Orlando Lugnuts 3, East Coast Cardinals 2
By Jeff McGaw, MSBLNational.com
Orlando Florida, Jan. 20, 2014 – Funny how things can change in a year.
Just a year earlier Chris Fisher and his then Orlando Brewer/Lugnut teammates watched the East Coast Cardinals celebrate a 3-2 finals win at the Disney. Cardinal pitcher Kevin Lidle took the win in that game, and Brewnut hurler Brad Weis took the hard fought loss. Brewnut outfielder Eddie Rojas, who stood at second base as the tying run in ninth inning of that game, had the dubious distinction of getting picked off to end the threat.
Overall, the loss went down like a rancid cabbage roll for the Brewnuts. “Losing the way we did last year kind of made us a little more motivated this year to win the championship,” Fisher said.
Those same two teams met in Champions Stadium at the ESPN World of World of Sports Complex for the Disney Classic finals on Martin Luther King Day, 2014, and this time the roles were reversed: The Cardinals watched the celebration, Weis was the winning pitcher, and Rojas was a hero.
Weis tossed a complete game six-hitter, had an RBI, and scored what would prove to be the game-winning run in the eighth inning as the Lugnuts beat the Cardinals by the all-too-familiar score of 3-2 to claim the 30-and-over Disney crown. Rojas’ diving catch in the fourth inning prevented two Cardinal runs from scoring.
Two Cardinal errors to start the top of the eighth inning, followed by Fisher’s successful sacrifice bunt, set the table for Jay Bangert’s two-run single which scored the tying and go-ahead runs.
Fisher said the Lugnuts do not really consider themselves to be a small-ball team. “We never leveraged that philosophy,” he said. But they did embrace it in the final executing three nearly perfect sacrifice bunts – one of which was officially ruled an error – to set up all three scores.
Larry Hingle singled twice and scored twice to lead the Cardinals offense. Both scores were set up by perfect sacrifice bunts by Matt Branz. Donald Birkelund added two singles to the Cardinals 8-hit attack.
Brian Wisnom led the Lugnut offense going 2-for-3 in the overall five hit attack. Jason Dehler was named the tournament MVP for the Lugnuts for his solid defensive play at shortstop and his consistent productivity at the plate. He finished the tournament with seven hits, seven RBI, four steals, and notched his first Lugnut homer.
“We play year round together and everybody understood their role,” said Fisher when asked for the key to his team’s success. Solid defense and great pitching, were major factors.
Matt Stevens threw a complete-game five hitter; Cory Huston threw a complete-game three-hitter in round robin play. Trevor Hall gave up just six hits in eight innings while Eddie Rojas gave up two hits in 5.1 innings. The staff compiled a tournament-best 1.50 ERA.
The Cardinals earned a pass to the semifinals with a perfect 3-0 round robin. They thrashed the East Coast Express 13-0 in the semi’s. The Lugnuts, meanwhile, defeated the Boston Cardinals in a quarterfinal matchup, and then knocked out the Towson Titans 5-4 in the semifinal to punch their ticket.