2020 50+ Central
Raleigh Braves 11, Sacramento Bombers 8
‘Eighth Inning Explosion Seals the Deal’
Submitted by David Haley, Braves manager
October 25, 2020, Tempe Diablo Stadium, AZ–It is never too late to make a run at a World Series Championship as both the Raleigh Braves and Sacramento Bombers proved in the 50+ Central Division playoffs. The Sacramento Bombers (4th Seed) led by manager, Jeff Gardenhire, beat the previously undefeated Mezcal 8-2 in the semis and the #3 Seed Raleigh Braves beat the #2 seed Chicago North TSPs 10-5. The 50+ Central Division Championship set up the unlikely 3rd vs. 4th seed for a winner take all championship. The Braves went 3-2-1 in pool play and the Bombers were 3-3.
Each team took a different path to the championship. After four round robin games the Bombers had three losses and just one win, which put a lot of pressure on them to win at least two of their next three games. which they did. Raleigh, on the other hand, had a better start to the week going 3-0-1, but after losing two of their last three games, it showed them that the path to another championship was not going to be easy.
“We had a good game plan going into the round robin. Win early to take the pressure off us getting into the playoffs, and then rest our starters late in the week so they would be fresh in the playoffs.”
The 50+ Central Championship was not a disappointment. The Bombers jumped out to a two-run lead in the top of the second inning, but the Braves quickly tied it up in the bottom of the second with a big RBI double from Doug Thigpen. The Braves had a strong third inning, scoring four runs from lead-off singles from Steve Frellick, Kale Huffman, and Kenny Glanville and then a big 2-RBI double from tournament MVP, Vinny Stio. Two of those hits were well placed sacrifice bunts that the Bombers infield could not get outs on. The Bombers put up a run in the fourth to cut the lead in half at 3-6. The Bomber’s pitching then held the Braves to just one run in the next four innings, while the scrappy Bombers scored three more runs with four singles from Roses, Absure, Barnes, and Boyd to put them within one run of Braves (6-7) in the seventh.
But the Braves finally got things going again in the bottom of the eighth, scoring four runs with a big two RBI single from Frellick, and then back to back triples from Huffman and Glanville. That gave the Raleigh Braves the runs they needed to cushion a comeback attempt by the Bombers in the top of the ninth. With two runs already scored, Dan Kopitzke, who came in to relieve starting Braves pitcher Jack Myers in the sixth, got the final out with a strike out with bases loaded.
Tournament MVP Vinny Stio lead the way amongst all Braves hitters, going 13 for 24 for a .542 average, along with six RBIs, and three doubles for the week. Kenny Glanville, Hector Diaz, and Kale Huffman also had strong offensive weeks, batting at or near .500. The Raleigh Braves added nine new players to their ‘Ring Brother’ fraternity. John DeMarco, Steve Frellick, Rob Heinemann, Chris Hux, Scott McSparen, Sam Romeo, Vinny Stio, Doug Thigpen and Rob Woyicki are now part of a growing list of Raleigh Braves World Series champions.
WP: Jack Myers (5 IP), SAVE: Dan Kopitzke (4 IP), LP: Cardina (2.6 IP)
Hitting Highlights: Braves – Kale Huffman 2 for 5 (3B), Kenny Glanville 3 for 4 (2B & 3B),
Chris Hux 2 for 2, Steve Frellick 2 for 3 (2 RBI)
Bombers – Radler 4 for 6 (1 RBI), Roses 3 for 4 (1 RBI), Absure 2 for 4