Connecticut National MSBL 25+
Monroe Top Hats 1, New Canaan Cannons 0
‘Monroe Top Hats Repeat as Champs; Win Title for 5th time in 11 Seasons’
Submitted by Jason Moss, Top Hats manager
A tough regular season hindered by injury and a “championship hangover” left the Monroe Top Hats with a 10-8 record and the #4 seed in the playoffs, out of 8 qualifiers. In order to repeat as champs, the Hats would have to grind through three rounds of best-of-3 series.
In round one, the Top Hats overcame the scrappy Bridgeport Royals, completing a 2-game sweep. For those of you who recall last year’s championship run, an important theme was the dominance of ace pitcher Frank Fedak. This year would prove to be no different, as Fedak would lead the way with a 7-strikeout, complete-game effort in the Top Hats’ 11-2 win. Catcher Brian Rojee and shortstop Hunter Phillips paced the offense with 3-RBI efforts in games one and two, respectively. The Hats won game two by a score of 11-7 with center fielder Adam Claire contributing two hits, two runs scored, and an RBI.
The Top Hats faced the #1 seed Newtown Outlaws in the semifinal series, earning another 2-game sweep. In game one, Fedak would strike again, holding the Outlaws to two runs over 8.1 innings. Phillips relieved Fedak, facing two batters and striking out both to preserve the victory. In game two, the Top Hats won 5-2, with Phillips delivering the big blow, a 2-run, bases-loaded double as part of a 5-run second inning. Right fielder Jeremy Meady made a clutch running grab in the sixth inning to thwart the Outlaws’ best comeback attempt. Brian Rojee contributed a hit and RBI and left fielder Steve Brink added a hit and a run scored to bolster the offensive attack.
The championship best-of-three would pit the Top Hats against the deep and talented New Canaan Cannons, the #2 seed. In game one, Fedak would take the mound for the Hats and stifle the Cannons offense, allowing one earned run over nine innings and was perfect through 6.1. Offensively, second baseman Jason Moss got the scoring started in the second inning with a 2-run home run. Phillips, Rojee, DH Ryan Nelson, Brink, and Moss had multi-hit efforts for the Hats. Nelson and Moss each drove in three to pace the 8-1 win.
Game two was a mirror image, with New Canaan jumping ahead early and completely controlling the game, cruising to a 10-1 victory. Chris Tuba and Clemente Alvear pitched well in relief, preventing the mercy rule and forcing the Cannons’ starter to throw a complete game.
Out of options, the Hats once again turned to Fedak in game three, on roughly 27 hours rest. Fedak would turn in his best effort of the season, throwing a complete-game shutout while allowing only three hits. The game was locked at zero until the sixth inning (out of 7). Leading off for the Hats, Meady would take first base on an HBP and later advance to second on a wild pitch. With two outs, Phillips continued his clutch hitting, drilling an RBI single to left, scoring Meady. In the bottom of the sixth, third baseman Bryan Connolly robbed the Cannons’ Wally Hurd of a 2-out double with a spectacular diving play. The Cannons would single with two outs in the seventh, but we were unable to mount a rally. Brink squeezed a shallow fly ball to left to secure the 1-0 victory and the championship for the Monroe Top Hats.
For the playoffs, Fedak threw 33.1 of 55 total defensive innings, with a 1.35 ERA, 16 Ks, and only two walks. Phillips slashed .467 / .500 / .667 to lead the offense. Hat tips to Rojee for catching all 55 innings and Jeff Rago for playing all over the diamond to keep the defense from springing any leaks.
Special thanks to long-time Top Hat Tommy Banca for his loyalty, enthusiasm, and willingness to play any role the team needed throughout the season.
The 2021 championship was the Top Hats’ ninth in 21 seasons of existence and fifth in the last 11.