2015 Desert Classic: 55+

LA Athletics 11, So Cal Fire 1

‘Athletics Cop 4-Peat Behind Pawelek’

By Britten Gerrard, Special to MSBL National

January 19, 2015, Palm Springs, CA-Behind another phenomenal pitching performance by their ace Danny Pawelek, the L.A. Athletics conquered their fourth consecutive Desert Classic 55+ Wood Men’s Senior Baseball League title on Martin Luther King Day, defeating the SoCal Fire 11-1 at Cathedral City High School near Palm Springs, CA. Pawelek struck out seven and allowed just seven hits and one run in a complete game victory for the Athletics, who went 5-0 in the tournament and scored a minimum of 10 runs in each game.

The Athletics also received tremendous pitching support on the mound as three players threw complete games over the holiday weekend. Pawelek, who’s nicknamed “The Beast” by his teammates, has been the winning pitcher in all four of their championship games. He also had a strong presence at the plate as he reached base three times and finished with three runs and an RBI. “I’ve been very fortunate to throw in all the final games but the credit goes to all of my teammates,” Pawelek said. “Our defense is really outstanding and the guys stay in shape and eat well and take care of themselves.”

The Springville, Utah resident allowed just four hits after the third inning, when he gave up the lone run when SoCal Fire’s Tom Worth scored on an RBI grounder by Jay Jahnke. “I threw a lot of strikes and my slider and change-up were working well,” Pawelek said. “My catcher Dave Howard and I were on the same page and I had four strikeouts on my change-up.”

Howard said the chemistry between Pawelek and himself is like magic. “He rarely shook me off and he brought it,” Howard said. “He’s phenomenal in every way. He’s a great hitter, a great teammate and an incredible leader.”

After a scoreless first inning, the Athletics jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the second behind runs by Kevin Bronson, Pawelek and Phil Gelhaus. Dan Little scored in the fifth inning while Bronson and Pawelek each added a score in the sixth to give the Athletics a 6-1 lead. The SoCal Fire struggled to get anything going offensively with Pawelek in command and the Athletics put the game out of reach with five additional runs in the eighth inning.

“This championship is kind of special because all but three of our 20 guys are over 60,” Athletics manager Bob Sherwin said. “We thought about playing in the 60+ division but we wanted a challenge and were able to win the 55+.”

Sherwin also emphasized the stellar performance of “The Beast”. “In all the years I’ve been doing this, which is 20-something years, I’ve never seen a guy do what he (Pawelek) does and he’s feared by everybody,”Sherwin said. “He saws off a lot of hitters, spots it well and does a great job of bringing the ball in on right-handed hitters.”

Bronson finished with three runs while Gelhaus had three RBIs and two runs for the Athletics, who defeated the Milwaukee Sox 20-6 in the semifinals behind a complete game by Jeff Wells. Other offensive contributors for the Athletics included Dave Peyman (RBI, run), Dan Hamilos (RBI) and Billy Cocchia (RBI).

Al Martinez, Manny Ocampo, Ozzie Noriega and Mike McCormick added a hit apiece for the SoCal Fire.

The L.A. Athletics credited their four consecutive championships to their team chemistry. “It’s pretty cool how you can take a team with chemistry and beat a team with a lot of superheroes,” Howard said. “Nobody tries to one-up guys and everybody helps each other out and that’s the key to our success.”

Sherwin agrees with Howard. “When you win it’s a lot more enjoyable and guys want to keep coming back,” Sherwin said. “We have 20 guys so not everybody can play but the guys understand their roles and do what’s best for the team and we hope to keep winning in the future.”