Kansas City Athletics 18, So Cal Quakes 13

‘Athletics Overcome Eight Run Deficit to Claim Title’

By Patrick Lagreid, special to MSBL

Sun. Nov. 2, 2014, Maryvale Stadium (Phoenix, Ariz.)–In a game that started as a slug fest, it ended up being a solid pitching performance and some small ball fundamentals that helped the Kansas City Athletics defeat the So. Cal. Quakes and claim the Father/Son Central Division championship on Sunday afternoon at Maryvale Stadium.

Both teams came into the championship game having played semifinal games played that morning, and while those games got the blood pumping, it also meant that both teams would be vying for the title running essentially on fumes and knowing that they would have to grind out a win by piecing whatever they could together. For the Quakes, it was their offense that would get them out in front in a big way early, as they posted a nine run second inning to jump out to a 10-2 lead. They’d send 14 batters to the plate and chase two A’s pitchers, starter Mike Berar and reliever Bill Stark. Quakes catcher Jobe Lowen put the exclamation point on the inning with a three-run triple that scored Mike Annuziato, Johnny Love and John Love.

The Quakes would tack on one more in the third and two more in the fourth off of Gregg Rosser before the Athletics went to Zach Weinandt, who had already pitched five innings in the semifinal game that morning. He came in and threw five scoreless innings, giving up just two hits while striking out two and walking two en route to being named tournament MVP. He was quick to praise his defense, who turned three double plays for him to help negate the Quakes’ scoring threats, with one each in the fifth, eighth and ninth innings, as well as the club’s morale despite being down big early in the game. Citing their earlier offensive performances, Weinandt said that “we knew when we were down that we had a pretty good shot to still come back and win this one.”

Meanwhile the Athletics bats woke up in the fourth as they put six on the board thanks to a string of batters getting on base. After a flyout started the inning, nine straight A’s hitters reached thanks to a pair of hit batters, two walks, four hits and a force out. While the A’s bats were heating up, the Quakes found themselves struggling to get outs, as they’d yield two more runs in the fifth inning thanks in part to three walks and a pair of singles that made it a one-run game heading into the seventh, with the Quakes clinging to a 13-12 lead.

The Athletics turned to small ball in their half of the seventh, as cleanup hitter Matt Berard, who’d already recorded a two-run triple, laid down a bunt to start the inning. An errant throw by the pitcher turned a single into a runner on third with no outs. After Lowen retired Mike Berard on a popup in foul ground, the A’s went back to the bunt, laying down two more to plate a run and tie the game. Mike Jensen added a pair of stolen bases in the inning before scoring on a wild pitch, while Weinandt and Joey Rosser would each drive another in on singles and the A’s would take a 18-13 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. “I told the guys that it would be all the sweeter when we come back and get it done, and I’ve seen this so many times where it’s a battle and survival of the fittest,” Athletics manager Jim Velaer said after the game.

The Quakes were led offensively by Lowen, who stepped into the catcher’s job after another player backed out of the tournament and went on to catch four of the team’s six games, going three-for-five with a triple and three RBI in the tournament finale. Mike Annunziato drove in a pair and scored two as part of a 4-for-5 day, while John Love and Daniel Garcia each drove in two.

“I knew it was going to be a dogfight all the way to the end – that’s a very good team right there,” Quakes manager John Love said. He acknowledged that there were a few key mistakes that swung the game in the Athletics’ favor in the late innings but praised how hard his team played throughout the tournament, and despite the outcome kept things in perspective. “The best thing about this is to be here with the boys, and we had a great time – it was an unbelievable experience.”