Arizona MSBL, 45+ National Division

8 Man Cubs 9, Braves 8 (11 innings)

‘Gonzales Shuts the Door to Secure Cubs Championship’

Submitted by Hector R. Ortiz, Jr., Cubs manager

As a team, it was the very first year for the 8 Man Cubs.  Past history showed that new teams entering the National Division of the Arizona MSBL for the first time would normally not have a successful season in their first year.  The team accepted this challenge, along with all issues, including COVID. Due to COVID the Summer season was cut short to 12 games. With a short season, it didn’t give us much time to figure things out as a new team.

Straight out of the gate we started the season with one tie and two straight loses. The season wasn’t looking too bright but our team showed a lot of character and remained positive. We had to dig deep within ourselves and change a few things. With a few changes in the line-up and a little luck, the team went on a nine-game winning streak. 

Although we fell short in winning the division by a game, we still finished second in the division with a 9-3 record, which qualified us for the playoffs. The first team we had to face in the playoffs were the 2019 defending Champion Expos.  Our ace, Chris Nelson would start this game and be our hope of beating them. Chris pitched a complete game gem, giving up four hits while compiling 10 strike outs, two walks and only two runs, with one run being unearned.

Our offense against the Expos was led by Renee Franco, Roger Young, Keith Cuerton and Cesar Bernal, who all had two hits apiece. Eric Rakotz had a big 2-out double, with two RBI’s in the seventh inning to give us additional run support.  During the regular season we had tied this team twice. Both games ended up in 11-11 scores. The pitching performance, stelar defense and solid offense gave us the 7-2 victory and a berth to the championship game at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

Our next opponent would be the Division winning Braves for the championship title.  We had faced this team three times in the regular season, but were only able to win the final game of the regular season against them.  We knew we had to play a good game against the Braves.

Jose “Manuel” Availia would be our starting pitcher.  Jose was a tremendous pitcher for us this year and the pressure was on him to take us to the promised land.  We started off with an early two run lead but the Braves came back and scored four runs to take a 4-2 lead.

Jose pitched four solid innings, giving up four runs on five hits, all being singles. 

Enrique Borboa came in as middle relief in the fourth and kept the Braves from scoring for three straight innings. After our early lead, our bats went quiet. The Braves pitching and defense held us to two runs entering the top of ninth inning. 

All year our team had showed a lot of grit and poise but we were only three outs from losing the game. Our offense was led by Renee Franco and Roger Young, both going 3-5, so we rallied and scored six runs to take an 8-4 lead heading to the bottom of the ninth. 

With the hope of closing the game out, we brought in Chris Nelson to get the final last three outs of the game to hopefully give us the victory. However, the Braves refused to give up.  They rallied and scored four runs to tie the game up 8-8 so we were headed to extra innings. 

We caught a break in the 11th inning on a Braves fielding miscue that gave us the lead runner on base. With a big pinch-hit by Hector Ortiz, the team took a 9-8 lead into the bottom of the 11th.  Back in the ninth we had to bring in Santos Gonzales in the hopes of closing the door on the Braves.  Santos finished strong, keeping the Braves from scoring three innings in a row and leading us to a 9-8 victory for our first Championship. 

Special thanks to our dedicated fan base!  Without their support this season things wouldn’t had been the same. They showed up at every game, making noise, sounding horns, ringing cattle-bells and encouraging us all the way.  We look forward to 2021 and defending our championship title.  Go 8 man Cubs!!!