The winner-take-all game on May 20 featured two explosive offenses in Bike Connection and Palo Alto Wealth Advisors (PAWA)–and they would not disappoint. In a high scoring affair, the offenses took center stage.
From the get-go, the offenses were firing on all cylinders. In the top of the first, PAWA got things started when Rafa Ballagas drilled a hard ground ball down the third base line that was just too hot to handle and bounded off third baseman Emmett Gruin’s glove for a hit, and the speedy Deacon Gibbs scored from second, just beating out the throw from Gruin to catcher Erik Lo. With Nate Signorello Katz now sitting on third, PAWA put another run on the board when a nasty curveball from pitcher Ian Nilsen unfortunately dove a bit early and caught the back of home plate, bouncing over the right shoulder of the catcher and Nate scored. Baadj Ahluwalia then brought home Ballagas when he drove a ball the opposite way into right field for a triple and then later scored on a single by Connor Blair.
Unphased, the Bike Connection offense did what it did all year. After Micah Satterthwaite drew a walk, Angel Ochoa put the ball in play allowing Micah to score and advancing Erik Lo to third base. The very next batter Anthony Chen repeated the feat, hitting a ground ball to SS Nate to score Erik Lo. At the end of one the score stood 4-2 PAWA.
In the second inning Bike Connection inched closer with stellar defensive play to blank PAWA in the top of the inning, and more small ball, with Jameson Helsaple plating Liam Murphy who had singled and advanced to third on two defensive miscues. In the third inning, the crowd was treated to the offensive power they were hoping to witness. With the top of the order up, PAWA appeared they had dialed in their bats. Hobb Hernandez started off the inning with a well hit ball up the middle for a single. Then Deacon Gibbs made solid contact and hit a line drive to left field, but the well positioned fielder snagged the ball to record the first out of the inning. With a runner on and a one-run lead, PAWA’s heavy hitter Nate stepped into the box but not before taking a practice swing that displayed its explosive, controlled violence. That same swing found the ball and like a cannonball shot from a cannon the ball flew over the center field fence for a 2-run HR and extended PAWA’s lead to 6-3. Seemingly rattled by the HR, Bike’s defense committed uncharacteristic errors on the next two plays allowing another run to score. But the defense settled back in and closed out the inning. In the fourth and fifth innings, Bike Connection’s defense made all the plays, including a double play on a hard ground ball up the middle that SS Micah deftly scooped up, he quickly touched second base and fired to first to end the 4th inning.
On offense, Bike continued to chip away. In the fourth inning, a double by Angel Ochoa followed by an Anthony Chen walk, a single by Emmett Gruin set the table for Liam Murphy. With two outs, Liam hit a perfectly placed ground ball just out of the reach of the pitchers reach to score an infield RBI single, beating out the throw from 2B Julie Kassel and scoring one run. The next batter Jameson Hesaple battled to draw a walk, scoring another run, making the score 7-5 after four innings.
In the bottom of the fifth, Bike Connection once again strung together hits and patient at bats to put more runs on the board. The Bike Connection offense started off with a leadoff single from Brady Pen. The next batter, Russel Huang, hit a ground ball to the first baseman to advance Pen to second. Next up, a PCL- call up, Henry Doll dug into the box and readied for the pitch from the towering Rafa. Unintimidated, he waited for his pitch and drove a ball just over Rafa’s glove and landing just out of reach of 2B Julie Kassel’s glove for an RBI single. With the top of the order up, Bike looked well poised to put some runs on the board. After drawing his second walk of the game, Bike Connection had two runners on base, and after a wild pitch advanced the runners, Erik Lo drilled a ground ball back up the middle and past the diving SS Nate for his second hit of the game and 2 RBIs to put Bike ahead 8-7. A hit by Anthony Chen put runners on second and third. It seemed Bike was ready to pile on more runs, but the inning ended when catcher Isaac Vanderlip cleanly fielded a pitch that had caromed to the back stop and placed the tag on Erik Lo as he tried to advance to home on the pitch, ending the inning and the threat.
With Bike Connection taking its first lead of the game at 8-7, the stage was set for an exciting sixth inning and Nate due up to lead off the inning. After giving up a home run to him in the sixth inning of the previous game, reliever Jameson Helsaple carefully pitched around Nate and put him on first base with a walk. But PAWA’s batters wanted to show that they were more than just the power in Nate’s bat. The next four batters reached base safely, including an RBI single by Baadj. pulling the teams even at 8, and a 2-RBI single by Connor B. to regain the lead at 10-8. The next batter, Matt Chen, hit a fly ball that got caught in the wind and forced 2B Anthony Chen to make the catch in foul territory. With his momentum carrying Anthony toward the fence, PAWA’s Guy Rudd tagged and scored from third to give PAWA another run and an 11-8 lead. With PAWA’s offense on a roll, Bike Connections defense came up big. Trying to keep the rally going, Julie came to bat and promptly poked a ball into shallow right field that looked destined for the grass, but the speedy RF Enzo Matsuzawa raced forward to snag the ball and then threw to first to double up the runner who was caught in no man’s land.
Down three in the bottom of the sixth and final inning, Bike Connection found its back against the wall. In the previous two innings, they had put five runs on the board, including three in the last frame, so another three wasn’t out of the picture–maybe even four runs were in the cards. Emmett lead off the inning with a walk. After Conor struck out the next batter, Liam Murphy knocked his third hit of the game–a ground rule double putting the tying run at the plate. Connor settled again and struck out the next batter.
Two outs, runners on second and third, bottom of the sixth, the tension in the air was evident. Ian Nilsen stepped up and fouled off two pitches, to stay alive and eventually drew a walk. Now with the bases loaded, Brady Pen found himself as the potential go ahead run. Despite what had to be a nerve-racking situation, Brady calmly stepped up–PING! He drilled a ball down the third base line … but the umpire exclaimed “FOUL BALL.” He reset, “BALL.” HE reset again–PING. This time, he hit a scorcher into right center field–one run scores, two runs score. But the third runner is held at third. With runners at first and third, Connor took a few deep breaths. His teammates circled around him on the mound, and the team leader Nate gave him words of encouragement. Facing a situation many young ball players play out in their head, Connor focused and hurled the ball home, strike one. Reset–Ball. Russel was ready to play spoiler. The next pitch came, swing …. and just missed–strike 2. Reset–Connor hurled the ball towards home, Russel focused on the ball, step, swing, whoosh … and the loud clap of the ball hitting the catcher’s mitt echoed throughout the ballpark followed by cheers for elation from the PAWA players as they rushed the mound to celebrate the 11-10 win.
It was everything anyone could ask for from a championship game and an exciting end to an amazing Spring 2023 Season.
Congratulations to PAWA on winning the title of 2023 Majors City Champions!