Colorado Rippers 9, MSL Chicago 1
‘MacDonald Complete Game Nets First Title for Rippers’
By Patrick Lagreid, special to MSBL National
November 6, 2016, Maryvale Baseball Complex, Phoenix, AZ– Midwest Suburban League (MSL) Chicago and the Colorado Rippers both came into Sunday’s 25 Wood Bat Central championship with 6-1 records and having played several long games that went into the wee hours of the morning earlier this week, something that set the stage for a battle of grit and heart at the Maryvale Baseball Complex.
MSL got out to an early 1-0 lead after Mark Cibario reached on an error and came around to score on a Travis Vanderwall single in the top of the first inning.
MSL’s manager, Larry Kolcz, went into the championship game knowing it would be pitched by committee. “Pitching is the strength of the team, but we’re low on arms,” he said prior to the game, figuring that he would be limited to getting two innings at most out of any of his pitchers. But even he didn’t think he’d have to go to his bullpen in the first inning.
The Rippers jumped on starter Brad Young for six hits and six earned runs in 2/3 of an inning before Jon Kleinmeyer came on to pitch 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. Despite a 6-1 score after the first inning, both club’s pitchers settled down quickly, yielding no more than a single the rest of the game.
The Rippers started left-hander Ross MacDonald, who was coming off two days’ rest to make his second start of the tournament. Knowing that MSL had several good hitters who were looking to jump on fastballs and did so in the first inning, he went to a steady diet of curve balls to keep them off-balance–a strategy that resulted in him yielding just five hits across nine innings and inducing four double plays, including one to end the game. He also contributed defensively, picking up three assists on comebackers to the mound on his way to earning championship game MVP honors.
“I was just trying to make my pitches and work ahead; they’re a good hitting team and I knew they could hack,” MacDonald said. He was pleased that he was pitching to contact and keeping his pitch count down, two things that he said are key parts of his game. While MacDonald recorded just one strikeout, he gave his defense plenty of opportunity to work and make plays, which they seemed to do at the most opportune of times, helping to bring more and more energy to the Rippers’ dugout as they came off the field.
Rich Miller, who caught all nine innings for the Rippers, said that the energy the team brought to the championship game was fed by a loss in last year’s semifinals and solidified after a grueling Friday, having played three games before finally getting off the field at 1:30 am. “We felt that this was our chance, we’ve been grinding for six years at winning this and we just stepped up,” noting that a Saturday night team dinner helped in getting the team focused to execute their game plan on Sunday morning.
Rippers’ manager Kris Hernandez was proud of the defense his team showed early in the game to keep momentum on his club’s side. “They’re a good hitting team,” he said of MSL. “You give them a little life and that can snowball real quick.” He noted that a backhanded 6-4-3 double play started by Jesus Lechuga to end the 3rd inning helped to swing the momentum into the Rippers’ dugout.
MSL got an incredibly strong relief appearance from Josh Kwansy, who started the fourth inning and retired the first 13 batters he faced before finally giving up a hit to Derek Luque in the eighth inning. He’d end up giving up two more hits and three earned runs, but his gritty performance was a primary reason MSL stayed in the game.
Paul Paulera led the MSL offense with a pair of singles out of the leadoff spot, while Chris Shearer and Jeremy Daughtery had the club’s other hits.
Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
MSL 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 5 2
Rippers 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 X 9 10 2
Pitching Line: MSL: Young, Kleinmeyer (1), Kwasny (4), Noderer (8) and Perez. Rippers: MacDonald and Miller.
WP: MacDonald. LP: Young. SV: None
Leading Hitters: MSL: Paulera 2×4. Rippers: Payan 2×4, R; Williams 2×4, R; Miller 2B, 2 RBI.
SB: MSL: Cibario.
Team LOB: MSL: 5. Rippers: 5.
Time of Game: 1:57