|Missouri Stars manager Pat Judge tossed a complete game win in the 35 Central Finals at the 2012 Fall Classic|
Stars shine in title bid
Missouri Stars 5, Mifflinburg Phillies 3
By Chris Holmes, MSBLNational.com
Jupiter, Fla. — Pat Judge induced 18 ground ball outs over nine innings as the Missouri Stars defeated a stubborn Mifflinburg Phillies 5-3 to win the 35-and-over Central Division championship Jupiter, Florida.
After securing a comfortable 5-0 lead through six innings, Missouri committed two errors in the seventh inning and opened the door to a two-run Mifflinburg rally. The Phillies added another run in the ninth inning, but two infield grounders ended their hopes of a comeback. It was an appropriate ending for the Phillies who pounded Stars’ pitcher Pat Judge’s pitches into the ground for 18 ground ball outs on the day.
With the exception of Missouri’s rocky seventh inning, the team’s infield was superb. “My defense really picked it up for me today,” said Judge, who threw all nine innings for the Stars. “They’re a very good hitting team.”
Judge, who earned MVP honors, constantly changed speeds, scattering just seven hits and surrendering only three walks. Combined with timely hitting and aggressive base running, the championship game was one of the few times throughout the tournament when all of the stars aligned for Missouri.
“We got a slow start hitting this week,” Judge said. Though Missouri finished pool play with a 4-1 record, the team was barely hitting .300 going into the playoffs and looked downright anemic in a 14-5 loss to the Delaware Destroyers.
That all changed the following day when they pounded out a 14-5 win against the St. Louis Chiefs. The Stars’ offense cranked it up again in the second playoff round destroying the Destroyers 22-4 in a rematch. The Stars entered the finals with hot bats and fresh arms.
The Phillies entered the playoffs with a 4-1 record where they outscored opponents 58-11. They defeated the Raleigh Red Sox 7-2 in the quarterfinals, and then beat the Carolina Indians 7-5 in the semifinals.
Mifflinburg’s starters, meanwhile, had plenty of work going into the finals. Ace Pete Hayden, making his first Fall Classic appearance, threw 19 innings. He pitched in the first game against Venezuela, in the opening playoff game against Raleigh, and he earned the save in the semifinal game against a tough Carolina Indians team. “I don’t know how he did it physically but he did it,” said Mark LeValley, the Mifflinburg manager.
Woody Beasely threw 15 strong innings with a win and a loss, and Mark LeValley already had a complete game win to his name. “He was a workhorse. Woody Beasley was a horse, as well.”
LeValley started the finals for the Phillies but exited in the fourth inning. Hayden threw two solid innings and Steve Russell finished out the eighth. The Stars notched 15 hits total and had amassed a 5-0 lead after five full innings.
“We dug ourselves a hole early,” LeValley said. “They got critical hits when they needed to. We came back late and scored three runs in the last two innings and had the tying run at the plate in the ninth. We showed a lot of character.”
Missouri outfielder Kyle Hennage showed character, as well, returning to the lineup after suffering a shoulder injury earlier in the week. “Kyle was really big for us,” Judge said. “He played hurt; he really gutted it out for us all week.”
Hennage, who went 1-for-3, stole a base and scored a run in the championship game, was one of several Missouri players to come from the St. Louis Longhorns, which won the city’s 35+ league this year. Judge, outfielder Barry Grant (3-for-3) and catcher Myke Jacobs also play for the Longhorns.
Several players joined the Missouri team from the St. Louis Twins, as well, including shortstop Brad Stephens (2-for-4), Steve Flowers (2-for-4) and Mark Burris (2-for-4). Joel Sigman, a pitcher/infielder from the St. Louis Sharks, also played a key role for the Stars, earning two wins on the mound and going 3-for-3 in the championship game.
The Phillies’ German Evangelista and Marty Rosenberry collected four of Mifflinburg’s seven hits against Missouri, and Matthew Diltz hit well all week.
“We had a good mix of our 45 guys and 35 guys,” said LeValley. “We had a good mix of rivals from within our league with the Yankees and the Phillies [in the Pennsylvania Midstate Baseball League based in Harrisburg, Pa.]. I think we all have a deeper respect for one another. You’re teammates for life when you come to a tournament like this.”
Editor’s Note — because of rains, the game was moved from ‘Roger Dean Stadium to the Marlins complex.