60 Wood Bat Central champion Tucson Cool Arrows

Tucson Cool Arrows 6, Chicago Grays 3By Jeff McGaw and Vince Petri, MSBLNational.com

Tempe Diablo Field 1, Nov. 3, 2012 — They had a shortstop with a cracked rib, a lineup with four studs missing, and a pitcher with a fractured ERA from a rough-up just a day earlier.

Mike Morales’ Tucson Cool Arrows also had a memory of losing in the 60 central title game just a year earlier. “I don’t think I could bear losing it again,” Morales said.

Propelled by a wish not to repeat history, and fueled by players who overcame injury and who otherwise stepped up when their number was called, the Tucson Cool Arrows defeated the Chicago Grays 6-3 to claim the 60 Wood Bat Central title at the MSBL World Series.

Arnold Mares, who got roughed up for seven innings in the team’s 14-10 semifinal win over the Fresno Grizzlies, threw a masterful, sub-100 pitch five-hitter in which his defense stepped up.

Shortstop Chuck Milo had seven assists three put-outs and a rib that he cracked a few days earlier. He got a big defensive boost from right fielder Daniel Diaz who, on a dead-run hauled in what could have been a momentum-changing blast to right-center field late in the game. “That was at least a two-bagger,” Morales said of the gapper.

The catch “was like a crushing blow to their morale,” Morales said.

The Grays charged into the finals with a 7-0 record. They shut out the Hollywood Stars 3-0 behind the pitching of Mike Molitor, and then defeated the St. Paul Saints 9-0 on a complete-game shutout by Wayne Brenden.

Brenden, Molitor, Paul Ociepka (championship game starter) and Larry Burton did the bulk of the pitching for Chicago. John Keith Jr. and Rob Reuther propelled the offense. Reuther and Bruce Lawnicki anchored the defense in the outfield all week, said manager Steve Faigin.

The Arrows finished 5-0-1 including a 10-5 win over Chicago in round robin play. The playoffs, however, weren’t quite as clean cut. They squeaked past the Tri-Valley Giants 12-11, and then outlasted a formidable Fresno Grizzlies squad 14-12. Mares pitched seven of those innings and struggled.

Despite the rough outing and the short rest, Mares got the championship starting nod from Morales who said simply, “suck it up and go out there and pitch a good game.” Morales was pleased with the effort. “He pitched a hell of a game.”

Winning, Morales said, “was like watching rockets blast to the sky. It was the total enjoyment of saying ‘we won it and it’s over,’” he said. It was also the culmination years of trying in the distant past, and a lot of nights on the practice field in the near past. Morales needed seven years to get a championship ring. Mares was at it for 17 years. Joe Jimenez was 24 years into the tournament without a ring.

Morales said he loves the game and all that it brings – the joy of winning, the emptiness of losing, the stress of trying, and the elation of achieving. “You’re playing somebody in your own age group that is as competitive as you and wants to put his skills against yours,” he said. “What more motivation do you need,” he added.

The Cool Arrows came from behind in five of their nine tournament games and won some close calls in the playoffs. “Realistically,” Morales said, “I don’t know how we won.”

But win they did. “I didn’t know how exciting it could be,” he said. “It was beyond belief. When the last pitch thrown and when I watched that ball go to Milo (SS) all I could see was people jumping up and down,” Morales said.

“Our families were the ones that made this happen for us. ”