2023 Chicks Overtake Crush for Second Milwaukee-Rock League 25+ Division Championship

Milwaukee-Rock Baseball League, 25+ Division

Chicks 8, Crush 2

‘Milwaukee Chicks Earn Second RLB 25+ Championship’

Submitted by Chris Sanders, Chicks’ manager

The Chicks took the title for the second time in the ten-year history of Rock League Baseball in 2023, ending the six-year dominant streak of the 25+ Blue Jays. The Chicks would need to beat the power-heavy Blue Jays, the Plataneros twice, and the Crush twice in double-elimination round-robin play to earn their championship.

The Chicks faced the Plataneros in round one of the tournament. Chicks starter Brandon Jeffrey kept the Plataneros at bay in the first half of the game, while the offense chipped away for six on some timely hitting by Christian Lopez and KJ Banse. Jeffrey held his ground through seven innings, giving up only seven hits and two earned runs.

The Chicks exploded for seven in the top of the seventh inning on a string of well-hit balls by Alex May, JT Schnieder, Austin Toth, and was capped off by a loud 2-run home run from Lopez. Toth pitched the final two innings in what would be his first of many late-inning appearances this tournament.  Final score: 19-2 Chicks.

Next up for the Chicks was league rival Blue Jays in round three of the tournament. The two teams faced off countless times, and all tournament series thus far ended with the Chicks coming up short in the end. This game would turn out to be different, as the power-heavy Blue Jays lineup had no answer for Chicks’ ace Austin Higgins, who went the distance giving up only four hits, striking out five and walking none.

The Chicks defense was exceptionally solid on the day, committing no errors and coming up with some outstanding plays when the Jays offense was threatening. KJ Banse, Jrue Acosta, and Tanner Johnson each had three hits, and Andrew Abromaitis chipped in two RBI. Final Score: 10-0 Chicks.

Round five would see the Chicks face off against the Crush for the third time in the season, with the two teams split 1-1 going into the game. Crush ace Ryan Kussmaul would face off against Higgins for the entirety of the game, with both pitchers handing in dominant performances. Kussmaul would finish with three hits, 14K, and two walks, against Higgins’ seven hits, 11 Ks, and two walks. The Crush were able to score one in the top of the ninth on a timely hit by Kussmaul. Final Score: 1-0 Crush.

The Chicks loss moved them to the loser bracket, and they faced another game against the Plataneros in round six to earn a trip to the finals. Plataneros had eliminated the Blue Jays in round four and were hungry for a chance to move on in the tournament. Brandon Jeffrey took the start for the Chicks, while Plataneros sent Roberto Collazo to the mound.

The Chicks jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first inning on singles from Schneider and Banse, followed by a double down the left field line from Toth. Plataneros would answer in the second with three of their own, taking the lead at 4-3. The Chicks would storm back in the top of the third, scoring five on key hits from Abromaitis, Lopez, and Johnson. Jeffrey would exit in the fifth for Toth, who pitched the final four innings of the game, allowing only one hit, with 4Ks and no walks. Final Score: 10-7 Chicks.

The Chicks went into the finals with one loss, against a Crush team who were undefeated in the tournament thus far. Game one saw Austin Higgins face off against veteran hurler Pete Kundinger of the Crush. Once again, the Chicks jumped out to an early lead, plating four runners in the top of the first on a lead-off double from JT Schneider and a 2-RBI single from Tanner Johnson. The Chicks would follow that up with a 3-run second inning on RBI singles from Austin Toth and Eli Roundtree. Higgins would go the distance again, scattering six hits, two earned runs, and 12Ks with one walk. Final Score: 7-3 Chicks.

In the winner-take-all game, the Chicks would send Brandon Jeffrey to the mound versus Matt Lang for the Crush. The Crush would score one in the top of the first, but the Chicks answered back with two of their own in the bottom on a 2-run home run from Abromaitis. The Chicks would score two more in the fourth on some clever hitting from Matt Gowin and JT Schneider, and then two more in the seventh with a solo bomb from KJ Banse, and a double from Christian Lopez.

Chicks starter Jeffrey would leave the game in the seventh, allowing only four hits and one earned run, striking out eight and walking one. Austin Toth would pitch the final two, closing the door on the Crush and clinching the title for the Chicks. Final Score: 8-2 Chicks.

Chicks players unanimously voted Austin Higgins as the playoff MVP. His pitching line for the tournament was:  Three games, 27 innings pitched, 17 hits, four earned runs, 28 strikeouts, and three walks.