Peoria Pirates 7, Vegas Knights 2
Submitted by Mike Kraft, Pirates manager
The Pirates from Peoria, Illinois were matched up against the Knights of Las Vegas, Nevada in a championship game on a beautiful October Friday afternoon in Mesa. As a bonus, each team was treated to watching a well-played 70+ playoff game before the start of their championship game.
Toeing the rubber to start the game for the Knights was hard throwing McCloud, already a winner of two games during the week, including a complete game gem in the preceding day’s playoff game. I was also seeking my third win of the week on the bump, and was fortunate to have had my teammates Todd Musick and Doug Wolfe combine for a stellar outing in their 7-3 first round playoff win over the Connecticut Navigators the day before.
The Pirates struck first with two runs in the bottom of the second inning, with singles by Rene Rubio and Jim Linehan before a first pitch line drive double to the left field corner by Dave Owen. However, the Knights responded immediately in the top of the third inning, knotting the game at 2-2 with singles by Galuppa, Deaver and Lakin.
Likely due to McCloud’s fatigue from pitching the day before, the Las Vegas manager then entered the game on the mound with his crafty change of pace throwing style, mostly keeping the Pirates off balance for the rest of the game.
In the third inning, the Buccos took a 3-2 lead with a single by Mike Albers (3-4, 2 RBI’s and a run) knocking in Tye Elliott, who along with Eric Pennes swiped numerous bases during the week and started many rallies from the top of the order. Peoria added another run in the fourth inning with singles by Rene Rubio, Todd Musick and Chris Nicholson. Knowing that no lead is ever safe, the Pirates plated two more in the fifth inning on a double by Elliott, single by Albers and a bases clearing double by Jim Rathbun (game high 10 assists at SS), extending their lead to 6-2. The Pirates were thereafter stymied by Vegas pitching, which allowed only one more run in the eighth inning on a double by trusty backstop George Kruzick and a run scoring hit by Wolfe.
With a strong defense behind me and heady pitch calling by Kruzick, I was able to go the distance and hold the Knights to just the two runs allowed in the third inning.
Peoria would not have been able to reach the championship game without the two strong pitching performances by Theron Melrose, exceptional power hitting by 66-year old fountain of youth Randy Cihlar, the fleet footed John Rubio tracking down all fly balls that came his way and the hard-nosed play from Kevin Wheelwright who unfortunately had to leave earlier in the week due to injury.
During this year’s World Series, the Pirates were joined by their four new compatriots from Sonoma County and Sacramento, those being Pennes, Nicholson, Wolfe and Dave Giugni. Dave played very well during the week and, as a bonus, shared several new post-game drink refreshment options with his new brethren from Illinois. We also want to thank their manager Steve Solis and scorekeeper Dan Wolfe for joining us and helping out.
A good time was had by all. And a championship was won by their efforts!