2017 45+ National

Boston Wolfpack 6, Brooklyn-Chicago Royals 1

‘Benedict Takes Charge with Six-Hitter’

By: Chris Errington, special to MSBL National

January 16, 2017, Kissimmee, FL – The calendar changes as do some of the names and tournament sites, but for all that’s different with the Holiday Classic, one aspect remains the same: The Boston Wolfpack are the final team standing. For the seventh time in the past eight years, the Wolfpack staked their claim to the championship. This time, they utilized Dave Benedict’s dominating six-hit pitching performance, errorless defense and a pair of big offensive innings to power past the Brooklyn-Chicago Royals, 6-1. “We’re all getting older and the teams we play are great, so it takes a lot of luck sometimes,” Boston manager Steve Wolf said. “I thought Dave was great out there. He seemed to get stronger as the game went on.”

Playing for the first time at the former spring training home of the Houston Astros following years at the Walt Disney World complex, Boston used some nifty defense to escape a first-inning jam before riding Benedict to victory. While he would go on separate stretches of retiring 10 and then 11 consecutive Royals’ hitters later in the game, Benedict actually struggled early. A leadoff single was followed by a base on balls to give Chicago-Brooklyn, who’s 2015 championship is the only one won by a team other than Boston since 2008, an early threat. And when veteran MSBL standout Larry Hingle roped a line drive, the Royals appeared headed for a quick lead. Instead, second baseman Jeff Fox snared the ball for an out and fired to first to force a stranded runner. When first baseman Carmelo Bastian threw to second for another force out, the momentum-changing triple play was completed. Little did Chicago-Brooklyn know it would be their final opportunity to seize the lead. “That was huge,” Benedict said of the key defensive play. “[Hingle] hit a curve ball that I hung. If that finds a gap, it’s two runs and you never know what happens after that. It could have been a completely different game.” Instead, it was the beginning of a dominant pitching performance.

While no Chicago-Brooklyn hitter would reach base through the next three innings, Royals’ starter Kal Tate was equally impressive. Already with a pair of victories in the tournament, Tate kept the game scoreless until Boston finally broke through in the fifth. Jose Delgado drilled a one-out double to deep left-center field and scored just ahead of the throw following Benedict’s single to center. Bastian followed with a third consecutive hit to plate Benedict and the right hander had all of the runs he would need. Leading 2-0, Boston, which finished the week 6-0, put the game away just one inning later.

An error allowed Fox to reach second ahead of German Rivera’s run-scoring single to right. When Mike Smith and Delgado followed with RBI singles, the lead swelled to 5-0. Jack Held’s two-out single was the Wolfpack’s fifth of the inning and pushed the lead to an insurmountable, 6-0. Despite allowing three consecutive two-out singles in the sixth, Benedict was able to limit the damage to a lone run by inducing one of his 18 ground ball outs. With that, the Royals’ final threat evaporated as did the last obstacle in Boston’s run to another title.

“The triple play took a lot of steam out of us, but really it was [Benedict] who was the difference,” Chicago-Brooklyn manager Mike Torresso said. “He did a good job of mixing his pitches and kept us off balance. The balls we hit, we hit hard, but they were right at their guys. It’s extremely disappointing to lose, because we just couldn’t put together the one big inning we needed.”

While naming Benedict, who also earned a two-inning save in the semifinals, as tournament MVP may have been Wolf’s easiest decision of the week, the manager admitted that the enormity of the team’s accomplishment will always remain.

Added Wolfpack manager SteveWolf, “I’ve brought my team to the Holiday Classic all 18 years and we come back because Gary D’Ambrisi runs it so well. Notwithstanding the fact that we are 52-2 over the last 10 years in this tournament, it has not been easy. We needed three runs in the ninth in our first game to come back and win otherwise we would have ended up in the American bracket. The team that we played in the semifinal was as good as any we’ve seen. The Royals won the tournament in 2015. We’re very proud of our accomplishments but recognize how a lot of luck is needed too. You never know when your last game will come so we cherish every opportunity we get to be with our teammates on the field.”

Boston                         000      024      000 – 6 10 0

Brooklyn-Chicago      000      001      000 – 1 6 2

WP: Benedict. LP: Tate. 2B: Delgado (B). Pitching: Benedict and Rousseau (B). Tate, Dorsey (7); Degnetano (9) and Mallott (B-C)