2020 35+ Cactus
California Reds 9, Tucson Longhorns 8
“We Started from the Bottom, Now We Are Here” – Cesar Paez, Red’s manager
The California Reds were led by first year Manager/Pitcher Cesar Paez and Coach/OF Joe Moose. The California Reds entered their first tournament with players primarily from Southern California to go along with local players from Phoenix, Arizona, Las Vegas, Nevada and Puerto Rico.
The Reds finished pool play with a record of 3-3 with victories over the Tucson White Sox (WP Rawell Rivera) and the Puget Sound Nights (WP Rob Williams). The Reds came into the final day of pool play sitting at 2-2. The Reds dropped the first game of the double-header to the Minneapolis North Stars, putting them at 2-3. The Reds, now desperately needing a win while keeping their runs down, came out on top versus the Oklahoma Vipers and clinched a “Playoff Berth”. The winning pitcher was Ryan Masi.
Coming into the Playoffs as the #8 seed the California Reds went toe to toe with the #1 seeded Long Island Twins. In a back and forth battle the Reds starting pitcher Rawell Rivera pitched a brilliant 10 1/3 innings, allowing four runs, two unearned, while striking out eight. In the 10th, Rivera was pulled due to the number or HBP allowed. Manager Cesar Paez entered the game in relief. Paez, with no outs and a runner on first, was able to get out of the 10th inning jam keeping the Reds hopes alive. In the top of the 14th still tied 4-4, the Reds had a runner on second with two outs. The Twins elected to pitch to hot hitting left fielder Ramiro Perez with first base open. Perez hit a line drive single up the middle past a diving second baseman to score shortstop Lupe Castanon for the go ahead run. In the bottom of the 14th Paez was able to strike out the final batter of the game on a 10 pitch at bat. The California Reds pulled off the upset in 14 innings winning 5-4. Winning pitcher Cesar Paez went 4 2/3 innings giving up zero hits while not allowing a run.
The Reds sent out Ramiro Perez in the Semi-Final against a very tough and talented Lakeville Lobos team from Minnesota. In another back and forth battle the Reds were able to pull off the victory with clutch hits by Scott Mitchell, Manny Martinez and Ernie Nuno Jr., Ramiro Perez, Ryan Masi and closer Mario Rodarte combined to hold the Lobos to four runs. California Reds 9, Lakeville Lobos 4 (WP) Ramiro Perez.
The California Reds battled the Tucson Longhorns for the 35+ Cactus division Championship Saturday morning. Drew Padilla got the call for the Championship game. With the Reds pitching staff on fumes, Padilla was able to give the Reds 5 2/3 of quality innings. The Reds came out swinging, putting up seven runs early and led by five runs in the sixth.
The Tucson Longhorns battled back with a rally of their own. California Reds reliever M.J Pike came into relief and shut the Longhorns down for three innings. The Reds, up by two runs in the ninth, called upon Rawell Rivera, who already had pitched 17 2/3 innings, to close out the game. The Reds defense committed two crucial errors in the bottom half of the inning allowing Tucson to tie the score 8-8. The Reds once again battled back to take the lead on a sharp single by first baseman Scott Mitchell in the top of the 10th. Rivera came back out in the bottom half of the 10th inning shutting out the Longhorns in order 1-2-3 and giving the California Reds their first World Series Championship! Pitcher Rawell Rivera was awarded the Tournament M.V.P.
Manager Cesar Paez was asked directly after the game by MSBL President Steve Sigler how he felt winning his first World Series Championship. “A lot of hard work was put in by myself and Joe Moose to get this team together. We fought until the last day of pool play to grab that final 8th seed. Beating the #1 seed in extra innings in the first round of playoffs definitely gave us momentum going forward. We never looked back”.
Paez also mentioned how extremely proud he was of his guys. “We played together as a team from game one. The chemistry was there from the get go. No egos, no selfishness. We played for the name on the front of the Jersey, not the name on the back. I’m extremely proud of this group and I’m excited to take this Trophy back home with me to Corona, California”.