2014 45+ Cactus

Halo Baseball Club 17, Arizona/Utah Rockies 9

‘MVP Ireland Leads the Halos’

By Jim Richards, special to MSBL

Goodyear, Az., November 8, 2014–It isn’t often that you’ll hear a pitcher on a baseball team say that throwing softer gave him better success on the mound, but you get different twists in MSBL baseball. After allowing five runs in the first two innings to the Az/Utah Rockies in Saturday’s title game of the 45 Wood Cactus title game, Halos Baseball Club right-hander Dave Blackburn decided to take something off his pitches.

“They were hitting the hard stuff so we started going off-speed and mixing it up a bit,” said Blackburn, after he threw 138 pitches for a complete-game victory in a 17-9 Halos’ comeback win over the Rockies for the title. Blackburn allowed 16 hits but no walks. The Halos pushed across 11 runs over the fourth and fifth innings to overcome the 5-0 deficit and gain revenge on the Rockies, who had defeated the Halos earlier in the tournament.

Halos coach Mark Shipman borrowed a similar strategy to Blackburn’s to overcome the early deficit. “We decided that we could play small ball, little ball,” Shipman said. “And that’s what we started doing. We started putting the pressure on the defense to make the throws and watch things unravel.”

Dave Jensen and Doug Ireland had three hits apiece and Sid Jackson drove in three runs for the Halos. Ireland, the Halos’ catcher and No. 2 hitter, was named the Halos’ Most Valuable Player for the tournament. For Ireland, the title was his third overall and second with the Halos, which won the title in 2011. “(Ireland) caught five games straight for us, two doubleheader in two different days,” Shipman said.

The Rockies had been comeback kids in a previous game Saturday, scoring five runs in the ninth inning to get to the title game. Their good fortune continued in the early innings off Blackburn. After one out, Brad Hill, Carlos Palomo (RBI) and Tony Mendez singled in succession off Blackburn. Marcus Trinite added a two-out, two-run single in the three-run first. Dave Gruenewald and Hill added RBI singles in the second for a 5-0 lead.

“They’re a good hitting team and they put the ball in play,” said Blackburn, a former pitcher at Miami of Ohio University. “I made quality pitches and they hit them. To be honest with you, I started locating pitches better.” But the Halos got to Rockies’ right-hander Gary Bowman after Bowman had fired three scoreless innings. Ireland, Mark Grizzle, Scott Hall and Jeff Hoff had RBI singles in a four-run fourth.

The Halos knocked Bowman out of the game in a seven-run fifth, highlighted by Jackson’s two-RBI single and an RBI by Dan Williams surrounding a multitude of walks. The Rockies wouldn’t go down without a fight as Hill, Mendez and Trinite had RBI singles in a three-run eighth to cut to 15-9. But Blackburn allowed only one hit in the ninth and the Halos had another title.

Saturday was a special day for Ireland. “I worked hard to get here,” Ireland said. “It’s special to have my family and my son got to see it with my dad. It’s a special time.”