2017 65+ Mountain

Chicago Fire 14, Tucson Toros 3

‘Piraro Leads the Fire with Four Knocks’

By Chris Cadeau, special to MSBL

October 27, 2017, Maryvale Complex, Phoenix, AZ – The Chicago Fire erupted for eight runs in the bottom of the seventh-inning and defeated the Tucson Toros by a score of 14-3 to capture the 65+ Mountain Division of the Men’s Senior Baseball League World Series.

The Fire coupled timely hitting with solid defense to keep Tucson on its heels all morning, something Chicago manager Bart Zeller was excited for his team to display after his team fell in last year’s World Series.

“I think we had excellent defense all week,” Zeller said. “I think we won most of our games by making the routine plays and not trying to be outstanding. The guys just understood that last year we got real close, but when you walk away a loser you try to come back and win it all. And these guys did a great job of doing that this year.”

The story of the game was the Fire’s ability to manufacture six runs before the seventh inning off Toro pitching. The display wasn’t flashy either, but it was effective.

Fire Co-MVP (along with Chuck Scheidt) Andy Piraro (4 for 5, two extra base hits and three runs scored) led off the game with a double and was brought home by the Buzz Mann in the very next at bat by way of single to make it 1-0. Chicago would score a single run in each of the first six frames to take a 6-1 lead into the seventh.

For the Toros it was the inability to cash in with runners on base. Tucson stranded 10 runners in the game and four in scoring position.

The Toros would cut the lead to 6-3 with one in the sixth and two in the seventh. Bob Whitacre had the RBI single in the sixth scoring right fielder Jeff Naval. In the seventh it was a double by third baseman Steve Packer, which was followed up with a Glen Vann RBI triple and capped by a Rich Bonny RBI single in consecutive at bats.

Packer was solid at the plate for Tucson going 3 for 4 at the dish with an extra a base hit and a run scored. Packer and Naval (2 for 4) were the only Toros with more than one hit. But that’s all the offense the Toros could muster.

“We got to take our hat off to the Fire, because they played well,” Toro’s manager Mike Morales said. “We left a lot of guys on base. Unfortunately we didn’t get any real key hits. When we cut the lead down to three that was our chance, but we stranded the bases loaded and it turned the tide.”

Turned the tide indeed. Fire starting pitcher John Heinzl finished the game giving up five hits over five, and only got in deep trouble in the third and sixth inning. Heinzl was able to wiggle out of a bases-loaded-no-out jam in the third unscathed, but he would be lifted in the seventh when the Toros compiled a single, walk and a hit-by-pitch with one out.

Fire relief pitcher Chuck Heatley would pick up his starter in a big way. Heatley induced a ground ball out of the first batter he faced, Toro’s right fielder Al Pellegrini, which resulted in a RBI fielder’s choice. Heatley then followed that up with another ground ball two batters later to end the inning.

The eight run seventh saw 13 batters stride to the dish for Chicago. The Fire scored eight runs off nine singles. Tucson starting pitcher Tino Nevarez was responsible for seven of the eight runs.

Nevarez would go six and two-thirds of an inning, allowing 13 runs off 20 hits. Tino overall did a great job of pitching to contact. Chicago just sprayed the ball all afternoon. The Fire bats were peddle to the metal all game, and it was only fitting that the team from the shores of Lake Michigan came out on top in Phoenix.