2015 56+

Southern Maryland Titans 6, Puerto Rico Athletics 5

‘McGlaughlin’s Double in the Ninth Wins the Title’

By Andy Villamarzo, special to MSBL

Clearwater, FL., November 14, 2015 – Through the first six games of the tournament, the Puerto Rico Athletics had one objective on their minds: avenge last year’s championship loss.

The A’s would face off against the same team they faced in 2014, the Southern Maryland Titans, and entered the tourney allowing the fewest runs of any 56 and over clubs. Both teams turned to their pitching and defenses to decide the championship game and in the end, it would be Titans coming out on top once again for the 56 and over title. The Titans received a clutch, bottom of the ninth inning 2-run double from Mike McGlaughlin and upended the Athletics 6-5 in thrilling comeback fashion Saturday evening at the Joe DiMaggio Fields.

“Let’s cut it in half. Get it within two. Tie it up,” Southern Maryland coach Michael Steinhouser said about his team’s comeback win. “Just make sure we either tie it up or go win it. I never lost faith in my guys.”

Puerto Rico pitcher Virgillio Perez got into a bases loaded jam in the top of the opening inning, after he walked three batters with only one out. Perez was able to get the necessary two outs to exit the frame and most importantly not allow any runs to cross the plate. After the shaky first inning, Perez calmed down on the mound and found a groove against Southern Maryland’s potent lineup, retiring nine of the next 12 batters without a serious scoring threat developing.

Titans pitcher Rozetto Gordon induced a lot of ground ball outs, as the right-hander produced 12 outs out of a possible 18 batters faced via grounders. He would receive some much needed run support in the bottom of the fifth inning when Dan Florio scored from second base. An answer from the Athletics would come in the following inning with Puerto Rico mustering up a 2-out rally and scoring three runs to take a 3-1 lead.

Heading into the bottom of the sixth and armed with a seemingly commanding 3-1 advantage, Puerto Rico leaned upon its pitching and fielding to hold onto a two run lead. Perez continued to stymie Titans’ batters and kept them off balance with a steady diet of fast balls and off speed pitches. The A’s ended up tacking on a couple more runs to take a 5-1 lead, but Steinhouser let his left-handed reliever Jesus Cruz know if he could hold Puerto Rico to no runs, the Titans would come back and win.

“I promised him if he held on for us, we would come back and win it and he did,” Steinhouser said. “The guys backed me up. We’ve had each other’s backs all week long. We’ve played hard and we had the Lord on our side.”

Steinhouser’s words rang true, as his club chipped away at Puerto Rico’s four run lead. The bottom half of the ninth set the stage up for McGlaughlin, who didn’t play the first couple of games in the tournament but came up huge when needed. An error to start off the inning, followed by a walk, sacrifice bunt, a groundout and a bloop single put runners on second and third with two outs. An intentional walk of JB Brown put McGlaughlin up, who said his last game winning hit came when he played at Rockville High School. He liked A’s pitcher Antonio Matias’ 0-2 offering and sent it over the leftfielder’s head, scoring Florio and Albert Martinez for the go-ahead runs.

“We have an expression we all share and it’s ‘Don’t Suck’,” McGlaughlin said jokingly. “I was just trying to hit the ball hard and up the middle and God blessed me to hit the ball well. It felt great. I knew when I hit it that I had the leftfielder beat. I didn’t know what everyone else was doing. Pretty magical to happen at (age) 55.”