2015 25+ American

So Cal Reds 8, Lake Hefler Pelicans 2

‘Mark Leacox Named MVP’

By Patrick Lagreid, special to MSBL

November 8, 2015, Maryvale Stadium (Phoenix) – The So. Cal. Reds brought familiarity to Sunday’s 25+ Wood Bat American division championship game against the Lake Hefler Pelicans in spades, as the collective of players from the Los Angeles area made their fifth appearance in the Phoenix World Series, reaching the championship for a fourth time, yet they’ve claimed the crown only once in that time. While the taste of victory was on the lips of many of the Reds players, manager Nick Gontmaher acknowledged that his team, like many, would be playing a bit thin on Sunday.

Getting the starting nod for the Reds was righty Cale Hamilton, a reliever in a pair of games earlier in the week who Gontmaher said had earned his trust to take the ball in the championship, and the righty quickly proved his manager correct.

While the Reds got the first run of the game via a sacrifice fly from Justin Keeney to score J.J. Costantino, the Pelicans answered right back in the top of the second, stringing together four singles over the course of five batters, capped off by Dave Newell’s two-run fly that gave the Oklahoma club the lead. But that would be all they’d get off of Hamilton.

After putting up a pair of their own in the bottom of the third thanks to an RBI double from Gontmaher and a Mark Leacox single, the Reds broke the game open in the bottom of the fourth, chasing starting pitcher Josh King before he could retire an out. Reliever Brent Weaver retired the first two batters he faced before the Reds strung together three more singles to bring their total to five runs in the frame and take a commanding 8-2 lead.

With a six-lead to work with, the righty dialed in his pitches even more, scattering two hits after the fourth inning. Hamilton yielded just eight singles in the game while striking out 10 with no walks or hit batters. He said that his fastball and slider combo was working for himn and that he was “just trying to throw strikes, command the zone and keep the hitters off balance.”

The Reds also played error-free defense, something Gontmaher knew would have to happen for them to be successful. “From the first pitch to the last pitch, Hamilton stepped up, and our defense has been incredible all tournament, which is a big reason why we’re here,” he said following the game.

Gontmaher named infielder/pitcher Mark Leacox as the tournament MVP, saying that “he did everything we asked him to do and more,” noting how Leacox played several positions and pitched, while contributing offensively, including a 2-for-3 day on Sunday with a pair of stolen bases and an RBI. “The camraderie was there, the chemistry worked, everyone played for everybody else,” Leacox said.

For the Pelicans, the retooling from 2014 they were hoping to see turn into a championship simply didn’t happen. Manager Carson Long said that the Reds made more of their opportunities than his club was able to make of theirs. “They’re a heck of a team and I’m proud of my guys for battling and fighting every pitch of every game. After today we’re certainly excited to get back here next year.”

Lake Hefler was led offensively by Newell’s two RBI, as well as a pair of hits from Zach Humphrey, while Weaver finished the game by throwing five innings of relief.

Team                                    1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9             R     H     E

Pelicans                               0     2     0     0     0     0     0     0     0             2     8     2

Reds                                    1     0     2     5     0     0     0     0     0             8     12   0

Pelicans: King, Weaver (4) and Humphrey. Reds: Hamilton and McGrath.

WP:Hamilton   LP:  King  SV: None

HR: None.

3B: None.

2B: Gontmaher, Madueno.

Leading Hitters: Pelicans: Humphrey 2×4, R; Newell 1×3, 2RBI. Reds: Costantino 3×3, 3R, 2SB; Gontmaher, 2×3, 2RBI; Leacox 2×3; Madueno, 2×4, 2B, RBI.

SAC: Gontmaher.

SF: Reds: Keeney.

SB: Reds: Leacox (2), Lawson (2), Costantino, Gontmaher.

Team LOB: Pelicans: 5. Reds: 7.

Time of Game: 2:21