Chicago North 10, Arkansas 8

Billy Alvarez quiets Diamonds in relief, secures title

By Steve LaMontia, MSBLNational.com

Tempe Diablo Stadium, Oct. 24, 2013 — On a sunny day where the offenses seemed to be as hot as the Arizona sun, it was the pitching of Billy Alvarez that cooled things down and gave the Chicago North Cubs a 10-8 win over the Arkansas Diamonds and the 55 Wood Bat Central Division crown.

The two teams were beating on each other in the early going with three lead changes through four innings. Diamond players Les Guest, Henry Washington and Joe Ainsworth all scored for the Diamonds courtesy of two errors and an additional hit by Lonnie Guest.

With the score tied 5-5 in the fourth, Alvarez entered the game and watered down the Diamond bats allowing just three runs the rest of the way – including two in the final frame. At the same time, his offensive buddies were widening the margin and running like deer with as they racked up 10 steals.

Were it not for a gritty performance on the mound by Ainsworth for the Diamonds, it could have been worse. The Cubs stranded a remarkable 17 runners on the day and were a timely hit or two away from achieving a blowout.

Alvarez entered the game in the bottom of the fourth after starter Mike Schmadabeck served up three hits to start the inning. Schmadabeck had just thrown a complete game victory the day before in game one of the playoffs and understandably hit the wall.

Alvarez faced only two batters to get out of the fourth inning jam. The first batter hit into a 6-4-3 double play, and the next hit a harmless grounder to third to get Chicago out of the inning. Alvarez only gave up four more hits until the ninth when Arkansas pounded three hits and scored twice to make it interesting at 10-8. A strikeout ended the game, however, and the celebration was on.

“That is one of our attributes, we can run,” explained Cubs skipper and long-time World Series veteran Lou Gordon. “We take advantage of everything that is given to us.I can’t single out one individual who carried us this week. We were a total team effort. Some guys were hot at the beginning and some were hot at the end. We all chipped in.”

Like his mound partner Schmadabeck, Alvarez threw a complete game the day before in the second game of the playoffs to get Chicago into the big game.

“I just tried to pick up my teammates,” said Alvarez, originally from Cuba. “My arm was a little tired after throwing yesterday but once you step on the mound all of that goes away. Being from Cuba I love the heat, the warmer the better. It loosens you up.” Alvarez threw a total of 27 innings this week, which included two complete games, some relief work and a save. What was the key to his success? “My teammates,” Alvarez continued. “It took all 19 guys to win this and I am happy for them.”

The Cub victory eased the sting of a round robin loss to the Diamonds during round robin play.

Lead off hitter Al Nunez set the table for the Cubs with three infield hits on the day, three runs scored and two stolen bases.The bottom of the lineup was almost a mirror image as Spiro Roberts contributed with a double, two singles and two stolen bases. In between the two speedsters prowled Rich Gentile, who was 3 for 5, a stolen base of his own and an RBI.