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Don't Go Soft, Play Hardball!

2016 45+ National

East Coast Cardinals 10, Rhode Island Salty Dogs 1

‘Bichette Complete Game Takes Bite Out of Dogs’

By Chris Errington, special to MSBL National

November 5, 2016, Bright House Field, Clearwater, FL – Dante Bichette spent his major league career terrorizing pitchers. On a team full of offensive talent, his contributions now come on the mound. The Rhode Island Salty Dogs can attest and, because of this, the East Coast Cardinals earned another championship with a 10-1 victory and the 45+ National title.

“Credit Dante with shutting us down,” Rhode Island manager Noah Clark said. “We’re a good-hitting team and he gave us nothing.” Added Cardinals manager David Hash, “Dante was outstanding today, but really, everybody was.”

The title was the second in three years for the Cardinals, a fixture during Fall Classic final days. Bichette, relying on a heavy dose of fastballs early before mixing in a curve as the game progressed, consistently kept a Rhode Island team that had beaten the Cardinals 9-1 in round robin play, off balance. He allowed only four hits and a single seventh-inning run when the game was already well out of reach. “You know when you get into a championship game that you’ve got to go as long as you can,” Bichette said. “I just tried to work in and out with the fastball and I felt good most of the way. But once the seventh [inning] hit, I thought I was done. I’m glad I could get through this and go all the way.”

Bichette (2-0) struck out four against a Salty Dogs team that moved up to the National division after taking home the 2015 American title. Rhode Island finished round-robin play 2-3, before winning a pair of playoff games to reach the championship.

Rhode Island’s only real threat came in the second inning, with the Cardinals leading 1-0 following Larry Hingle’s RBI ground out. With two outs and none on, a pair of infield errors and a walk – one of only two Bichette allowed – loaded the bases. However, Rhode Island’s scoring chance was erased as quickly as it appeared when Bichette used a high fast ball to record an inning-ending strike out. “We knew we needed to score there, because you’re not going to get too many opportunities against a guy like [Bichette],” Clark said. “That was a big moment for us.”

Rhode Island’s failure was magnified when singles from Chad Sanders and David Benedict in the bottom of the inning put runners at second and third with just one out. When Joe Shields’ chopper to second was misplayed into an error – one of six on the day for the Salty Dogs, East Coast’s lead was 3-0. Two innings later, the Cardinals put their stamp on another championship. A one-out Benedict double to left plated John Mahalik, who’d reached via error. Shields followed with a single, before a Danny Cuff single scored Benedict. When the relay following a Kiko Garcia [named tournament MVP] sacrifice fly was misplayed for another error, two more runs scored and the Cardinals’ lead was an insurmountable 7-0. “That fourth inning was huge, because it took all the pressure off,” Bichette said. “I didn’t have to hump every pitch.”

While it did commit a trio of errors, the Cardinals came up with the key plays at the most crucial times. On a day when Bichette said he induced an unusual number of ground balls, a fourth inning leadoff single was quickly erased by the first of two East Coast double plays. The play helped East Coast retire 12 of 13 batters during the middle innings and keep Rhode Island from mounting a comeback.

A year after failing to defend their title, the Cardinals completed round-robin play 3-2 and defeated the San Antonio Bombers 9-3 in the semifinals via Hingle’s complete-game effort. Meanwhile Rhode Island needed a pair of playoff victories, including a thrilling comeback, to reach the title game. Trailing the defending champion Brooklyn-Chicago Monarchs 4-1 in the top of the ninth, the Salty Dogs scored four times, including Mike McGee’s go-ahead sacrifice fly, to earn a thrilling 5-4 win.

 

Salty Dogs      000      000      100 – 1 4 6

Cardinals         120      410      02x – 10 14 3

WP: Bichette. LP: Mancuso. 2B: (RI). 2B: Benedict (EC). Pitching: Mancuso, Ward (1), Clark (5), Woodward (8) (RI). Bichette (EC).

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