2015 35+ National

Atlanta Bulls 4, EC Cardinals 0

‘Rodney and Cumberland Combine for Shutout Victory’

By Chris Errington, special to MSBL

November 14, 2015, Clearwater, FL – With an abundance of riches at his disposal, it’s difficult to blame Atlanta Bulls manager Jeff Boyar for undervaluing his own role in the team’s success. Atlanta, sporting five pitchers with Fall Classic championship game experience, turned to the combination of Thomas Lee Rodney and Chris Cumberland this time around. Like seemingly all of Boyar’s tournament decisions, it proved to be right on the mark.

Rodney, who earned the win in last year’s title game, pitched the first four innings before giving way to Cumberland for the final five. Combined, they were nearly unhittable and were impossible to score upon in a dominating 4-0 championship game victory. “We came with a 10-man pitching staff and two veteran catchers that know how to handle them,” Boyar said. “We do pitching matchups, but really, I could have pulled names out of a hat.”

Maybe that tactic would have been just as successful. Then again, maybe Boyar is just being coy. Either way, even he couldn’t have asked for a more dominant championship game performance. Rodney and Cumberland allowed a mere three hits against a veteran EC Cardinals team that sports four-time MLB All-Star and 1995 Silver Slugger Award winner Dante Bichette.

“I’ve been playing with these guys three times a week, so we know each other very well,” Rodney said. “I didn’t have to shake off one pitch. The defense was phenomenal. We just stuck to the fundamentals and things worked out from there.”

Atlanta captured the 2014 title with a 6-0 win over DW Energy. This time around, the Bulls encountered just as little resistance, and not just in the championship game. Due to a lack of teams, the 35 National division was diminished to just three competitors. That forced the Bulls and Cardinals to face each other three times during round-robin play, with Atlanta going 2-0-1, as part of a 7-0-1 week. In the final, the Bulls got all the runs they’d need in the first.

Three straight singles pushed across one run to get Atlanta rolling. When another run came home on an error, the Bulls were unknowingly already home free. Jason Alfaro’s two-out RBI single plated Dytarious Edwards from second in the sixth for a 3-0 lead, before a wild pitch allowed one final run to score an inning later. From there, it was just a matter of Cumberland getting six more outs to secure back-to-back titles.

“Jeff always has dominant pitching and this time was no different,” veteran EC Cardinals manager David Hash said. “Our bats really never got going.”

While Rodney and Cumberland shined on the mound, Shawn Crockett, named tournament MVP after hitting better than .400 and making several key defensive plays, epitomized Boyar’s team-first attitude. “Every year is a surprise, because there’s a different nuance to every team,” the manager said. “I’ve been involved in baseball for a long time and this team has as much talent and good heads as we’ve ever had.”

The Bulls reached the championship round by stopping San Antonio 3-2 behind Sean Moran’s seven strong innings and a two-inning save from Jacob Serrato.

EC Cardinals  0 0 0    0 0 0    0 0 0 – 0

Atlanta Bulls   2 0 0    0 0 1    1 0 x – 4