Cleveland MSBL, Gold Division
Inca Chiefs 6, Steve’s Sports 1
‘2020 Domination on the Hill and at the Plate’
Cleveland’s Inca Chiefs successfully defended their championship in 2020, and this time leaving no doubts by beating perennial powerhouse Steve’s Sports 6-1 in a rematch from last year’s two championship weekend must win games. Their record against the past multi time national champs is now 5-1 in the last two years. They led the league in runs scored, runs allowed, and featured one of the top defenses in the country, featuring former college centerfielders across the outfield and former top college shortstops across the infield.
While last year featured some timely hitting and big contributions from veterans of the 14-year club, this year the next generation of Chiefs stepped up to carry load, featuring some first-year additions and some second-year players having breakout seasons. While their loaded and league best pitching staff from last year featuring Ben Pope, Jim Solano, Josh Armbruster and Tyler Finkler remained intact, many guys missed numerous games due to work and pandemic issues, leaving room for first year Chief Brent Edmonds to step in and lead the team in innings and wins.
The infield of Tyler Finkler and his former OU teammate Mateus Vekuda, along with newcomer Jason Haditsch was maybe the best in the country, and athletic big man Jonathan Tasis at first was an unstoppable combination for defensive runs saved on that infield. Newcomer Josh Chua in center was a solid addition to super veterans Mitch Zofka and Roger Prettyman. Chua led the highlight reel all year with diving catches and stolen hits in the gaps. Catcher Richard Perez led the staff from behind the plate and rounded out one of the country’s best defenses.
On offense, huge years from Perez, Tasis and Chua batting in the heart of the order were doubles machines all year, to knock in on base magicians Haditsch and Finkler at the top. Tasis had a huge no doubt grand slam in the semifinal game that put the game out of reach. Prettyman had another huge year at the plate, with veterans Hawkins, Forward, team manager Janez Ambrozic and the Henfling twins contributing with timely hits again. Vakuda and Brandetsas were great turning the lineup over and Zofka returned just in time from injury for a couple huge hits in the playoffs.
The pitching performance of the year belongs to Finkler in the championship game, after starter and winning complete game (9 innings 175 pithces) winner from last year’s championship game Josh Armbruster was forced out of the game in the third inning. Finkler moved from short to the mound with one out and the bases loaded and allowed no runs to score in maintaining a 1-0 lead. From there the will of the opponents was deflated and he rolled for five more innings of shutout baseball, mixing his new found changeup in with his 90 MPH fastball and curve to cement the win. Edmonds closed out the game in the ninth.
Tasis, Perez and Haditsch all had multiple hits for the Chiefs and Perez led with three RBIs and got the run scoring stated with a first inning, first pitch single. The hit that really put the game out of reach was an RBI triple late in the game from Chua that he subsequently scored on.
The Chiefs were the best team from start to finish on field and on the stat sheet and proved it in a no doubt playoff run to defend their championship and solidify them as the team to beat going forward. While in 2020 it was just so great to be out playing, it was even more fun to keep winning.