2017 18+ National

BIIIP 12, Orange County Rays 5

‘Fernandez and Moen Shut the Door on the Rays’

By Rodney Johnson, special to MSBL

October 22, 2017, Tempe Diablo Stadium, Tempe, AZ– Sometimes the best decision a manger can make is the one he doesn’t make at all. In the second inning of the 18+ National Championship game at Diablo Stadium, Orange County had jumped on BIIIP starter Yasmani Fernandez for five runs. With two out, BIIIP manager Marc Smith made a trip to the mound. “Well, 9:00 in the morning and an umpire with a tight zone made it difficult for our pitcher to get it going,” explained Smith. “I told Yasmani I might have to make a change.” After the visit by Smith, Fernandez turned it on and retired the next 18 hitters he faced. “One of the reasons he was able to get 18 in a row was our catcher, T.C. Mark,” praised Smith. “He is the best catcher I’ve ever had.” With relief help from Kellen Moen in the ninth, Fernandez shut out the Rays the rest of the way. BIIIP flipped the switch in the fifth inning when they pushed six runs across the plate to take the lead and cruise to the win. Third baseman Jason Short was named tournament MVP.

With one on and one out in the fifth, Sean Pellerin hit a ground ball to shortstop that was mishandled for an error. The miscue opened the floodgates as BIIIP struck for six unearned runs. The rally was capped by a two-out, three-run home run over the left field fence by Javier Gamboa. The blast gave BIIIP their first lead of the game and they never looked back. Fans in the stadium may have heard the team’s name echoing through the ballpark as the ball traveled over the fence. “BIIIP is kind of a movement going around among these ballplayers,” explained Smith. “Years ago, Javier Gamboa, my best friend from high school, started the whole thing. He hits a lot of home runs and some guys grunt when they hit it out. Javier just started yelling ‘BIIIP” when he hit one. Everyone started laughing but we all started saying it whenever anyone hit one so it just kind of stuck.”

Gamboa is one of several local Arizona players on BIIIP who played in the defunct Independent Freedom Pro Baseball League. Others include Juan Senreiso, Eli Sonoquji and Sunrendy Windster. Gamboa also spent five years in the Kansas City Royals minor leagues reaching as high as AA as a pitcher. Arm injuries derailed his mound activity, but he resumed his career in independent leagues and later started a clothing business for athletes named…you guessed it, BIIIP.

Another former pro on BIIIP is leadoff hitter Sean Smith. A former Kansas City Royals,Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago White Sox farmhand, Smith was nominated by ESPN for an ESPY award in 2015. On September 26, 2014 while playing for the York Revolution of the Atlantic League, Smith hit a game tying home run and then tore his patella tendon as he rounded first base. Smith refused to leave the game and instead hopped around the bases to score. Last year Smith played for Joplin of the independent American Association. The 35-year old as played in pro leagues since 2000.

Even though the division is 18+, nearly 80% of the team is over 35 years old. “We have a lot of ex-pros on this team, so we need to play in this division for competitions sake,” explained Marc Smith. “We love this division and we are almost all local (Phoenix area) guys.” But Smith says the most important part of the team isn’t the pro players or the unique moniker. “We are a faith oriented group,” said Smith. “We pray together before every game and we want people to see that and know it is okay to have faith and be a Christian. That’s what we’re about.”

The playoffs were challenging for both teams. In pool play BIIIP went 3-1 and then had to go 12 innings in the semifinals to beat the Rocky Mountain Oysters 3-2.Orange County had a tough road as well after struggling through pool play with a 2-2-1 record. In the playoffs, they rose to the occasion with victories over San Diego North Redbacks 5-1 and the Atlanta Sidewinders 6-3. “The week started out really, really rough for us,” said OC manager Daniel Cardenas. “We had some guys who couldn’t get out here until the weekend so we started out shorthanded. We were able to scrap out a few wins and get to the championship game.” Orange County plays together at home and brings the team to Arizona for the tournament. They are a tight group that stays together in a rented house for tournament week.

Cardenas said that his team was tired at the end. “It is an eight game tournament and we just ran out of gas. We looked tired out there. This was our first time being here and hopefully we’ll benefit from this experience. We’ll be back next year,”

Team                                    1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9             R     H     E

Orange County                 0     5     0     0     0     0     0     0     0                5     9     5

BIIIP                                  1     0     0     0     6     2     1     3     x               13   13    0

Pitching Line: (Orange County) Danny Victorio, Christopher Mieszala (5), Adam Koutz (8), Patrick Showalter (8). (BIIIP) Yasmani Fernandez, Kellen Moen (9).

WP: Fernandez LP: Victorio

HR: Gamboa (BIIIP)

3B: none

2B: Ornelas (OC); Pellerin (BIIIP), Gamboa (BIIIP).

Leading Hitters: Orange County: Freddie Jimenez 2×4; Matt Homstad 1×3, R, RBI, HBP; Erik Ornelas. 1×3, RBI.  BIIIP: Juan Carlos Medina 2×2, 3R, BB, HBP; Javier Gamboa 2×4, 3 RBI

SAC: none

SF: none

SB: Homstad (OC); Jimenez (OC); Medina 2 (BIIIP);

Team LOB: Orange County 6; BIIIP 8

Time of Game: 2:38