East Coast Cardinals 9, Pensacola Pelicans 3
‘David Hash Secures Emotional Win for Son’
By Chris Errington, Special to MSBLNational.com
January 18, 2016, Orlando, FL – For veteran manager David Hash and the East Coast Cardinals, tournament championship game appearances and titles are almost commonplace. This time, it was different. This time, it was for Mitchell Hash.
His voice breaking and wiping away tears following the Cardinals’ 9-3 victory over the Pensacola Pelicans to clinch the 2016 Holiday Classic 30-Over championship, Hash was overcome with emotion. Not necessarily for winning another title, but rather for what it represented. This past year Hash’s son Mitchell passed away. He was only 28 years old.
“I didn’t want to put any more pressure on the guys, but they all said they wanted to win this one for me,” Hash said. “This is a very close group of really good guys. The last inning or two all I could do was think about him. At this point, it is [Mitchell’s win].”
The Cardinals had attempted to soothe some of Hash’s pain by capturing the 2015 Fall Classic in November, but were defeated in the championship game. Afforded another opportunity, this time there would be no letdown. East Coast concluded a dominant week with a dominant performance – even if it was for only three innings.
The Cardinals outscored the opposition 48-16 during a 3-0 round-robin play and a 20-3 victory over the Orlando Lugnuts in the semifinals, en-route to never trailing during the tournament. Against Pensacola, it wouldn’t be nearly as easy. A long shot to reach the finals following a 1-2 round-robin effort, the Pelicans topped the third-seeded Boston Cardinals 6-1 and top-seeded Pensacola Royals 9-6 in the playoffs. With David Papa, who pitched an incredible 42 innings in three days, on the mound again following a complete game victory in the semifinals, Pensacola found itself in a scoreless tie in the bottom of the seventh. But that’s when the Cardinals made good on a promise to their long-time manager.
A single to right, a hit batsman and an infield single loaded the bases with none out and set the stage for the game-clinching offensive outburst. Coogie Freeman’s bloop single to center scored the game’s first run, before one out later, another hit batsman and Billy DuVall’s sacrifice fly to left pushed the lead to 3-0. When Chris Torres blasted a two-run double to deep left and a seeing-eye grounder scored two more, the once tight game was now firmly in the Cardinals’ grasp.
“When you have guys like we do, it makes [managing] real easy,” Hash said. “[Papa] is incredible. It was surprising to see him standing up after all the innings he threw, but we finally got some balls to fall and were able to open it up.”
For Pelicans’ manager Chris Creary, the seven-run outburst and subsequent loss did not overshadow his team’s surprising run to the title game. Especially considering their inexperience playing together and the fact Pensacola brought only 11 players to Orlando. “Really, it’s just one of those things,” Creary said. “They caught up to [Papa] that inning, but we’re not one bit disappointed. This was a real patchwork effort on our part, but it’s something we can build off of. We want to come back and win it next year.”
After the outburst, it was just a matter of East Coast starter Larry Hingle gutting out two more innings. On several occasions, Hash told relievers in the bull pen they were within one batter of entering the game. But, despite allowing Kurtis Freeland’s three-run triple in the eighth, Hingle managed to go the distance, including inducing a double play grounder to end the game. It’s not a stretch to say his feelings for Hash played a role in seeing him through to the finish.
“I’m kind of biased with this team, because I’ve played with them so long that it feels like we’re family members,” Hingle said. “It feels really good to win the championship and get a smile on Dave’s face. If nothing else, this gives him a much-needed break from reality, even if it’s just for a while.”
Pelicans 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 – 3
Cardinals 0 0 0 0 0 0 7 2 x – 9