2012 52+ Wood National

Tate Shines in Sea Dogs win

Chicago Sea Dogs 4, Puerto Rico 0

By Chris Errington, MSBLNational.com

Jupiter, Fla. – It took one year and one dominant pitching performance for the Chicago Sea Dogs to earn redemption.

Kal Tate scattered six hits and manager Duryel Thomas had a key two-run, seventh-inning single as Chicago exorcised memories of a championship game loss a year ago with a 4-0 win over Puerto Rico in the 52 American Division title game.

“We had some changes, but for the guys who were with us last year, we definitely talked about getting back to the championship game and winning it,” said Thomas. “We had more pitching and more depth this year and it made a lot of difference.”

Tate (1-0) gained a bit of redemption himself after pitching in last year’s title game loss. This time, he was brilliant.

The right hander kept the Puerto Rico Athletics off balance all game, mixing fastballs with change-ups, sliders and curve balls, never falling into a rhythm and extinguishing the few times he was in trouble.

Most of the way, it appeared Chicago, who finished the tournament a perfect 8-0 thanks to an offense that scored 104 total runs, would need Tate to be nearly perfect in order to win. The Sea Dogs managed a lone run off Eddie Rodriguez through six innings, thanks to a two-out error that scored Al Williams.

“By the time we got to the seventh,” Tate said, “I knew I had to shut them out. I had to treat every hitter like they were a great hitter.”

Then, for one key inning, Chicago’s offense came to life. A pair of singles and infield error loaded the bases with one out for Thomas, who’s flair to right landed just inside the line to score Tate and Dave Palumbo. When Paul Crump scored in the eighth, the Sea Dogs’ one-run lead had grown to four and Tate could finally relax.

“With a one-run lead, you can’t make a mistake,” said Tate, who struck out 17 over 10 innings while playing in the 35-over tournament earlier in the week. “With a four-run lead, I could change things up a bit and keep from throwing so many fastballs.”

For Puerto Rico manager Orlando Garcia, who’s team finished round-robin play 4-1 before riding the pitching of Richard Figueroa to a 6-2 playoff win over the Long Island Athletics, Tate’s performance was a perplexing as it was dominant.

“We’ve faced guys in this tournament that were as good as he is,” Garcia said, “but we always found a way to figure them out. [Tate] never let us do that. He never let us get back in the game.

“He was the best pitcher we faced all tournament.”

Puerto Rico managed to get only one runner to third and one other to second, typifying Tate’s outstanding effort.

“How can you say anything negative about a guy who throws a shut out in the championship game?” Thomas said of Tate. “He’s a pitcher who makes it easy to play behind. He’s got three great pitches and can throw them at any time in any count. It makes it really tough on a hitter.”

Chicago dominated round-robin play, never being seriously threatened, but took a different route through the playoffs. Team tournament MVP Nick Kukulski had three hits and three RBI, while Dan Klosicki earned his second victory of the tournament, going 7.2-innings in a 4-3 playoff win over the Austin Express. Thomas pointed to being able to win both blowouts and close decisions as the key indicators of his team’s cohesiveness, perseverance and, most importantly, talent.

“We’ve got a lot of guys here who’ve played baseball at very high levels,” the manager said, “and these guys know how to pick it up a notch when they need it.

“We didn’t have to bunt or play any small ball until the last two games. When we had to though, we executed just like I knew we would.”