Susquehanna Valley Hitzmen 13, Buxmont Cubs 3
‘Hitzmen Capture Second Title in Three Years’
Submitted by Mike Hopwood
For this year’s Fall Classic team, manager Joe Helsel and assistant manager Harry Hitz assembled their largest active roster ever, with extra pitching depth. The rationale was simple: keep the guys fresh. With the 45+ Central championship team in 2018, the formula was deep starting pitching, solid defense, and just enough offense. With all of the weather issues early in the week condensing pool play to five games in three days, with potentially two more on the fourth day, that mindset proved to be vital.
In pool play, Scott Hiers and Greg Garner each pitched a complete game shutout on day one. Clyde Foster and Joe Lockhart also hurled impressive complete games, and the Hitzmen finished 3-2 to earn the top seed in the American playoff bracket.
Saturday’s playoffs featured Hiers and Garner on the mound again. The semi-final matched the Hitzmen with the Dallas Tigers, who won the pool play game with a 4-3 come from behind win. Hiers toed the rubber, and runs again were scarce early, with the Hitzmen trailing 2-1 after five innings. They found life in the seventh, with Lockhart knocking in a pair with a clutch pinch single.
The Tigers tied the game at 4-4 in the ninth, with an error resulting in both runs. Hiers kept going in the 10th, with a runner reaching on another error, though he was stranded. In the bottom of the 10th, the Hitzmen loaded the bases with one out, courtesy of a walk by Heyward Braddy and singles by Scott Fitzpatrick and Barry Williams. Mike Hopwood bounced into a slow roller of a fielder’s choice, but his hustle resulted in a rushed throw from the catcher for an error, and the winning run scored.
Scott Ream lead the offense with four hits, and Hiers, Fitzpatrick, Barry Williams and Jay Williams all had multiple hits.
Garner took the ball for the championship against the Buxmont Cubs. Once again, the Hitzmen found themselves trailing after five innings, this time 3-2. Three runs in the sixth gave the Hitzmen a lead they would not relinquish. For good measure, six runs in the seventh and two in the eigth put the Hitzmen comfortably ahead. In those last two innings, Helsel, Terrence Daniel, Fred Lavender, Brian Fisher, Rodrick Allen and Chris Campbell all came off the bench to contribute at the plate. Garner shut down the side in order in the ninth, and the Hitzmen were champions again. Ream, Hiers, Lockhart and Barry Williams all had multiple hits in the team effort.
Ream was named the tournament MVP. The deep roster allowed the starting pitchers to stay off the field when they were not pitching, and the results speak for themselves. Offensively, nine guys batted over .300, with Hiers’ .474 and Ream’s .450 leading the way.