2014 70+ National

Canton Classics 9, Sacramento Solons 5

‘Brenden and Weiss Lead the Way at the Plate’

By Jason P. Skoda, special to MSBL

His hair may have been white and his 76-year-old body was lost in his baggy baseball uniform, but George Hughes’ eyes told a different story.

As he recounted a triple play the Canton Classics pulled off to preserve a 7-5 win over the San Diego Padres in the semifinals of the 70 National tournament, Hughes had the look of a teenager discovering his parents bought a 1969 Camaro for his 16th birthday.

“I couldn’t believe it,” the Classics manager said. “There were people running everywhere. I’ve been playing baseball for a very long time and I’ve never seen anything like it. It blew my mind.”

Many of the players on the Classics felt it was more than just a great play; it was an indicator that 2014 just might finally be their year, and they were right.

The Classics won the 70 National title on Saturday with a 9-5 win over the Sacramento Solons at Maryvale Stadium to give many of the Canton players their first ring. The players from Ohio have won tournaments in the past, but none that came with big, shiny championship ring.

Not bad for a two that lost its first two games than won six straight by knocking off the third, first and second seed in order to earn the championship.

And if might not have happened if it weren’t the first triple play started by center fielder Gary Schwarzrock, who made a shoestring catch with bases loaded and the Padres runners going down by two. After the catch they got the out at second and tripled up with the runner leaving first base.

“I think everybody knew we were better than we were playing,” Classic MVP Larry Weiss, 69, said. “It was like we were foreign to baseball. I think everybody stay together instead of letting first two games get us down and tearing each other part.

“Then we got that play, against a team that was undefeated and it makes you think maybe this is our year.”

It continued against the second-seeded Solons, who came in 5-1 and having never lost to Classics over years of playing against each other.

The Classics were benefactors of some defensive miscues by the Solons to score two runs in the second and three runs in the fifth as the Canton team put a lot of pressure on the defense by putting down punts against Sacramento starting pitcher Romel Wallace.

The Solons, who have won 13 rings in the different age groups from 50 on up, committed four errors in those two innings and the 5-0 deficit proved to be too much.

“We gave up five runs real quick and couldn’t come back,” Sacramento manager Ray Newman, 80, said. They deserved it. Their pitcher (Joel Zich) kept us off balance and we have a getting hitting offense.

“It wasn’t our day. They deserved it after getting to great wins (the day before). It stings, but there are no losers down here.”

The Classics added single runs in the sixth and seventh before putting it away in the ninth with two more runs. Wayne Brenden had three hits, including a bases-loaded double in the ninth that drove in two runs, while Weiss had three hits with Bennie Woodall and Doc Green having two hits each.

Zich was in command through the first eight innings as he allowed five hits through the first 24 outs, but had to be pulled in the ninth when the Solons scored four times.

“My catcher called some great curve balls and wanted everything outside,” Zich said. “It was a great week. This is my first one that’s what I was looking for when I left Milwaukee.”

It’s been a long time coming – as many as 22 years for someone like Hughes – and won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

“It’s more than just a ring,” Weiss said. “You play with these guys all week, hang out with them and you are one big family. It’s nice to finally be able to walk off the diamond knowing we were able to do it and what we did as a family.”