|45 American Fall Classic champion Cleveland Steve’s Sports|
Cleveland Steve’s Sports 11, Greenville Yellow Jackets 2
By: Alex Kushel, MSBLNational.com
Digital Domain Park, Port St. Lucie, Fla. November 17, 2012– Eric Kuchenmeister pitched a complete game five-hitter and went 4-for-4 at the plate with three RBIs as Cleveland Steve’s Sports cruised past the Greenville Yellow Jackets 11-2 in the 45 American finals of the MSBL Fall Classic.
Left fielder Wayne Tyus had three hits, three stolen bases, and three runs scored while catcher Mark Knight registered three hits while droving in two runs for Steve’s Sports. The Cleveland-based team amassed 18 hits on the day.
This championship win was a long time in coming, according to team manager and namesake Steve Baraona. The club started coming to the Fall Classic in 1997 and had finished in second place on six occasions.
“It’s exciting for the team to win the tournament after coming in second place all those years,” said Baraona. “With what this group has been through, it’s an unbelievable feeling.”
The championship game never seemed to be in doubt.
Kuchenmeister retired the first six batters of the game, had excellent command, and routinely got ahead of hitters. After Doyle Wright’s RBI single in the third inning for the Yellow Jackets, Kuchenmeister retired 13 consecutive batters before Eric Anderson reached base on an error in the eighth inning.
Steve’s Sports took an early 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI single by catcher Mark Knight to score Wayne Tyus. Then they opened up their lead with a three-run third inning. Baraona had an RBI single and was brought home on an RBI double to left by Knight. Rob Sladky ripped a base hit to left to drive in a run to give Steve’s Sports a 4-0 advantage.
The Yellow Jackets had a two-run third inning to cut the deficit in half, but were unable to generate much on offense for the remainder of the game.
Lee Brooks started the third with a single to left to score Luke Roberts to get the Yellow Jackets on the scoreboard. Wright smashed a base hit to plate Brooks to make it 4-2.
Steve’s Sports pulled away with a three-run sixth inning. Rick Harasti drove in two runs, including an RBI single in the frame.
Bret Hixon pitched five innings and surrendered 11 hits while allowing six runs with three strikeouts and two walks for the Yellow Jackets. Lou Hancock tossed three innings in relief and gave up five runs. Kirk Tolbert pitched a scoreless ninth inning.
Baraona was happy and relieved that his team finally hauled in the championship ring. “We have always beenone of the dominant teams,” said Baraona of his team’s near misses. “But this year we finally put it together.”
The Cleveland pitching was a big factor. Rick Siebert finished 2-0, had 25 strikeouts, and carried a 0.65 ERA. Kuchenmeisterfinished 2-0 with 10strikeouts and a 1.42 ERA, and Jim Shubertwas 1-0 with a 2.0 ERA. Seibert earned the semifinal win.
The offense sparked as well throughout the tournament for the 6-2 Cleveland team. Baraona did more than sponsor this team – he helped propel it forward by hitting a torrid .681 (15-for-22) with 12 RBI. He was voted the tournament’s most valuable player. Mark Knighthit .461 with seven RBI while Rick Harasti hit .406, scored eight runs,had seven RBI and six steals. Kuchenmeister hit .406 with seven RBI and Wayne Tyus scored 12 runs, had six RBI, and eight steals.
“We pitched well in the tournament and really played well in the final game,” Baraona said. “This is a group that has been together in all the age groups and divisions in this tournament. We had a great time here.”