Sacramento MSBL, 35A Sunday Division

Rebels 4, Barons 3

Top row L-R: Rick Haak, Karl Jeager, Jake Miller, Chris Martin, Terry Carey, Tyrone Sackiel. Bottom row L-R: Jason Knieriem, Scott Race, Kevin Barnes, Brian Barnes, Dallas Martin, Patrick (Tico) Lopez, Steve Sharpe. Missing: JD Richey.

‘Kniernem Walk-off Hero’

Submitted by Jake Miller, Sacramento Rebels

Coming off a season where we won only seven games and struggled all year, the question was posed: Move to the 50 and over or stay in the 35’s and reload? Our manager of 20 years Brian Barnes decided to reload and bring a little youth to the team.

Over past two years we added five new players and each one turned out to be not only cool people but damn good players and now Rebel legends!

The season started bad, 0 and 2 right out of the gate but versus quality opponents. We knew what we were capable of. Four dominant wins followed. Our pitching tandem of Jason Kniernem, back after a year with the Pirates, and Kevin “KB” Barnes not only kept us in games but looked dominant at times.

The middle of the lineup started to smack the ball, too. Tyrone Sackiel, Karl Jaeger, two of our newer guys, and Toby Hodgins punished the ball. It’s around this time Tico Lopez came back into the fold. We had our guys and it was on.

We lost two games versus upper division teams by scores of 2-0 and 4-2. Our pitching was great, defense looked good we knew we had a chance to win any game against any team.

In my opinion coming into our game versus the Rays with a 4-4 record turned the whole season around. Playing on an unfamiliar field that was hotter than hell we sucked it up and came from six down to win in a walk off. Thanks Tyrone! Tyrone almost didn’t show as he just lost a family member. Someone was watching out for him that day as he hit four doubles! Jake Miller picked up the win in relief and the defense was up to the task. That’s what this team does, next man up mentality. We won five of the next six and were on our way. The only blip was a loss to our championship rival the Barons.

A special season highlight was beating our old foe the Royals, who beat us four times the year before and destroyed us in the playoffs. We returned the favor by going 3-0 against them. Love the rivalry!

Cool note: I have been a member of this team for 20 years and at one point we had myself at third, Chris Martin at short Brian Barnes at second, Terry Carey on first and Kevin Barnes on the mound: same infield we had 20 years ago minus our catcher. Our “new” catcher Scotty Race is no slouch either.

The playoffs come around and we found we were playing the Barons. They are managed by one of our old players Justin Castillo and feature our old centerfielder Kristen “cabana boy” Branton. Quality people and ball players.

We dropped game one 10-7. We were outplayed, simple as that. The Baron’s ace held us in check. One crap inning cost us the victory. So it’s on to play a double header where we had to win both games. In game one we put them away by the seventh inning. The Barons were saving their ace who had already beaten us twice in the season. The big loss for us was losing Brian Barnes, our manager and lead-off hitter/centerfielder/utility infielder, to season ending injury.

Game three was a great game. KB pitched one of his best games and I personally have probably played behind him at third in 75-100 lifetime wins. No joke! The Whisker B!

We tied it up in the eighth and then took a 3-2 lead. The Barons tied it in the ninth so we went to extra innings. Catcher Scotty Race hosed a would-be stealer at second to preserve the tie. Dallas Martin nabbed a big steal for us in the 10 th and with two outs Jason Kniernem singles with the walk off!

The thing I will always remember the most from this is we played REBEL ball for the win. NO errors, no miscues on the bases, timely hitting and a great pitching performance.

Shout out to Rick Haak for doing his usual at the plate and in the outfield. Terry Carey had his usual great year at first and starting hitting like the old Terry once I let him use one of my bats. Yeah Terry, I am taking credit for it. Steve Sharp played phenomenal defense and provided stability in the batting line up. I sure hope he is able to play with us next year.

On a final note: Goodbye to JD Richey and congrats to him on his new place in Tahoe! Smart dude. Good player and his dog is named Willie Mays! Always a Rebel my friend!