Aurora Tigers 4, Indians 0
(Aurora, IL) – The Aurora Tigers grabbed the 2021 Chicago Central MSBL 43 & Over Championship for the third straight year. The Tigers (17-5) took the best two-out-of-three title series from the Indians winning the decisive third game 4-0 behind the stellar pitching of Matt Fenn. The title is the fifth in seven years for coach John Sudges’ crew, with a pair of runner-up finishes (2015 & 2018) as well in that span. Over the last seven years, the Tigers have compiled an impressive mark of 132-26 overall, going 53-8 the last three seasons, a winning percentage of 87 percent. Aurora finishes 2021 leading the league in total runs scored, runs per game, hits per game, team batting average, and lowest team earned-run-average.
On a sweltering Saturday, August 28, the teams engaged in a back and forth battle in game one. The Indians eventually won it when they scored five times in the top of the seventh inning to erase a three-run deficit and pull out a 9-7 victory. The Indians led 1-0 after one inning before the Tigers went ahead 2-1 in the second. A three-run top of the fourth put the Indians back in front at 4-3 before the Tigers answered with two runs in the bottom half of the frame for a 5-4 lead. They tacked on insurance runs in the fifth and sixth and appeared destined for victory with three outs to go and a 7-4 lead. However, a leadoff triple by Tim Cooney sparked the Indian’s bats as they rallied to take the lead with the aid of two Tigers’ errors and clutch singles by Chris Oliva and William Powell. The Tigers did not go down without a fight in the bottom of the seventh as they loaded the bases with only one out. But a sinking line drive to right by Bobby Gillespie was snagged and the runner doubled off second base to end the game. Joe Zurawski led the Tiger’s offense by going 2 for 3 with a double, a walk, and two runs scored. Leadoff hitter Mike Toma also went 2 for 3 with a double, a walk and a run scored.
Despite a heat index of 98 degrees Fahrenheit, the Indians carried that momentum into game two scoring three runs on five consecutive hits to begin the bottom of the first inning. However, after that Tigers’ starter Tom Mangan cooled off the Indians’ bats the rest of the way scattering four hits while striking out four and retiring 19 of the next 24 batters he faced. The Tigers regrouped on offense and blew the game open with three runs in the third and four in the fourth to grab a 10-3 lead. A two-run single by Gillespie and a run-scoring double by Mike Trimarco highlighted the third, while a two-run single by Mark Nilles keyed the fourth frame. Aurora completed the rout by scoring six times in the top of the seventh on the way to a lopsided 16-3 triumph to force a winner-take-all third game the next day. Nilles finished the game 4 for 5 with five runs driven in and three runs scored, while Toma ended the game 2 for 4 with a double, a walk, and two runs scored.
The next morning rain showers caused a 30-minute delay to the start of game three. The Tigers scored shortly thereafter on a two-out single by Nilles to plate Toma in the bottom of the first. In the top of the third, the Indians’ bid to knot the score was thwarted when right fielder Lou Perez gunned down the potential tying run at the plate with catcher Mike Stout tagging out Mark Nienhuis. Aurora tacked on another run in the third courtesy of a pair of two-out errors by the Indians. The Tigers went ahead 3-0 in the fifth when Mangan laced a one-out double and scored moments later on a pair of wild pitches. Meanwhile, the Tigers’ Rick Eertmoed stymied the Indians’ bats three innings in a row. The third baseman made a diving, backhanded stop and throw from one knee to end the fourth, with a stretching Gillespie making an outstanding scoop at first base. Eertmoed then started an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play in the fifth with Sudges making the turn at second base. In the sixth Eertmoed snagged a line drive to begin the inning. It turned out to be a key play as the Indians eventually loaded the bases with two outs before cleanup hitter Mike Delattre lined out to Toma in center field to end the threat. In the bottom half of the frame, Aurora added a fourth run courtesy of an error, a stolen base, a wild pitch, and an infield ground out. Down to their last out in the top of the seventh, the Indians loaded the bases on a pair of walks and an error. Representing the potential tying run, Oliva grounded out to Sudges at second base to end the game and clinch the title for the Tigers. Fenn finished with a 4-hit shutout, allowing only one hit after the third inning on the way to picking up his fourth win of the season. The right-hander overcame some control issues late in the game as he hit three batters, and walked two over the final three frames.
(2015) 20-5 lost to Warriors
(2016) 24-2 (44-7) ***beat Woodpeckers Trimarco & Moga
(2017) 20-3 (64-10) ***beat Indians Trimarco & Moga
(2018) 15-8 (79-18) lost to Woodpeckers
(2019) 20-1 (99-19) ***beat Islanders Trimarco & Johnson
(2020) 16-2 (115-21) ***beat Yankees Trimarco & Mangan
(2021) 17-5 (132-26) ***beat Indians Mangan & Fenn