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2019 Father/Son Zona

Ranch Blue Dogs 7, Utah Utes 5

‘Championship Dedicated to Scotty Lewis’

By Russ Christ, Special to MSBL

October 26, 2019, Tempe, AZ – A Father/Son Zona championship game that looked like it might end without any drama instead got frenetic in the final frame. Trailing 7-5 in the top of the ninth, the Utah Utes loaded the bases with no outs against reliever Trent Lewis of the Ranch Blue Dogs. Duane Lee reached on a single. Zac Privett dropped a bunt down the third base line for his fourth hit of the game. A few pitches later Zane Dumont  was aboard on an error.

But Lewis, a righty, recovered rapidly, slowing the surge of baserunners by striking out the next two batters. Finally, he induced Randy Miles, the Utes’ manager who had two hits in the game, to fly out to short center field to end it. What followed was a celebration at home plate by the Blue Dogs—the trophy raised above the mob. And the win, dedicated to Scotty Lewis, the manager’s (Todd Lewis) son, produced many smiles. Scotty Lewis was a teenager with disabilities who loved sports, competition, and his extended Lewis family.  He passed away three-and-a-half years ago. The Ranch Blue Dogs were named in his honor.

Todd’s dad, Val Lewis, who helped form the MSBL’s Father/Son Division in 1998, summed it up best. Val kept the scorebook during the championship game. And his eyes lit up before it started when asked about his grandson. “His favorite food was ranch dressing,” Lewis said. “He put it on everything he ate. And his favorite TV show was Blue Dogs, so we named the team after him.”

BELL CLAN OFFERS BIG BOOST

While the Lewis family, who live in Northern California, started the Blue Dogs, they relied on another family, the Bell clan, to play a major role this year. The four Bell brother’s played high school baseball in Texas, but most of them hadn’t competed much since moving to Utah.

There was Justin Bell, the starting pitcher, lead-off hitter and fastest guy on the field. There was Jeff Bell, his 62-year-old father, who doubled as a pinch runner. The pair combined to pitch the first eight innings. Josh Bell, Justin’s brother, caught the entire game, and was 2-4 at the plate. Another sibling, Jeremy Bell, played shortstop, hit fourth, walked and singled. Yet another brother, Scott Bell, was ill. He watched the game from a horizontal position near the dugout.

While Jeff earned the win, allowing four hits from the fifth through the eighth, he was the beneficiary of his brethren. In the seventh, with a man on first and one out, Randy Miles, vying for his third hit, drilled a hard ground ball up the middle. Justin, now playing second, used his speed to reach what looked like a sure single, and flipped the ball to Jeremy. The shortstop stepped on second and gunned it to first for a scintillating 4-6-3 double play. Josh, of course, contributed by calling the pitch.

“It’s been 40 some odd years since I pitched,” Jeff Bell said. “But what I really enjoyed was being out here and watching my kids play.”

The Yutes, despite a poor first inning, were never out of the game. They scored two runs off Justin Bell in the third and two more in the fourth. They added another run off Jeff Bell in the fifth. Miles and Duane Privett knocked in runs with hits. After playing shortstop for four innings, Zac Privett kept it close by striking out eight of the 13 batters he faced. In four innings of work, Private shut down the Blue Dogs.

Initially, the game looked like it might be a blowout. The Blue Dogs (6-0) scored five in the first and two in the fourth, jumping on Lee, the Utah starter who ended up pitching four innings and allowing all seven runs. Big hits by Justin Bell, Josh Bell and an RBI double by Trevor Fox helped get the Blue Dogs going. Craig Lewis was also 2-3.

“The Bell’s are amazing,” Todd Lewis said. “They played all the important positions for us. They are a great family and it was neat to have them all on the field at the same time.”

For the Utes, Zac Privett, Utah’s lead-off hitter, was 4-5. Tom Campos was 2-3 and Austin Lee was 3-4.  Despite out-hitting the Blue Dogs, the Utes couldn’t overcome the ninth-inning recovery of Trent Lewis, and a bit of luck or inspiration from Scotty Lewis. All of it may have helped the Blue Dog’s earn back-to-back championships. “Yes, the team is named after him,” Todd Lewis, Scotty’s Dad, said. “He’s an inspiration for me and my family. We miss him. I think he helps us out.”

Meanwhile, the Utes (4-2) will have to wait until next year for another chance. “In both of these championships they’ve had the tying runs on base in the last inning,” Todd Lewis said.

Double: C. Lewis, T. Fox (Blue Dogs)

DP: Blue Dogs

SAC Fly:  Justin Bell (Blue Dogs)

SAC Bunt: S. Miles (Utah)

HP: C. Lewis, D. Fox (Blue Dogs), Z. Dumont (Utah)

Key Stats:  Josh Bell 2-4, Jeremy Bell 1-2, T. Lews 1-3, Z. Newbold 1-2, RBI (Blue Dogs); Z. Privett 4-5, R. Miles 2-5, RBI, T. Campos 2-3, RBI, A. Lee 3-4, D. Privett 1-1, 2 RBI (Utah)

WP: Jeff Bell

LP: Duane Lee