Inland Northwest Men’s Baseball League (WA), 35+ Division
Spokane Angels 10, Spokane Hawks 5
‘All About the Defense: But Great Pitching and Big Bats Help Too!’
Submitted by Ben Helms, Angels manager
Heading into the 2018 season, the INMBL 35+ Spokane Angels had one thing in mind: Championship! After a disappointing season in 2017 the Angels returned this year determined to rebound. The Angel’s had their core group of players all returning this season, along with new additions Adam Singleton and Matt Gross.
The Angels got off to a fast start as they compiled a 6-1 record, including victories over the defending league champions and a season sweep of last season’s returning second place team. The Angels hit a rough stretch during the month of August, compiling a 2-4 record for the month, and dropped down into second place in the league standings.
Despite the setback, the Angels remained set on contending for the championship. The Angels once again began to heat up as they wrapped up the season with two straight victories to clinch the #2 seed and a first round bye in the playoffs. Angels hitters Steve Warren, Dennis Hoover and Adam Singleton all ranked among the league leaders in multiple offensive categories and with a dominant pitching staff, anchored by Lance Rickman, Abe Nisbet and Matt Liezen, the team had every reason to believe their championship goal was within reach.
Their first opponent in the playoffs were the 9-time defending champions, Cheney Tigers. The Angels had won the season series against the Tigers 2-1, but they had won the championship the last nine years in a row. With Lance Rickman on the mound to start the game, the Tigers were able to load the bases in the top of the first inning. Rickman, however, was able to work out of the jam with no runs allowed. The Angels wasted no time in the bottom of the first inning as Steve Warren launched a home run on the first pitch of the inning to give the Angels a 1-0 lead.
The Angels solid defense, along with the combination of pitcher Rickman and catcher Dan Stroud, led the Angels to an 8-1 victory, ensuring that a new league champion would be crowned.
As Championship Saturday arrived there was excitement amongst the team as they prepared for a showdown against the # 1 seeded Spokane Hawks. Although the Hawks managed to win the season series 2-1, the Angels were extremely confident coming into this game. The Angels once again got off to a fast start offensively to set the tone for the rest of the game. Steve Warren singled, stole second base, then came around to score on a single by first baseman Ben Helms to give the Angels a 1-0 lead. Third baseman and league batting average leader Dennis Hoover proceeded to blast a 2-run homer to give the Angels a 3-0 lead after one inning.
The Angels once again countered with Rickman on the mound. The Hawks would go on to score one run in the third inning to cut the Angels lead to two. However, the Angels opened up the fourth inning with a double by center fielder Abe Nisbet, who later came around to score on a single by shortstop Edgar Muniz. Following a hit batter and a fielder’s choice, Warren delivered a 2-out, 2-run double to extend the Angels lead. Ben Helms would go on to drive in Warren to extend the Angels lead to 7-1 at the end of 3-1/2 innings. The teams would trade runs over the next couple of innings and the Angels maintained an 8-5 lead after six innings.
Nisbet led off the seventh inning with a single, followed by a Muniz double to put two runners in scoring position with nobody out. After RBI’s by Rickman and Warren the Angels would go up by a score of 10-5. With the championship in sight, the Angels tightened up their defense and didn’t allow a run the rest of the way. With the help of two double plays from the middle infield combination of Warren and Muniz, our shut-down outfield defensive work of David Hoover, Abe Nisbet and Adam Singleton, and the masterful pitch calling of catcher Dan Stroud, Lance Rickman would go on to shut the Hawks down for the final three frames to cap off a complete game victory and bring the championship trophy home.
This is a relatively young team that has developed great chemistry and is primed to be in contention in this league for years to come (as long as the wives and families that come out to support them continue to allow them to keep playing the game they all love)!