2017 45+

Venice Beach Vampires 18, So Cal Blue Jays 6

Back row: (L-R) John Love, Oscar Duran, Robb Munson, Tim Lockhart, Manny Salinas, Dale Eby. Front row: (L-R) Dave Morrow, John Knoblauh, Jorge Mora, Rafa Fuentes, Don Bell, Bob Pone

‘Total Team Effort Defeats the Blue Jays and the Temperatures’

Submitted by Dale Eby, Vampires manager

(Editor’s Note: You may have noticed from the picture above that the core of this team, and their jerseys, represent the national powerhouse Team Victory, owner of 24 MSBL National Championships dating back to 2006. Dale Eby took the reins on this tournament because the team’s managers, Dave Brunette and Rafael Fuentes, were initially not able to attend, thus the name change.)

“I figured that if Rafael and Dave are not going to make it, I’ll change the name to another “V” name out of respect for them not being with us, since I am not the true manager of this team. I’m just a temporary caretaker,” stated Eby

The story of our weekend is a typical Team Victory tournament: good pitching and excellent defense. We feel that we have the most athletic defense of any 50+ team out there, which allows us to compete at the 45+ when we must. We are really strong up the middle, with John Knoblauh in center field, Don Bell and Bob Pone at shortstop and second base, and Pokey Sanchez behind the plate. It’s easy to talk about hitting stats, but our pitching and defense is what consistently wins for us. This tournament was no different. There were quite a few balls hit that would have been base hits elsewhere, and were turned into outs this weekend to kill potential rallies. Don Bell had multiple diving stops followed by strong throws to turn hits into outs. Bell and Pone turned several double plays. It’s hard to get a fly ball to drop around Knoblauh. We had four double plays turned in our second pool play game against the Great Lake Tigers. Our defense makes our good pitching that much better.

In the championship game against the Blue Jays we were fortunate to play a team that was a little worn out by an extended semi-final game. (an umpire went down, causing an hour delay in the 100 degree heat). We just had a little more depth on our pitching roster. Scott Hildebrandt threw a complete game victory in game one against the Utah Rockies (10-5), I was fortunate enough to throw a complete game victory in game two against the Great Lakes Tigers (21-5), and Rafael Fuentes (who ended up participating) threw a complete game 9-5 victory in the semi-final game against the Central Coast Tigers. That left a fresh Dave Morrow to throw a complete game victory in the championship game against the Blue Jays (18-6), avenging our loss to the Blue Jays in pool play. We were able to do this with a fairly small roster (14), and losing two players to injuries in the finals and having two players who had to leave early.

So, great defense allowed us to stretch out our pitching, and this weekend our hitting was just as good (it’s easier to throw a complete game when your team scores 21 runs). Over the five games our team had a .444 batting average (91 for 205) with eight players hitting over .400. In the first inning of the first game of the weekend we scored eight runs. This was truly a team effort up and down the lineup. In the championship game, the Vampires/Team Victory scored ten runs in the top of the third inning to make the score 15-2. Then it was just a matter of surviving the heat. By the end of the game, we only had nine healthy bodies to put on the field. We lost two to work duties, two to leg injuries in the final game, one who couldn’t feel his left arm due to pitching the morning semi-final game, and we were missing a couple of key teammates who couldn’t play with us this weekend because they had commitments elsewhere.

Our top hitters were Oscar Duran at .684 (13 for 19 with two home runs), Don Bell at .647 (11 for 17), Bob Pone at .563 (9 for 16), John Love at .556 (10 for 18), Jorge Mora at .471 (8 for 17 with a home run in the final), Manny Salinas at .444 (8 for 18), and John Knoblauh hit .421 (8 for 19). Interestingly, we didn’t have a strikeout on offense until the final out of our third pool play game, on our 137th plate appearance. Not bad.