By Dick Mills, for MSBLNational.com
Rancho Mirage, CA January 20, 2014 –Behind strong complete game pitching from ace Danny Pawelek, and a monster offensive day by Dan Little, the LA Athletics defeated Dodgertown West 9-3 to capture the 55-and-over Desert Classic title.
It is the third time in a row that these two teams have met in the finals, and the Athletics have won all three.
Pawelek, with help from a strong defense, allowed just three runs despite giving up 14 Dodger hits. Meanwhile, Little went wild going 4-for-4 with five RBI, including an inside the park home run.
The Athletics entered the tournament expecting to rely on Pawelek (picturede left) for most of the pitching, but big wins by Ruben Otis, Jim Barker, andMark Sain, who pitched a two-hit complete game in the semifinals against Tri Valley, allowed Manager Bob Sherwin to keep Pawelek rested for the championship final game.
Timely hitting by the Athletics, good pitching, and strong defense, especially from third baseman Dennis Clancy, was the story of the game. Dodgers starting pitcher Bob Boehm, along with closer Albert Ulibarri, pitched well, but had little run support.
Kevin Bronson, Pawelek and Little shared the MVP honors for the championship game, while Bronson was tournament MVP.
Bronson, a middle infielder, stole eight bases in five games. Sherwin said Bronson’s actions on the bases may well have been the difference in a game versus Tri-Valley in which the opposing pitcher, apparently distracted by Bronson’s presence on base, made two throwing errors, and walked four consecutive batters. That broke open a tight game, allowing the Athletics to win and receive a bye in the first playoff round.
Steve Barnhart made two YouTube gem catches in left field during the tournament which shut down rallies both times.
For the tournament, Bronson and Pawelek both went 10-for-17.Mike Thatcher was 9-for-16 with seven stolen bases.
The 55-and-over division featured 10 teams in two divisions. The Athletics and the So Cal Fire earned passes to the semifinals by finishing tops in their respective divisions.
Dodgertown West reached the semifinals by defeating the Arizona Jays 9-1, and then advanced to the finals by upsetting the number two seeded Fire. The Athletics, meanwhile, blanked the Tri Valley Giants 10-0 to move into the finals.
Sherwin’s Athletics have played in the Desert Classic 10 times, appeared in the finals eight times, and won the championship six times.
Dodger’s Manager, Rick Fahrney expects his team to be back in the final next year, with better results.