2019 25+ Central

Denver Kokopeli’s 16, L.A. Legends 8

‘Jekeb Earns MVP Status in Relief’

By Rodney Johnson, special to MSBL

October 20, 2019, Tempe Diablo Stadium – The 2019 25+ Central Championship game brought to mind Aesop’s Fable, “The Tortoise and the Hare.” In the MSBL version of the story, the L.A. Legends played the part of the Hare by sprinting to a 7-0 lead after an inning-and-a-half. The Denver Kokopeli’s stayed calm and tied the game with three runs in the second and four in the third. The Hare regained the lead in the top of the fourth but the Tortoise caught up again in the bottom of the inning. The Kokopeli’s scored a pair of two-out runs in the sixth to take the lead for good and cruise to a 16-8 championship win.

After coming to the World Series for eleven years without earning a championship ring, the win was particularly sweet for the Kokopeli’s. “We were here in the final’s last year and lost, so we were looking to make amends this year,” said Denver manager Brooks Robinson. “What has really helped us this year is having two position players at every spot so we can keep it fresh,” explained Robinson. “We do a hockey line change every couple of innings. That’s been really helpful.”

The Legends got off to a good start by working double steals of second and home in each of the first two innings. After taking a 7-0 lead in the second, Jordan Jekeb replaced Skylar Smith. With two out and two on, Jekeb struck out Jobe Lowen to retire the side. After that, it was like a different game. Jekeb allowed just one unearned run and struck out eight over the final 7.3 innings to earn the win. Jekeb was named tournament MVP.  

After the first two hitters reached in bottom of the third, back-to-back triples by Layton Marcy and Nate Cabrera pulled Denver to within one. Nick Guadanoli’s RBI groundout got the Kokepeli’s even. Each team scored in the fourth keeping the score tied and setting the stage for Denver’s late inning explosion. Nate Cabrera’s sixth inning, two-out, two-run double gave Denver the lead for the last time as the Kokepeli’s outscored the Legends 8-0 the rest of the way.

Both the Kokepeli’s and the Legends went 5-0 in pool play. “We came in here hoping to make the playoffs and we ended up gong undefeated through pool play,” said L.A. manager Jesse Davis. L.A. won two close playoff games to advance to the finals. The top seeded Kokepeli’s beat the Sacramento Generals 9-2 to earn a berth the championship game.

The Legends paid a price getting to the finals. “All of our main starters were used up, so the championship game will be an all-hands-on-deck affair,” explained Davis. They tried, but four pitchers but couldn’t stop Denver. “We’ve got a lot of great hitters and it is really tough to shut us down,” beamed Robinson.

“It took us a dozen years to get one, but we finally got our ring,” Robinson went on.  “Now we’ll be back next year to try and get another one.”

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

L.A.                             2    5    0    1    0    0    0    0    0          8   14   3   

Denver                      0    3    4    1    0    2    3    3    x          16   16   1

Pitching Line: (L.A.): Stevens; Sahagian (3); Padilla (4); Van Kooten (6). (Den): Smith; Jekeb (2).

WP: Jekeb (Denver)

LP: Padilla (L.A.)

HR: none

3B: Van Kooten (L.A.); Marcy 2 (Den); Cabrera (Den).

2B: Stevens (L.A.); Van Kooten (L.A.); Polites 2 (L.A.); Lowen (L.A.); Cabrera (Den); Rubenstein (Den). 

Leading Hitters: (L.A.): Tom Van Kooten 3×5, 3 RBI; Ryan Eastburn 2×5, RBI; Matt Polites 3×4, RBI. (Denver): Sean Fisher 2×4, RBI; Layton Marcy 3×5, 2 RBI; Nate Cabrera 3×5, 3 RBI; Blake Rubenstein 3×5, RBI; Jon Reid 3×5.

SAC: none

SF: none

SB: Van Kooten 2 (L.A.); Polites (L.A.); Eastburn (L.A.).

DP: Denver 1.

Team LOB: L.A. 11, Denver 9

Time of Game: 3:18