Diamond Dream Mustangs 8, Quad City Blasters 4

’15 Hit Mustang Attack Tops the Blasters’

By: Patrick Lagreid, special to MSBL

Maryvale Stadium, Phoenix–After a slow offensive start to this year’s tournament, there was some concern that the Diamond Dream Mustangs from the Washington, D.C. area might be lacking the offense to progress very far in the tournament. But the bats that came alive in the team’s second game stayed hot in Friday’s championship, racking up 15 hits en route to a 8-4 victory over the Quad Cities Blasters in the 50+ Cactus Division.

The Blasters wasted no time getting on the board, with Mike Wendland drawing a walk to lead off the game, stealing second and then scoring on Dean Steffen’s single. With Marion Strickler’s RBI double putting runners at 2nd and 3rd with no outs, Mustangs’ starting pitcher Terry Longin got a pair of strikeouts and a pop up that he handled on the mound to extinguish the early threat.

The Mustangs answered in the bottom of the first as Dan Cassidy led off the inning with a single, stole both second and third, and then scored on a Joe Walsh sacrifice fly to center. They’d take the lead in the third inning as Longin helped his cause with an RBI ground out that scored Tony Lucio.

Both teams tried to manufacture runs early in the game but sharp defense and pitching negated several scoring opportunities. The Mustangs tried turning to their running game in the bottom of the fourth, sending a runner with two outs only to have Blasters’ catcher Dan DuPont rifle a throw to second for a caught stealing to end the inning.

The Mustangs’ lumber came alive in the bottom of the fifth as Ken Prohoniak and Dave Haggart led off with a pair of well-hit doubles, manager Mike LaComb dumped a single into shallow left-center and a double steal scored Haggart for the Mustangs’ second run of the inning. Lucio’s walk made him the fourth straight Mustang to reach base. Robert Maher moved the runners over on a ground out, setting up a George Rainne double to the left field wall that scored the pair and gave the Mustangs a 6-1 lead. Carrecia capped off the five-run inning with an RBI single off of Blasters’ starter Paul Olson, who went just over six innings in the losing effort.

The production from the bottom of the lineup seemed typical for how the Mustangs have played this week. “We never know from game to game who’s going to be the big hero, and everyone seems to come through and pitch in,” LaComb said after the victory celebration.

Longin stymied the Blasters’ bats for much of the game, scattering a handful of singles through eight innings. He walked the lead off batter in the top of the ninth before yielding singles to Steffen and Strickler to load the bases. With one out, Van White crushed a three-run double that boldly said the Blasters weren’t ready to go home just yet. The rally brought manager Mike LaComb out to the mound, who said he told Longin that “this is yours, don’t give this away; have this moment and finish this game.” Longin proceeded to get a ground out before yielding a single and then striking out Tony Schummer to wrap up the complete game victory.

Blasters’ manager Mike Hutcheson noted how his offense gave the team chances to win but couldn’t turn some hard hit balls into runs, as they left 13 runners on base. While he was happy to see a run scored so early, he knew more would be needed. “We still had a shot at the end and that’s all we wanted; I’m happy with how we played.”

In addition to White’s ninth-inning double, the Blasters’ offense was led by Steffen’s 3-for-4 day that came with an RBI and run scored, while Strickler went 2-for-4 with a double and run scored. Marty Pitz also had a multi-hit day with a pair of singles.

There was no hesitance in announcing the tournament MVP, as pitcher Joe Feller picked up the honors. He recorded the win in five of the eight Mustangs victories this week, earning two in starts and three in relief. He contributed a single in the seventh inning and while he didn’t pitch in the championship game, LaComb said he would be the first one out of the bullpen if needed.