Sacramento MSBL, 50+ Sunday American Division
Fighting Chihuahuas 13, Indians 9 (Game two in best of three series sweep)
Submitted by Bill Morales, Chihuahuas manager
It might be tempting to focus solely on the play-by-play of the final game in the best of three championship series of 2021, but that would be missing a huge part of the two-year Fighting Chihuahuas’ championship journey.
You see, the team was brought together just as the world was coming apart. While some of us were able to meet informally in the fall of 2019 for a “new” team barbeque, by the time play was to begin in the spring of 2020, we didn’t even know if there would be a season. As information about the seriousness of COVID spread, some members of the team were not sure about playing while others felt that the threat was exaggerated. While the disease became politicized around the country, that didn’t happen in the Fighting Chihuahua’s dugout.
Although there is a wide range of opinions on the team, every player worked to understand the concerns of others and adjust to make the atmosphere as comfortable as possible for everyone involved – not an easy feat considering many of the players had never met before that year.
The 2020 season was odd, with games sporadically spaced so that there might be games in back-to-back weeks, and then not another for a month – making it a challenge to stay in playing shape throughout the extended season.
One thing that wasn’t a challenge was the growing enthusiasm of the Lady Chihuahuas, the (much) better halves of the team. Whether a game was won or lost, players could count on an enthusiastic crowd dressed in Chihuahuas gear while they played and a positive welcome to a beer and snacks afterward (last out of the previous game, had to bring beer for the following post-game gathering). Each week that there was a game, the Lady Chihuahuas worked together to plan something special for both the crowd and ballplayers. In that first year, there was an after-game barbeque after nearly half the games and a socially-distanced backyard celebration in November after losing in the first round of the playoffs to the eventual champions that year.
In 2021, things went a bit smoother. With a season under our belt, adding some new talent to the roster, and a more consistent schedule, the Fighting Chihuahuas got off to a successful start – winning all the games in their division, picking off a National Division win, and giving all teams a competitive challenge. The Lady Chihuahuas kept the social sideline atmosphere going, with mimosa bars for morning games and themed potlucks for midday and late afternoon cheering.
And then came a double-header to end the season against who we thought we might meet in a few weeks for the championship, the Indians. It was the first match-up among the two teams leading the American Division, a chance to size each other up. To put it mildly, it was a humbling experience for the Fighting Chihuahuas who lost both games that day, 6-3 and 13-8. It was a tough day, however, we knew we could learn from our mistakes. We reflected on what led us to come up short – lack of discipline at the plate, mental defensive errors, letting up when ahead, and for myself, not being the manager the Chihuahuas needed me to be that day.
Like the plot of a movie, we had an opportunity to redeem ourselves against our nemesis, the Indians in the American Division Championship. In the first game of the best of three-game series, we played our best defensive game of the year, logging zero errors. Despite that, it was still a close match-up. In the bottom of the eighth, the Indians seized the momentum, scoring two runs to close the gap to 6-4. After a brief pep-talk, we answered back with two more runs in the top of the ninth to reclaim the momentum and took game one, 8-4.
Before game two, the pre-game talk was about staying involved, patience at the plate, and finishing the season that day with a new shirt and cold beer. The lead changed several times, and it didn’t look like we would come out ahead as we were down 7-6 when we came up to bat in the bottom of the eighth. Coach Billy Mo rounded the Chihuahuas together and said “I don’t want to bat in the ninth, let’s take care of business now”! We scored seven runs, taking the lead and the championship game 13-9.
It’s been an incredible ride our first two years as a team and we look forward to continuing to grow and improve!