2012 70 + Wood Bat

Padre slugger Duf Sfreddo connects for a two-run single in the ninth inning against the Rushmores

San Diego Padres 8, South Dakota Rushmores 3

By Jeff McGaw, MSBLNational.com

San Diego Padre Manager Joe Maiden and South Dakota Rushmore skipper John Larson reminisced prior to the 70-and-over division championship game at Maryvale Baseball Park – the spring training home to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Many of the players in both dugouts, they noted, were competing with and against one another since they were kids in the 50-and-over division. “You get to the point where you know most everybody,” Maiden said. “You develop a lot of friendships, but the competition doesn’t diminish because of it.” That’s for sure.

For eight innings the teams dueled to a 3-3 tie, but the Padres scored five runs in the final frame to take an 8-3 win and the 70-and-over crown.

After being held in check by starter Jimmy Jackson for most of the game, the Padres tied the score in the eighth inning on Dale Cors’ RBI single that scored Dave Garcia.

Jackson’s dam burst in the ninth. Padre sluggers Jim Lortz, Bill Pearson, Ken McAtee, George Tomako, John Ihrig and Duf Sfreddo all singled in the inning. Sfreddo knocked in two runs. Lortz scored what proved to be the winning run on Pearson’s RBI single.

San Diego pitcher Alan Bucholtz

Dick Fitzgerald earned the win in relief. The former Baltimore Oriole farm hand from the late 50’s and early 60’s, widely considered the premier pitcher in the division, allowed one hit – a single by Lew Ingalls – and no runs in two innings. He pitched in three games during the week and did not allow a run.

San Diego scored two runs in the top of the third inning to take an early lead, but the Rushmores answered with three runs in the same inning highlighted by Phil Trooien’s two-run single. Joe Bonacquista added an RBI single during the rally.

The Rushmores led for most of the game with Jackson racking up seven strikeouts in the first eight innings. Jackson’s defense was tough when it had to be.

Third baseman Jack Sayles snared a line shot down the third base line in the top of the second inning. With his bottom on the infield grass, he completed the throw to second base to force out Garcia.

The defensive play of the game was turned in by center fielder Nick Pashulka who, with a runner in scoring position, caught Ken McAtee’s line drive on a dead run going toward left-center field. The catch ended the inning and prevented San Diego from gaining momentum.

Good defense was not the sole property of the Rushmores, however. Padre starter Alan Bucholtz flashed the leather in the first inning with a blind, behind-the-back grab of a Lew Ingalls ground ball turning what should have been a single up the middle into a 1-to-6 force play at second base.

In the bottom of the second inning Padre catcher Ken Combs rifled a throw to first base to cut down runner Doug Stormo who had ventured a little too far off.

Despite leading through seven innings, Larson said, “you never think you have it in the bag – especially against those guys.”

The Rushmores entered the finals at 6-0 counting a 13-6 playoff win over the San Diego Mudcats. They averaged nearly 19 runs per game in that time and had a team batting average of .460.

The Padres entered the finals with a 5-1 record in which they scored about 14 runs per game. They beat the Sacramento Solons 9-0 in the semifinal matchup.

The nine team showing in the division was the most since the division started in 2010.

While many observers marvel at the level of play in the 70-and-over division, the players on the field, most of the players don’t dwell on it. “I don’t think the feeling is any different than when you were 10 or 12 or 15,” Maiden said. “We’re ballplayers. We get on the field. We know we don’t have the skills we had 10, 20, or 30 years ago, but we still play a pretty good game and we enjoy it. I think there is a lot of pride that we can still play a pretty decent brand of baseball at this age level. ”

The San Diego Padres, 2012 70-plus champs

The South Dakota Rushmores, 70-plus runners-up at the 2012 MSBL World Series