2016 45+

Boston Wolfpack 10, Miami Marlins 4

‘Bastian and Mercado Lead at the Plate and on the Mound’
By Chris Errington, Special to MSBLNational.com

January 18, 2016, Orlando, FL – The Boston Wolfpack sure didn’t enjoy seeing their Holiday Classic tournament end before the championship game a year ago. So they made sure it didn’t happen again. A year removed from a semifinal loss that ended a string of seven consecutive championships, Boston closed out an undefeated week with a 10-4 comeback victory over the Miami Marlins in the 45-Over championship game.

“We won three close games just to get here,” Boston manager Steve Wolf said. “It was definitely tougher than in years past.”

For the first 4-½ innings, it appeared to be nearly impossible. Getting a trio of runs in the third and another in the fourth, Miami grabbed a commanding 4-0 lead. And, with Jim Eddy escaping potential jams early, time was getting precariously short for the Wolfpack to regain their title. But then, like a giant slowly awakening, the game swung completely in Boston’s favor. It wasn’t one play or one pitch, but a combination of them that returned the Wolfpack to their familiar position atop the tournament standings.

A single and a pair of Miami errors loaded the bases with none out. This time, Eddy wouldn’t escape unscathed. Jeff Fox’s long single to left plated Mike Smith with the first Boston run and one out later, Carmelo Bastian blasted a bases-clearing triple to tie the score. Bastian scored one batter later on an infield out to give the Wolfpack a lead it never relinquished. “We were just trying to chip away, but that triple really deflated them and gave us a huge lift,” Wolf said. “You could sense it immediately.”

An inning later, four more Boston runs turned a struggle into a blowout. Kenny Craddox scored on Jose Delgado’s single to left, before an infield throwing error, a well-placed Dave Benedict bunt single and a wild pitch added three more. By the time the inning was over, Boston held a commanding 9-4 lead and was just nine outs from victory.

Starting pitcher Edgardo Mercado, who kept Boston within striking distance until the offense awoke, combined with Benedict and Delgado to keep a potent Miami attack scoreless over the final five innings. “He’s a championship game pitcher with a ton of experience,” Wolf said of Mercado. “We knew coming in that if he could keep us close, we’d have a great chance to win it.”

For the Marlins, a second consecutive championship game loss was made even more frustrating by their explosive offense’s lack of productivity. “I was really surprised we didn’t hit, because our bats were alive all tournament,” Marlins manager Iran Negron said. “We lost the momentum in the fifth inning. When it rolls your way, it rolls your way. When it doesn’t, it doesn’t. They capitalized on the same type of mistakes that we’d been capitalizing on to win all tournament.”

Miami entered the final game confident, thanks to a 3-0 round-robin record and playoff victories over the Jacksonville Hops and defending champion Chicago Royals, 7-1. Jaime Hernandez (2-0) went the distance to avenge last year’s title game loss to Chicago.

Meanwhile, Boston also entered undefeated after topping All-Star Academy 8-1 and then the US Cruisers 5-2 in the semifinals behind Mike Smith’s (2-0) complete game effort.

Marlins                0 0 3       1 0 0       0 0 0 — 4

Wolfpack             0 0 0       0 5 4       1 0 x – 10

WP: Mercado. LP: Eddy. Pitching: Eddy, Hernandez (6), Teimino (6) and Sladky (M). Mercado, Benedict (8), Delgado (9) and Rousseau (B). 2B: Moise (B). 3B: Bastian (B).