OC Dodgers 8, Lehigh Valley Railriders 3
Submitted by Jef Brown, Dodger’s manager
The OC Dodgers have long participated in the MSBL tournaments, including the Kickoff Classic, and this year’s team almost didn’t happen. Prior to the start of the tournament, we had several players drop, one due to a serious car accident that put him in ICU for a couple of weeks. We were able to pull things together and came to the tournament with only 14 players which as anyone knows when playing 6-plus games in three days, can be exhausting without roster depth.
Not knowing how we would perform with a limited roster, the team really pulled together, playing in honor of our injured teammate Ralph Cedillo, and we had one of the best tournaments that we’ve ever had while going undefeated at 7-0!
The OC Dodgers went 3-0 in round-robin play with runaway wins over the Las Vegas Senators, Norco Tigers, and the Spokane Bandits. In the playoffs, the OC Dodgers faced off against the Bakersfield Heat. The Heat moved out to a 7-2 lead and with a late-game surge the OC Dodgers Mark Owen, Nathan Jack, Mike Liang, and Devin LaBollita, pulled off an upset beating the powerful Bakersfield Heat, 12-9.
That set up a semi-final game with our familiar rivals and friends the Santa Ana Senators, led by Dale Eby. The game started out with the powerful hitting Senators pulling out to a 5-0 lead in the second inning, with their ace, Dave Morrow starting on the mound. Of course, Dave was amazing as always, but the OC Dodgers chipped away at the lead and scored four runs in the third to make it a close game. With the game in jeopardy, the OC Dodgers brought in Nathan Jack, who had already pitched 27 innings during the tournament to quiet the Senator’s bats. To say the least, Nate pitched with great heart and battled against a very talented team, and kept us in the game only allowing two runs through the seventh inning.
With the score 8-5 in the top of the eighth inning, the OC Dodger’s Tommy Gelatka and Brett Young started the inning off with back-to-back hits. Next up long time Dodger, Kevin King came to the plate and ripped a single, scoring Gelatka. Mike Liang pinch ran for King and immediately stole second base.
With runners in scoring position on second and third, the Skipper, Jef Brown had to pinch-hit for Nate Jack who had injured his toe the previous at-bat. With one out, Brown faced off against the hard-throwing Albert Higgs. Knowing that Higgs was going to be tough to hit, Brown swung at the first pitch and ripped a single to left field, scoring both runners. Following him, Devin LaBollita who was on fire at the plate all tournament, hit the ball over first base to score Brown for the go-ahead run. From there the amazing Lamont “Spud” Lane shut the door pitching a perfect inning to give the OC Dodgers an upset victory over the Santa Ana Senators!
In the Championship Game, the OC Dodgers faced off against the Lehigh Valley Railriders, who had pulled off an upset of their own earlier in the day against the Utah Rockies, winning 5-4. The amazing duo of Nathan Jack pitching and Kris Phillips behind the plate, who combined for more than 36 innings of work during the tournament, started the game and never looked back. Jack pitched a complete game shutting down the Railriders and only allowing three runs in nine innings. The OC Dodgers Lawrence “Q” Marshall, Joe Kowalow, Lamont Lane, Mark Owen, Kevin King, and Tommy Gelatka came out of the gate hot, combining for three runs in the first and two in the third to pull out to a 5-0 lead. Marshall had a multiple-hit game going 3-4 and King hit a double in the late innings to push the lead to 8-3. The OC Dodgers never looked back as they cruised behind Jack and Phillips to win the 45+ American Championship.
This team was nothing short of amazing this year. Everyone picked each other up, with Nathan Jack, Kris Phillips, Lamont “Spud” Lane, Joe “Doc” Kowalow, and Tommy Gelatka playing nearly every inning of the tournament. The men played with grit and heart throughout and for having a short squad, they were simply amazing! This was the most fun this team has ever had. Everyone pulled together to get the victory. It was an incredible experience!