competitive we keep playing (in this age division),” Martinez said. “The field was down this year, but we still like getting that ring.”