South Bay Zephyrs 6, COMTEK Orioles 5

‘Thrailkill Drives in Hall for Walk-off Win’

By Russ Christ, special to MSBL

October 30, 2014, Maryvale Stadium, Phoenix, Arizona–Both teams wanted it, badly. Someone just needed to be the hero. That guy was Joe Thrailkill, a South Bay Zephyrs substitute.

When Thrailkill singled to left field to score pinch runner Scott Hall from second base in the bottom of the 10th, South Bay earned a hard-fought, 6-5, walk-off win over the COMTEK Orioles in the 55 Cactus Division MSBL World Series Championship at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix. Thrailkill faced Orioles pitcher Bob Williamson with runners on first and second and two outs. “He gave me a nice slider out over the plate,” Thrailkill said. “I popped it out there and good things happened. I feel great. This is my first walk off and my first (MSBL) World Series.”

The Zephyrs, from Southern California, ended the World Series with a 9-0 record, while the Dallas-based Orioles finished 8-1. Pete Cesario, South Bay’s right-handed pitcher, worked all 10 innings to earn the win. His performance against the Orioles followed three innings of mound work in the quarterfinal and another nine in a semifinal win the day before. Incredible stamina.

“I told Antone Henley (his manager) I’d give him everything I had,” Cesario, 60, said. The grandfather of five plays in two leagues against much younger men during the week and embraces being a workhorse. “I’ve got a rubber arm,” he said. “I don’t have to ice it or anything. I could throw another 10.” Cesario struck out five Orioles, walked two and allowed no earned runs to earn MVP honors. “It was a total team effort. Our guys never gave up,” he said. “This team has a lot of character.”

Dan Gutierrez, Norm Burt, Sam Adams, Don Collie and Thrailkill had two hits apiece to lead the Zephyrs.

The Orioles scored two unearned runs in the top of the first after Randy Lash hit a single to left field to score Bill Hanley and Hector Villanueva. The Zephyrs answered in their half of the inning with three unearned runs. Dave Blackburn was hit by a pitch, Hall doubled and Burt reached on a dropped pop up. Collie singled to score Hall and Frank Philips drove in Burt with a single.

Both teams were held without another run until the seventh. The Orioles scored two more unearned runs, benefiting from a walk and two Zephyrs’ errors to take a 4-3 lead. When South Bay batted, Gutierrez walked,Blackburn singled and Burt reached on an error by Lash with the infield drawn in. Antone Henley, who was pinch running, scored to make it 4-4.

In the top of the eighth, the Orioles’ Mike Briguglio singled with one out. Brad Ritschel singled to centerfield, but Briguglio was thrown out by Burt at third base. Hanley, the next batter, dropped down a perfect bunt, his third hit of the game. But Blackburn, thinking he might have a chance at an out, threw the ball wildly into right field to score Ritschel.

The Orioles were up 5-4. “I thought it was the game winner at that point,” Hanley said. “Our guy was hustling around third.” Orioles starting pitcher Rick Auwaerter nearly matched Cesario pitch for pitch. The lefty seemed poised to earn a complete-game win, but couldn’t escape trouble in the ninth. “I was exhausted and have been dealing with back problems,” Auwaerter said. “I did feel my back go out (earlier in the game), but I told myself to regroup.”

In the bottom of the ninth, South Bay’s William Buckingham drove a line drive single up the middle. Henley, the next batter, hit a soft pop up near the mound. Auwaerter let it drop and couldn’t decide what to do with the ball. “I had two strikes and kind of let up on the pitch (on Buckingham) and then hesitated on the pop up,” Auwaerter said. “I knew the guy at first didn’t have any wheels.”

Hanley pointed to Buckingham’s hit as a key at bat. “You always want to get the lead off guy out,” Hanley said. “We had him 2-2 and his hit changed things.” Gutierrez singled to load the bases. At that point Auwaerter, who was brilliant, was lifted for Bob Williamson, who got Blackburn to pop up to Hanley, his catcher, for the first out. Hall hit a slow roller toward first base with the infield in—and Hanley made a superb play on a poor throw to get a force out at home for the second out.

Burt hit a solid single to left field, scoring Henley, to make it 5-5. On the same play, Cesario, who was pinch running, was tagged out at home trying to score the game winner.

After Cesario pitched out of trouble in the 10th, Collie led off the bottom of the inning with a single for the Zephyrs. Philips advanced him to second with a sacrifice bunt. Williamson walked Adams intentionally, which brought up Thrailkill. Hall, pinch running for Collie, slid home with the game winner. “We had been battling the whole game,” Thrailkill said. “I knew we had to do something.”