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2017 60+ Cactus

Colorado Stars 5, Inland Angels 4

‘New Stars Capture Elusive Title for Colorado’

By Russ Christ, special to MSBL

November 4, 2017, Sloan Park, Mesa, AZ-Sometimes all it takes is a name change.  The Colorado Buffaloes, with players from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins to Cheyenne, switched their name to the Colorado Stars this year and finally won a championship in Arizona.

The Stars rallied for two runs in the bottom of the eighth to beat the Inland Angels 5-4 at Sloan Park in Mesa to win the 60 plus Cactus Division of the 2017 MSBL World Series.

MVP Hal Friskey earned the win in relief of Colorado starter Jim Bazel, who pitched four scoreless innings. Friskey was also 2-2 at the plate. “Jimmy did a really nice job,” Friskey said, “and I knew I had something in the tank. It was just a matter of throwing strikes.”

Blair Gifford was 3-3 for the Stars (8-1).  He knocked in the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth and also made several key defensive plays in center field. In the top of the eighth, the Angels loaded the bases with two outs, a stressful situation for any defense. Ernest Rubio walked and Tom Maney and Jeff Madden singled. But Steve Polbrook hit a line-drive to Gifford, 62, in center field. “You could feel the tension,” Gifford, who teaches at the University of Colorado, said.

The Angels (7-2) got a key two-run double from Charlie Polk to take a 3-0 lead in the fifth. Dave Statter also doubled in the inning. But the Stars scored twice in the fifth off Inland starter Rick McGaughey and added a run in the seventh after the Angels grabbed a 4-2 lead.

Facing Inland reliever Scott Hilmes, Colorado’s eighth proved pivotal. With one out, lead-off hitter Will Malizia singled, Chuck Milo reached on an error, and Friskey was intentionally walked (with an open base) to load the bases. Greg Bertram and Gifford, who had a key SAC bunt in the seventh, singled to make it 5-4. “Blair hit the ball really well all tournament,” Friskey said, “so I knew it was going to be okay.”

The count was 0-2 before Gifford hit a ground-ball RBI single through the middle of the diamond. “I knew I had to hit it somewhere,” Gifford said. “It wasn’t hit very hard, but it was hit hard enough.”

In the top of the ninth, Ken Fleisch singled and stole second off of Friskey, but the right-hander retired the next three Inland batters to end the game.

Stars manager Terry Barton said his team was resilient. “We just kept putting up a few runs here and there and finally got ahead,” Barton said. “And then Hal closed them down in the ninth inning. We also had a great play on that pop up by our catcher on their No. 4 hitter. Hal deserved the MVP, contributing at the plate, with his glove and with the arm.”

Angels

0 0 0 0 3 0 1 0 0 —4

Stars

0 0 0 0 2 0 1 2 x —5

DP: Angels (2)

Double: C. Polk, D. Statter (Angels);

SAC: J. Nagle, B. Gifford, L. Thomas (Stars);

Key Stats: H. Friskey 2×2; B. Gifford, 3×3, RBI; L. Thomas 1×3, 2 RBI; G. Bertram 1×4, RBI; (Stars); C. Polk 1×3, 2 RBI; D. Statter 1×3, RBI (Angels)

WP: Hal Friskey

LP: Scott Hilmes