‘Late inning comeback snatches crown from Senators’

Team Las Vegas 9, OC Senators 7

By Wes Thomas, Special to MSBLNational.com

The OC Senators had a five run cushion and were just six outs away from getting sized for World Series rings. Now that MSBL World Series moment is at least a year away.

That’s because their opponent, Team Las Vegas, staged a furious, seven-run, eighth inning rally and stunned the Senators 9-7 at the Tempe Diablo Baseball Complex. The 35 Cactus title was the second in a row for Vegas.

“If you ask me, as the manager, no, I am not a fan of those type of games,” said Vegas manager Mauricio Molina half-jokingly in reference to the heart-stopping nature of big comebacks. But, he added, “It will be an incredible memory, and a story that will go along with the World Series ring.”

It will linger in the memories of guys on both sides.

For seven innings it was all Senators. They scored three runs in the third inning and followed it up with three more in the seventh to take a commanding 7 to 2 lead.Jason Brown and Kurt Mascio had two RBI apiece on the day. Meanwhile, Trevor Field was holding Vegas’ big bats in check.

The tide turned in the top of the eighth as Las Vegas erupted for seven runs — three on Marc Morse’s single that scored Andrew Zoulko, Malik Smith, and Ariel Ramos. Sean Mackey, Ed King, Chris Lerma, Smith, and Morse singled in the rally. Zoulko was hit by a pitch and Ramos was walked. Winning pitcher Larry Bergren entered with an out in the seventh and yielded no runs on one hit the rest of the way for the win. Morse started and Scott Macintosh tossed three and two-thirds innings before yielding to Bergren.

“We had been stifled offensively by a great OC pitcher,” Molina said, “and to be able to be patient and win some battles at the plate created a sense of pride in our resilient attitudes.”

It was also a testament to the big offense of the defending champs.

Vegas finished 9-0, and defeated its opponents by an average of 8.5 runs per game including victory margins of 18, 17, 12 and 10 runs. However, Molina said, some of its games were much closer than they looked including wins against Omaha, NCLB, and Murrietta.

Additionally, Vegas came from behind twice in the playoffs to beat the Phoenix Phillies 11-7 and the Region Red Sox 13-5. “We opened it up in the late innings, because guys were willing to make adjustments at the plate,” he said.

Down late in the championship game, Molina reminded his troops about what got them there. “I told them that every game we had played thus far had been decided by our bats, and this game would be no different.‘(Take) deep breaths, have an approach at the plate, and believe,’” he counseled.

While Molina’s offense heated up, Senator Skipper Jeff Chun’s bats did the opposite. “Our bats went cold in the last two innings and their pitching had us off balance in the second half of the game,” he said.

The Senator’s success to that point was a team effort, Chun said. “We all contributed to a win in any given game.” Rudy Hernandez spearheaded the offense, while Trevor Field stood out all week on defense.

Molina was reluctant to name an MVP. “Malik Smith, Ariel Ramos, and Chris Lermawere each deserving of the award,” Molina said. “My Bench Coach, Sean Mackey and I named (catcher) Andrew Zoulko the MVP. He emulated the spirit, unity, and determination of the team. He broke his middle finger in the seventh inning of the championship game, taped up his finger and refused to come out of the game.”

Molina praised his team’s effort. “We don’t get that far without (all 20 players’) contributions,” he said. “”The support of our families and friends that took time to make the trip and support us, encourage us, and enjoy the experience kept us focused and placed everything in the right perspective.”

“It was an incredible experience,” said MSBL World Series rookie Jason Laricchia. “Not just because we won, but because it allowed me to see that competitive sports can still exist as you grow older.” Softball and lesser brands of recreational baseball did not quench Laricchia’s competitive thirst. “This tournament showed me that other people feel the same way I do and it allowed me to be a part of something bigger than myself and my own stats. It allowed me to be a part of a team again.”