Mifflinburg Phillies 8, Delaware Destroyers 3
‘Toomey Saves the Day in Relief’
By Chris Errington, special to MSBL
November 7, 2015, Clearwater, FL – Twice before Mifflinburg had been in this position and twice before it had lost. Now, with the game in the balance, Phillies’ manager Mark Levalley had a decision to make. The Delaware Destroyers had just cut a three-run deficit to 4-3 following a controversial play in which officials collaborated to reverse an earlier infield out call that would have ended the top of the seventh inning. With starting pitcher Jim Smith tiring and following a lengthy delay from the umpire meeting, Levalley made the biggest move of the game. Luckily for Mifflinburg, it was also his best.
In came Eric Toomey in relief and out went Delaware’s comeback chances. Toomey stranded the tying run at third, then set the Destroyers down in order over the final two innings. Meanwhile, Mifflinburg got one crucial run back in the bottom of the inning, then tacked on three more in the eighth to pull away for its first Fall Classic title. “We had Eric up in the first, but Jim settled down,” Levalley said. “When we went to him in the seventh, he was just calm, cool and collected.”
While he may have appeared composed to teammates, Toomey acknowledged he was nervous entering the game. “I’d much rather have come in in the eighth with no one on and a two-run lead,” Toomey joked. “On the way out, I just thought about simplifying the game. I just wanted to throw strikes.”
Proving it was their time to win a championship, the Phillies immediately answered Delaware’s charge and definitively took back momentum. Dan Beyer led off the bottom of the seventh with a single and scored two batters later on Scott Ream’s single to center. With the advantage restored to two, Toomey said it allowed him and his teammates to relax again. “With our offense, we knew it was just a matter of time.”
An inning later, Mifflinburg, which finished the week 8-0, secured the title. Brian Ramsey walked and moved to second on Bob Smoker’s single to right. When a pickoff attempt went awry, Smith – pinch running for Ramsey – scored for a 6-3 lead. German Evangelista and Beyer added run-scoring hits to end all doubt about the outcome.
Delaware did itself no favors in losing the championship game for the second consecutive year. The Destroyers committed four costly errors and managed only six hits. Still, Delaware, which finished the week 6-2, had a great opportunity to win the title if it could capitalize on the key seventh inning. A leadoff single from Rick Hein was followed two outs later by Brian Freivogel’s run-scoring double down the right field line. Chris Marshall then hit a sinking liner to Beyer at shortstop. Beyer reached to his left and snagged the ball on a short hop, prompting the nearest umpire to rule the play an out on the catch. Beyer however continued with the play and attempted to tag Freivogel at second. When that failed, he made a desperate throw to get Marshall at first. When the ball got away, Freivogel scored. Arguments from the Delaware bench prompted an umpire’s meeting and when the initial out call was reversed, Mifflinburg protested to no avail.
Out went Smith, in came Toomey and quickly order was restored following a pop-out to third. “The guys are heartbroken,” Delaware manager Marco Prado said. “I couldn’t ask any more from them, but sometimes the baseball gods say ‘It’s not your day.’ This is a tough loss, because now it’s two years in a row. Still, we knew [Mifflinburg] was tough. They’re hitters and they played great defense all day. They make every pitch tough.”
Delaware defeated the Puerto Rico Diamondbacks (14-6) before receiving seven strong innings from starter Scott West in a 6-3 semifinal victory over the Long Island Stars to reach the championship game. Mifflinburg parlayed a pair of dominant pitching performances to playoff victories over the Southern Maryland Titans (4-1) and the Central Ohio Reds (13-2).
Delaware Destroyers 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 – 3 6 4
Mifflinburg Phillies 0 0 1 3 0 0 1 3 x – 8 9 0
WP: Smith; LP: Hein; S: Toomey. Pitching: Hein and Montgomery (D). Smith, Toomey (7) and Haifley (M). 2B: Chylak (M). 3B: Haifley (M).