2014 35+ Central

Des Moines Bruins 5, Delaware Detroyers 2

‘McPherson, Small Ball Seals the Deal’

By Chris Errington, special to MSBL

Clearwater, FL., November 8, 2014 – Finally. Emotions flowing, cameras clicking and players embracing, the Des Moines Bruins at last had their Fall Classic championship. And when manager Joe Smith had a chance to catch his breath, he had no words to describe his feelings.

“This absolutely lives up to my expectations, but to put it into words is really tough,” Smith said. “We’ve been within a couple of runs a couple of times, so to get the job done is great. It probably won’t sink in until we’re on the plane going home to Des Moines.”

Playing with most of the same players who lost championship games in 2003, 2007 and 2010, it took a gutsy eighth-inning rally using the same small-ball tactics that worked so well for them in the past to finally give the Bruins a title. In a tight pitchers’ duel, Delaware took a 2-1 lead thanks to a double, a sacrifice bunt and an infield ground out. Down to their final six outs, it appeared that once again, Des Moines would finish just short of the ultimate prize, especially with Destroyers’ starting pitcher Chris Viel dominating. But, when Rocky Reeves hit an infield single to short stop and an error on a sacrifice bunt put runners at first and third with no outs, the Bruins were finally in position to win. Brian Schueller’s ground out plated the tying run and Smith’s well-placed bunt single put runners back on the corners.

Sticking to their plan, Guy Koenig beat out a potential inning-ending double play grounder to finally give Des Moines the lead and Dave Case’s single to center pushed across the third run of the inning. When Cris Anderson gave the Bruins an insurance run with a two-out single in the ninth, all that was left was for Jason McPherson and a sterling Des Moines defense to seal the deal.

“Jason was outstanding all game,” Smith said. “He mixed his pitches well. His change-up was beautiful. When he’s able to throw his change-up and two-seam fastball, he gets a lot of ground balls. He was on today.”

McPherson pitched 8-1/3 innings in relief of Smith, who went the distance in a 9-5 playoff victory over the Clearwater Black Sox and got two outs in the title game before experiencing arm issues. Backing the nearly flawless mound performance was a defense that played errorless ball and, fittingly, turned a 6-4-3 double play to end the game. “That’s who we are,” Smith said. “We pitch well, play good defense and use small ball to get runs. It’s worked for us for a long time.”

For Delaware, who outscored its previous three opponents by a combined 48-9, including a 12-6 playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Blue Jays, the loss, and the manner in which it occurred, was difficult to take. “I’d rather lose 30-0,” said Destroyers’ manager Marco Prado, whose team was making its first Fall Classic title game appearance in nine years. “My guys played hard all the way, but things happen. [Des Moines] had two great bunts and we didn’t field them well. They played the way baseball is supposed to be played.”