US Cruisers 12, DelVal Bombers 7
‘Cruisers Hold On to Secure Title’
By Chris Errington, special to MSBLNovember 14, 2015, Clearwater, FL – The elation on US Cruisers manager Nate Spoto’s face spoke volumes regarding the meaning of winning a Fall Classic championship. Winning it as a defacto home team made it that much more special. “We’re all from around here, so to win the title here is great,” Spoto said. “We had a team that really picked each other up every game. When we starting winning, the guys started believing we could win the whole thing.”
DelVal wouldn’t make it easy. Despite staking themselves to a commanding 7-0 lead after three innings, the Cruisers would need to reach for all the resolve they could muster. Chris Matson started the scoring in the first with a sacrifice fly, before Eddie Maldonado’s single drove home tournament MVP Dave Agosto. And, when the ball was misplayed in the infield, a third run scored. Two innings later, Matson was at it again. His three-run single, aided by an outfield error, pushed the advantage to 6-0. His run following a fielder’s choice seemed to leave no doubt who would be crowned champion.
Instead, the Bombers fought back with four runs in the fourth, paced by Doug Kepple’s three-run double and, incredibly, tied the game an inning later. Dan Leon, who finished the tournament with a .438 average and Len Ward, who hit .574 with five doubles, drove in a trio of runs with a double and single, respectively. “We’re definitely fortunate to win, because [DelVal] never quit,” Spoto said.
With the game tied and four innings remaining, the Cruisers responded the way champions do. Javier Morales singled, stole second and scored on an error, almost single handedly re-staking the Cruisers to the lead. It was one they never relinquished. In the seventh, Keith Feldon, who homered in game two, belted a triple over the center fielder’s head to deep center. The Cruisers were able to capitalize on Feldon’s triple and drive in another run in the seventh and kept the offense going by scoring two more runs in the eighth, driven in on a clutch double by John Mauk. Aggressive base running by Johnny Hartman pushed the lead to five with one more tacked on in the ninth. But once again, if they thought the matter was decided, DelVal proved it wasn’t.
The Bombers scrapped their way to a bases loaded, one-out situation in the bottom of the ninth, placing the outcome in doubt once more. However, this time, Kennon McCaa recorded a strikeout and ground out to first to end the final threat and finally give the Cruisers a championship. “This is just a team that played great defense all tournament and came up with the big plays when we needed them,” Spoto said. “We have so many versatile players and there’s such great chemistry on this team. I really believed from the beginning that we’d be here and win it.”
For DelVal manager Neil Hourahan, the loss was bitter to take, but one he knows will also include numerous fond memories. “We definitely had a no-quit team and we proved it several times,” he said. “It’s difficult to deal with, but the Cruisers were the better team today. They beat us and I can respect that.”
The victory capped a 7-1 week for the US Cruisers, who reached the championship game following a 21-7 pasting of the Atlanta Giants in the semifinals. Meanwhile, DelVal, which won championships in 2001 and 2010, was equally impressive. It finished round-robin play 5-1, before defeating the Albany Capitals 16-4 and DC Mustangs 8-2 to reach the title game. Steve Alemi tossed a four-hitter, part of his 22-inning, three-victory tournament performance. The Cruisers ended up with four players batting over .500 for the tournament. Eddie Maldonado led the team by hitting .586. Johnny Hartman hit .563, Keith (Flounder) Feldon hit .560 and Carlos Gonzalez hit .560.
US Cruisers 3 0 4 0 0 1 1 2 1 – 12
DelVal Bombers 0 0 0 4 3 0 0 0 0 – 7