Mudcat hitter Frank Milian takes a close pitch. The San Diego Mudcats beat the Chicago Skyliners 17-7 to win the 65 Wood Bat National crown Oct. 28 at Salt River Stadium.

San Diego Mudcats 17, Chicago Skyliners 7

By Jason P. Skoda, MSBLNational.com

Salt River Stadium, Oct. 28, 2012 – After winning the 65 American Division without being challenged a year ago, the San Diego Mudcats knew the jump to the National Division was going to be difficult.While they lost a couple of games in pool play, the Mudcats manage to find their way into the semifinals and thanks to a complete game by team MVP Ron Walberg to make the championship game.

After that it was back to last year’s cruise mode.

The Mudcats pounded out 19 hits and scored six first-inning runs on their way to a 17-7 win over the Chicago Skyliners at Salt River Field.

“We didn’t lose anything last year,” Walberg said. “We zoomed right through. We had to work for this one and it feels good.” The Mudcats went 3-2 pool play, won the semifinal as the three seed 9-2 and then brought their hitting sticks to the title game.

The six-run first was finished off by a two-run single by Joe Kelleher who finished the day with five RBI. Skyliners’ starter Dan Korvas, meanwhile, struggled with his control walking three and hitting one in the first inning alone.

The Mudcats added a couple of runs in the third and when the Skyliners closed within 8-6 after five innings, the champions plated seven in the sixth inning. Kelleher drove in two more runs while Alan McKee had one of his four hits to drive in two runs.

“Everybody contributed and it was a total team effort,” said manager Mike Briggs, who pitched the final three innings. “Even the guys who didn’t get in, and there were a few, did their part. It’s a team game and we put it together.”

The Skyliners are the premier team in this age group as they made their sixth straight championship game. They went 4-2 in pool play, including a split with the Mudcats, but they were unable to secure their fourth title.

The pitching didn’t fare well, and the offense failed to get the timely hit. They left the bases loaded in the first, seventh and eighth innings. “We didn’t hit in the clutch with the 3-4-5 hitters up and hit pop-ups,” manager Al Paveza said. “We couldn’t come back. We had our chances. All week had come through with big hits but in the championship game we didn’t.”

The Mudcats didn’t have any such trouble as Walberg, who threw 12 plus innings over the final two days, and who got the championship game win, said the formula was easy.

“We are actually pretty young 65 year olds,” said Walberg, who is semi-retired from the construction business. “We all have good bodies and we are good athletes. We get along really well. We all eat, drink and party together.

“And when we get mad at each other it doesn’t last very long.”

The San Diego Mudcats, winners of the 65 Wood Bat National division.