2017 Father/Son Zona

Las Vegas 8, Utah Utes 7

‘Vukasin’s Third Hit is Walk-off Variety’

By Jason P. Skoda, special to MSBL

October 29, 2017, Fitch Park, Mesa, AZ – Jake Vukasin had it easy on the stand-up double and triple. He coasted in without much drama. A little out of breath, maybe, but good to go. It was the game-winning infield hit for Las Vegas that left him prone on the ground before teammates, including his brother and father, rushed to him to make sure he was in one piece.

He wasn’t walking off anything right away, but the team did for an 8-7 comeback win Sunday over the Utah Yutes for the title in the Father/Son Zona Division. “I just knew I had to beat it out, and that first baseman was straddling the bag, and I flipped over his leg,” the 26-year-old said. “I was stunned and I’ll feel it tomorrow, but it feels pretty good right now.”

Everything feels pretty good when the hustle down the line leads to your first MSBL World Series title. “It’s great to finally get one, especially for those guys who have been doing it longer,” said Vukasin, who was named MVP by his team.

It was the fourth time in eight years that Las Vegas made the championship and the first time everyone had to know their ring size. “We’ve had some tough luck in the championship game,” Las Vegas manager Robert Moore said. “We’d lose a close game and give up the lead late. This time we got it done in the last inning.”

Las Vegas trailed most of the game as Utah scored two in the first inning, including an RBI double by Carson Angeroth, and eventually led 5-2 after three innings. Las Vegas tied it in the fourth on a Vukasin double.

Utah, which won four in a row to get to the title game, went 4-2 on the week with both losses coming against Las Vegas. They went ahead in the seventh on a two-run double by Duane Lee. “We added a few there late, but not enough,” said Utah manager Riley Miles, who went two for four with a run. “It’s hard losing like that, but it was a great tournament. We played well, but they were a little better.”

Las Vegas, which won both meetings against Utah including an 18-3 win to start the tournament, added one in the eighth off Pierce Kettering before Vukasin’s heroics in the ninth.

The ninth started with Benny Lloyd getting a walk, stealing second and advancing to third on the throwing error at second by the catcher.

Kettering was able to get two outs, but then hit John Dillard, who stole second. With a 2-2 count,Vukasin hit a hard grounder to shortstop where it took a high hop and forced the short stop to adjust at the final moment.

It was just enough to make it a close play, and Vukasin beat it out. As the first baseman collected himself after the close call and collision, Dillard came around to score the winning run on the play.

“That was great awareness to keep running,” Moore said of Dillard’s winning run. “He just kept coming and that gave us the win.”

The win allowed the fathers and sons to celebrate together. It’s one of the reasons the father/son division is the most popular. Vukasin had a chance to share it with his dad,JD, and older brother, Shane.

“This is my Christmas,”JD said. “I love coming to this event. Sharing this with my two sons is pretty incredible. It’s even better because (Jake) had the game winner. This is pretty special.” Miles, who said they discussed walking Vukasin, decided against it because Kettering was struggling with his control. “It would have been great to win it, of course, but this was a great chance to play with the kids all week,” he said. “You can’t ask much more than that. We had a great time and created some memories.”

Team                    1  2 3 4 5 6  7 8 9     R  H  E

Utah                      2 0 3 0 0 0  0 2 0      7 13  3

Las Vegas            1 0 1 3 0 0  0 1 2       8  8   2

W – R. Martin. L -P. Kettering. Save – None. D. Lee, P. Kettering (5) and T. Campos. S. Espinoza, Green (3), S. Vukasin (3), L. Bergren (6), R. Martin (9) and J. Espinoza, R. Martin (3), Tampke (8).

2B – C. Angeroth, D. Lee, J. Vukasin.

3B – C. Angeroth, J. Vukasin.

Leading Hitters: U – R. Miles 2×4, run, P. Kettering 2×5, run, C. Angeroth 2×4, run, 2 RBI, 2B, 3B. P. McCuiston 3×5, run, 2 RBI. D. Lee 1×5, 2B, 2 RBI. LV – J. Cruz 2×4, run, RBI, Dillard 1×4, 2 runs, RBI, J. Vukasin 3×4, 2B, 3B, run, 2 RBI.

SB: U – R. Miles 2, Campos,

LV – J. Cruz 2, Lloyd, Moore, Dillard, Green, A. Cruz. WP – Green.

Game time: 2:58.