Agua Dulce Reds 4, Chicago North Cubs 2

By Jason Skoda,

The baseball Gods can have a wicked sense of humor.In one dugout was Lou Gordon, the manager of the Chicago North Cubs who had been to 21 World Series, played or managed in three championship games, and had no rings to show for it. Like so many old-timers who make the annual trip to the Grand Canyon State for this tournament, Gordon has put his heart and soul into managing his team for the last 15 years, and what he wants more than anything is for his players to get a ring.

In the other dugout at Maryvale Stadium was the Agua Dulce Reds, a perennial powerhouse and one of the more decorated teams (although they played in other names through the years) in the MSBL. Several Reds, including manager Gary Firestone, had been to the MSBL mountain top over the past 20 years.

It was the have’s versus the have-nots. It was, for Chicago, a storybook finish in the making and proof that hard work and paying dues can pay off.

One problem — somebody forgot to tell the Reds how the story was supposed to end, and when the dust settled the Reds were 4-2 winners.

In an almost comical twist of fate the Reds’ win was keyed by Tony Couarrubias and Roy Herrera – both of whom were playing in their first tournament. As the rookies prepared to get sized for their rings, an emotional Gordon reflected. “What are you gonna do?” he said. “It really pulls at my heartstrings. We can’t get it done in that final darn game. We were right there again but we just can’t get over the top. It’s tough.”

Agua Dulce, which went 4-2 in division play and 4-0 in a grueling playoff schedule that included a win over Quad City — the division’s top seed.

The Reds put early pressure on the Cubs scoring twice in the first off Chicago starter Bob Korvas.Marcelino Escalante had an RBI single and Herrera had an RBI groundout. It was a great boost for Herrera who had already thrown about 20 tournament innings prior to the game.

“I didn’t have whole lot because I was pitching all week long,” said Herrera, who allowed one unearned run in 5-and-a-third innings. “It’s great. My first time out and we are champs. It’s a pretty good deal.”

When he got in trouble, team MVP Couarrubias came to the rescue. Already with two complete-game wins under his belt, Couarrubias chimed in with with 3 2/3 innings of solid relief allowing just one run. “First ring and it is awesome,” he said. “At this age (51), it is totally awesome.”

The Reds ring party might never have been possible were it not for Pedro Mata’s ninth inning catch. Trailing 4-2 and runner on first base, the Cubs’ Alden Stiefel sent a looping drive to the right-field corner that looked for all the world like the first blow in a storybook finish for the Cubs. Instead, Mata made a full-extension diving catch for the second out.

“That was the game right there,” Couarrubias said. “It was an amazing play.”