Tucson Longhorns 8, Rhode Island Brewers 4
‘MVP Flores Relieves in 7th, Secures Victory’
By Patrick Lagreid, Special to MSBL
November 5, 2017, Maryvale Stadium, Phoenix, AZ-It would be a long day for the two teams that would meet in the final game of the 2017 MSBL World Series, as they each had to win a semifinal game on the minor league fields of Maryvale Baseball Park before crossing the parking lot to the main stadium for a Sunday afternoon square off that would end up with at least one person donning a new ring.
For the Tucson Longhorns of the Central 2 division, their day stated with a hard-fought, 12-11 win over the Sacramento Generals to not only advance but to keep their record perfect at 7-0. For the aptly-named Rhode Island Brewers, they earned a trip to play in the same stadium that their Major League namesake does in spring training by holding off the Twin City Cardinals, 7-6 in the Central 1 semifinal.
Even with both teams coming off grueling one-run victories, there was no shortage of energy at first pitch as the Brewers’ first two hitters got them on the board. Catcher Jake Ferreria drove in his battery mate,Ryan Geremia, with a well-struck double, and he’d come around to score on a Dave Bushnell single to put the Brewers up 2-0.
The Brewers’ early lead disappeared about as fast as they built it, however, as the Longhorns came out swinging. Six of their first seven hitters recorded base hits off of Geremia, plating six runs before the second out was recorded, highlighted by two-run doubles from Jovany Valenzuela and Junior Roman. Ismael Grijalva would tack on the Tucson club’s seventh hit in the inning, which would bring about a mound visit and an early call to the bullpen.
“We were hitting the ball throughout the tournament; we weren’t really gun shy about anything as far as that…we just wanted our pitching to settle down some,” said Eduardo Aguilar, one of the assistant managers of the Longhorns.
After the Brewers turned to Will Dawson to get the final out of the inning, he and the Longhorns’ starter, Steve “Alex” Morales, would trade zeroes for the next four innings.
With a daunting relief task ahead of him, Dawson retired the first 12 batters he faced before giving up a pair of singles and a walk in the 5th inning, though he’d escape that frame without yielding a run. It was a performance that didn’t go unnoticed by his teammates and manager, Shawn Rogers, who praised Dawson for keeping the Brewers in the game and giving them a shot to win.
The Brewers put steady pressure on Morales by finding ways on base, only to find their advancement dashed, often by the double play. The Longhorns would turn four of them in the game, snuffing out several rallies in the middle innings.
“We hit the ball hard at people that were playing deep and we didn’t have a change to drop it in, and we hit into too many double plays,” noted Rogers.
The Brewers would break the scoreless stretch in the sixth, as Geremia led off the inning with a single, stole second, and scored on a groundout by Josh Ferreira. Another run would come in the 7th inning as Dave Bushnell and Darwin Hernandez led off the inning with back-to-back doubles. A pair of hit batters would load the bases and bring in Octavio Flores for a high-leverage relief appearance. Flores responded by getting Tom Koch to strikeout and inducing the third double play of the game.
As a seeming reward for escaping the jam, the Longhorns gave Flores two runs of breathing room in the bottom of the 7th, stringing together four straight hits, punctuated by an RBI double from Nicholas Rosthenhausler and an RBI single from Anthony Encinas.
The Brewers would threaten again in the final frames, as Josh Ferreira recorded a triple in the 8th and Bushnell picked up his fourth hit of the game to lead off the 9th, only to once again see a double play end the rally. Bushnell finished the game 4-for-4 with a double, RBI, and run scored.
The three-inning save propelled Flores to get the MVP nod, though he was quick to give credit to the solid defense behind him, as well as the offense’s ability to put a few more runs on the board for him.
The Longhorns’ victory got an extra celebration after the trophy presentation as infielder Ismael Grijalva proposed to his girlfriend on the field, and she enthusiastically said yes.
Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Rhode Island Brewers 2 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 4 11 1
Tucson Longhorns 6 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 X 8 13 0
Pitching Line: Geremia, Dawson (1) and Jake Ferreira. Morales, Flores (7) and Encinas.
WP:Morales LP: Geremia SV: Flores
2B:Jake Ferreira, Bushnell, Hernandez (Brewers). Valenzuela, Roman, N. Rosthenhausler (Longhorns)
Leading Hitters: Brewers — Geremia 2×4, 2 R, 2 SB; Bushnell 4×4, 2B, R. Longhorns — N. Rosthenhausler 2×4, 2R; Flores 2×4; Encinas 3×4, R; Valenzuela 1×3, 2 RBI; Roman 1×4, 2 RBI, R.
SB:Geremia 2 (Brewers).
Team LOB:Brewers 6; Longhorns 7.
Time of Game: 2:16