Lexington (KY) Adult Baseball League

Lexington Smokies 11, Diamond Dogs 9

‘Smokies Outlast Diamond Dogs, Win First LABL Title’

Submitted by Matt Roberts, Lexington Smokies manager

The Smokies came in to the tourney as the third place team and the Diamond Dogs the second place team, both in a tight race for a battle for first place. The Dogs took the season series 4-1 over the Smokies and were the only team to have a winning record vs the Smokies on the year. The teams matched up in the first round of the postseason due to the seeding and the Smokies came to avenge those close losses earlier in the year.

The Smokies took the first round match up 17-6 as the offense came out on fire as they had been most of the year and Matt Roberts pitched his fourth complete game of the year going all nine allowing three earned runs and shutting down a powerful Dogs’ offense. The Smokies would go onto the winner’s bracket game against their old championship rival, the Stallions. The Smokies and Stallions would battle allnight long and the Smokies carried a 3-run lead into the top of the ninth. The Stallions erased the 3-run deficit to tie the game going into the bottom of the ninth. Justin Cain would lead off with a double and Tournament MVP Sal Olivet would follow with a single to right field off ultra-clutch Donnie Johnson that would score Cain to give the Smokies the walk off win 7-6, and propel them to the championship game having to be beaten twice.

The championship game pitted two rivals with the Dogs needing to win two games to stand alone for the 2016 LABL Season. The Smokies coming into the playoffs had a plan of using just two pitchers at all cost as injuries and absences would hurt the staff. The Smokies turned to their 1-2 combo of Matt Roberts who led the league in wins in 2016 and finished top five in ERA, and MVP candidate Chris Works who was top five in wins and led the league in strikeouts being the only player to break the 100 Ks plateau. The Dogs would send their ace Daniel Kusakari to the mound with hopes of extending their playoff run to six games. On this day though, the offense would be the star of the show.

Justin Cain and Sal Olivet led the Smokies’ offensive threat, as both got on base three times in the game. Cain scored two runs and had one RBI. He singled in the eighth inning. Sal would single twice and bring in two RBI and well as two runs. The Smokies jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first. The Smokies attack began with a single from Chris Works. A stolen base then moved Works from first to second. Works then stole home. Smokies then tacked on more runs when Sal Olivet scored on an RBI double by Even Hackney that traveled all of 400 feet, and Hackney scored on an RBI single by Wes Drinkard.

The Smokies were out to a hot start getting up 5-0 heading into the top of the third, but the Dogs had a MVP candidate of their own and he made Matt Roberts pay for his only true bump in the game. After walking the last batter of the lineup, hitting a batter, and giving up a single, triple crown winner Ethan Mckiddy came up to the plate and got to an 0-2 count in a hurry and took advantage of a change up hitting a grand slam over the right field wall. The Dogs would tack on one more run to make it a tie game, 5-5.

The Smokies increased its lead with four runs in the fourth. Sal Olivet started the inning with a single, scoring Joey Drinkard and Cain. That was followed up by Jesse Tudor’s single, bringing home Works and Olivet. The Smokies gave Roberts another five run spot to work with and at the end of the day, the Smokies needed every run they could get as the Dogs would not go quietly.

The Dogs would push across two runs in the fifth to make it 10-7. The Dogs pushed across two more runs in the eighth on a single by Chris Laporte making it just a run one game. Roberts, who also manages the Smokies, made the move to Ace Chris Works to shut down the rally. With bases loaded in a one run game, Works would come in a get two crucial outs, the first one being a ground ball back to him and getting the out at home then another ground ball. The Smokies would put up one run in the bottom of the eighth to give them a much needed two run lead and Works went to work in the ninth to shut the Dogs down, striking out two and earning the save, his third on the year while preserving Roberts’ sixth win of the year and a championship for the Smokies.

Here is a link to a wonderful video highlighting the league: https://youtu.be/s1IPB2VjA-o