2017 35+ Central

Delaware Destroyers 5, Puerto Rico Reds 4

‘Triple Threat Shuler Paves the Way’

By Andy Villamarzo, special to MSBL

November 18, 2017, Clearwater, FL – The weather is slightly different up in Delaware this time of year and for the Delaware Destroyers in the 35 Central championship game on Saturday morning, the fresh legs helped in a comeback effort. The tournament’s most valuable player, Johnny Shuler, helped set the tone playing in the infield, outfield and even pitched in relief as the Destroyers got by the Puerto Rico Reds 5-4 at Robin Roberts Field. Delaware overcame being down 2-0 after the first inning and got stellar performances on the mound from Shuler and starter Ben Tabb.

“It was beautiful,” Delaware Destroyers manager Chris Marshall said about Shuler’s appearance in the championship game. “It was his second game of the week. First one he threw a complete game. You get down here (in Florida) and you feel like a kid again with the cooler weather. When we go back up north, reality sets in and we are all nearing 40 and 40-plus. We are all just out here for the game we love and just having fun doing it while we can.”

Puerto Rico started off the scoring in the bottom of the first inning when Hector Mujica singled to left field and Benny Rivera followed up with a double to put runners at second and third. Both Mujica and Rivera ended up scoring to give the Reds a early 2-0 lead on the Destroyers but Delaware would slowly chip away at Puerto Rico’s lead throughout the contest.

In the top of the fifth inning is when the Destroyers would finally get themselves on the board against Puerto Rico starter Jean Ortega, as Steve Bennett and Clint Kuhl both reached base and then later scored on a pop single by Mike Montgomery. With the game tied up at 2-all, Puerto Rico would regain a two-run advantage in the bottom end of the fifth inning when Luis and Jose Ramos both scored and gave the Reds a sizable 4-2 lead.

“Our pitcher was doing a good job there of keeping us in the game,” Puerto Rico manager Jose Kercado said. “We thought we were doing a good job of keeping the game close there. Our bats have been hot lately despite losing a couple games. The boys have been really hitting the ball well, so we thought we still had a good chance to come back in the end.”

The difference in the game would eventually come in the top of the seventh inning and it became the deciding factor towards Delaware winning the 35-Mountain championship. Marshall singled to start off the frame and then later scored on an error. Bennett and Kuhl were once again intricate to runs being scored, as the former doubled to right field the latter singled home Scott West and Bennett, respectively. Shuler came in relief and faced six batters in two innings, allowing no hits or runs to preserve the victory.