2013 55+ Wood Bat

2013 55+ Wood Bat

Thatcher’s three hits and four runs pace Sacramento

Sacramento Tribe 18, Las Vegas Mariners 11

By Steve LaMontia, Executive Regional Director

The Sacramento Tribe flexed their Las Vegas championship muscle yet again to capture the 55+ Wood Bat title in the 2013 edition of the MSBL Kickoff Classic. The Tribe defeated the Washington state based Las Vegas Mariners 18-11 in the title game behind a 3 for 4 day at the plate from left fielder Mike Thatcher.

The game started innocently enough with the teams deadlocked at four runs apiece through three innings. The Tribe scored two apiece in the first and second innings while the Mariners strung together four in the second inning on a couple of hits and a couple of Tribe errors. The third was scoreless for both teams but then, unfortunately for the Mariners, the bottom of the fourth inning showed up and so did the Tribe.

“We thought we were finally over our rustiness and were really giving them a tussle,” said Mariners skipper Rick Park. “But errors and walks and their speed was just too much. You can’t give a good team like that second chances.”

The Tribe put together a half dozen hits, a walk and a Mariner wild pitch in the fateful fourth, and before you knew it there was an eight spot on the board and the Mariners were looking at a serious uphill climb against the defending champs. The Mariners also had to endure a little early-season wildness as their staff issued eleven bases on balls to help the Tribe.

Sacramento has been in the title game every year since 2004 and won the whole enchilada in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012 and now in 2013.

Sacramento manager and 2009 MSBL World Series Hall of Fame member Ken Chavez explained the Tribe’s dominance for so long. “We have a core of good players who have good chemistry. We truly root for each other and there is never any back stabbing or negativity. Our bench players are pulling for everyone and never complain. A team has to have all of that to stay consistently competitive.”

“Base running played a big part in the fourth inning,” explained Chavez. “We had a player strike out with the bases loaded but the ball got away from the catcher.Our guy on second just kept running and also scored. That really hurt them. We like to think we have some pretty good team speed up and down the line-up. That can be a real difference maker when you are playing in an over fifty division.”Sacramento added three in both the fifth and sixth innings but to the credit of the Mariners they put together a ‘never say die’ seven run sixth inning themselves behind a seven hit barrage to close the gap to 18-11. Neither team scored from there on but the damage was done and the Tribe once again found themselves collecting the hardware.

Pitcher Carlos Bryson went 6 2/3 innings for the win but had to leave with a pulled rib cage muscle. Gary Kleinfeldt came in and finished things up for the Tribe. The two teams knew each other, as Sacramento previously defeated the Mariners in the first game of the tournament as Gary Stonebrook threw a complete game shutout in an 11-0 victory.Ironman catcher Steve Welch caught every inning of every game for the Tribe while perennial MVP Burlin Germany added this year’s MVP award to his collection.

“We had a great pitching performance from Bryan Pattillo in the semi-finals against Tri-Valley that got us into the title game,” added Park. “Bob Hope pitched against Sacramento but I’m not sure anyone could have beaten those guys.” It seems that on-field comparisons weren’t the only consideration. The weather difference between California and Washington played a big part. “We hadn’t stepped a foot outdoors until the first game in Las Vegas,” said Park. “That’s not an excuse. It’s just a little tough to hit in the indoor cages and then walk on the field. I can’t wait for May so that we can get outside!”

MSBL’s Tom Prendergast contributed to this story