Greater Atlanta 35+ American Division
Braves 9, Brewers 8
By Jeff Chrismon, Braves manager
‘Braves Overwhelm Brewers’
After winning the regular season and coming up short in the 35+ American Greater Atlanta MSBL championships for the past two years, the Braves showed character and passion for the game to overcome the number one seed Brewers for the 2014 title.
As a team this year the Braves batted .334, led by newcomer Hans Martinsen (.500), Dan Sheats (.403),Dave Esslinger (.403), David Thatcher (.390) and Sandy Leff (.357). On the mound the team had a strong rotation of Rick Kosek (6-3, 3.57 ERA), Joe Shiffler (2-2, 6.43 ERA), and Jeff Chrismon (4-2, 2.85 ERA). Pitching was made easier by gold glove performances all year long by center fielder Dan Sheats (.969) and second basemen Richie Stubbs (.963). After going 9-7 throughout the regular season, the second seeded Braves swept the Yankees in round two of the playoffs 8-1 and 19-8. This set up a rematch between the top two teams in the 35+ American Division, having split two tightly fought regular season games 3-6 and 5-3 with the season champs, the Brewers.
In game one on September 20th, the Braves relied on the tenacity and strength of left-handed pitcher Rick Kosek, former national champion from the University of Miami. Kosek frustrated the Brewers, limiting them to only five runs over seven innings, while striking out seven hitters to clinch the win. Jeff Chrismon closed out a scoreless eighth and ninth to complete the 9-5 victory. On the offensive side Rafael Santiago (2-4, 1 double, 3 RBIs) was the spark that ignited the Braves offense, ripping a fourth inning bases-loaded double down the third base line that cleared the bases. Other offensive contributors were Dan Sheats (3-5, 1 triple, 1 RBI), Tate Pugh (2-4, 3 RBIs), and Jeff Chrismon (4-4, 1 walk, 2 runs, 2 RBIs).
In game two on Sept. 21st, the Brewers showed resilience and fought back hard, stretching out an 8-4 lead through eight innings against strong pitching by Joe Shiffler and reliever Tate Pugh. Dave Esslinger, in a surprise pitching debut, took care of the Brewers in the top of the ninth. With their backs against the wall, Pugh got the Braves going with a one-out single. Things started to unravel for the Brewers pitchers, as two critical walks by sluggers Richie Stubbs and Joe Salerno loaded the bases. Dan Sheats then knocked in two runs with a clutch single to make it 8-6. “Go Baby Go!” was heard across the nation. The Brewers got out number two with a fly-out to left, but University of Virginia star Hans Martinsen extended the game with an infield single to load the bases. Big Mike Campbell, the Braves cleanup hitter, stepped to the plate, taking aim for the trees, and took some breath-taking mighty swings. You just had to be there…a swinging strike three turned into a passed ball that was thrown down the right field line, and Bang, the game was tied 8-8. The Brewers were able to induce a ground out to force extra innings.
In the top of the 10th, Esslinger again showed his versatility and competitiveness, shutting down the Brewers bats with ease. Shiffler led the charge with a walk in the bottom of the 10th and David Thatcher ripped a single to right to put the pressure on. With two base runners on with no outs, Tate Pugh’s grounder to short was all the Braves needed to clinch a 9-8 win and bring home the 35+ American championship title.
Special thanks to Joe Salerno, former team manager and inspirational leader, and Tate Pugh, on-the-field leader and Johnny Bench-like catching prowess, for their consistent and valued support. And to the entire team, forging great friendships and demonstrating teamwork through all that you do, it was truly a team effort all year long. Thank You All!