Elimination bracket final: Green Blueberries 7, HN Meehan 2

After the rains that washed out all this past week’s tournament games from Monday through Friday, the skies finally cleared today so the Green Blueberries could take the field against Holy Name Meehan in the final of the elimination bracket, with the winner moving on to face 78 Steckel tomorrow in the championship game(s).

As the lower-seeded team, we batted first, and Jeremy led off by beating out a grounder to the right side that the Meehan second baseman booted. After moving to second on a failed pickoff by the catcher, he drew another overthrown pickoff, this time by the pitcher, then took off for third and was gunned down. Nathan later singled, but there was no one for him to drive in, and we ended the top of the 1st scoreless.

Dylan was, of course, on the mound for us again, and shut down Meehan’s squad 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 1st, on a flyout, a groundout, and a called strike three past tattooed Meehan catcher Brian. With another chance to score, the Berries immediately put together a rally, as Isaac beat out an infield single, Jordan G walked, and Yates lined a ball to right that skipped past the Meehan right fielder. Isaac, seeing the ball get away, headed for home — and was easily gunned down. It was, again, a costly baserunning mistake, as we only managed a walk the rest of the inning, and again went scoreless.

The Meehan hitters were as unable to touch Dylan in the 2nd as they had been in the 1st, managing only a two-out walk before another strikeout closed things out. Back to the top of the 3rd, where Jeremy delivered one of the no-doubt line shots to left that have become his trademark, then stole third to put the first run of the game 90 feet away. One out later, Nathan delivered with a hit to the right side that the Meehan second baseman couldn’t come up with, and our side had a 1-0 lead.

That’s where things remained after the bottom of the 3rd, as Dylan again allowed only a one-out walk — though the runner stole 2nd and 3rd, Dylan induced a popup to foul ground near the visiting dugout that catcher Marco easily caught for out #2, and sent leadoff hitter Anthony down looking to end the frame.

Meehan starter Tom set down our batters 1-2-3 in the top of the 4th, then leading off the bottom of the frame, drew a walk. A stolen base and a grounder back to the mound sent him to third — at which point Marco tried to pick him off, but the throw went wild into left field, and Tom easily scored. Dylan set down the next two batters with ease, but the game was now knotted at one apiece.

It didn’t stay that way for long. Dylan drew a walk to lead off the top of the 5th, and Ganden pinch-ran for him. A walk to Jeremy made it two on, and the runners moved up on Marco’s groundout to first. Nathan then hit a ball back to the mound that Tom fielded, almost threw to first, then instead threw to third to catch Ganden in a pickle. Ganden was tagged out, eventually — but kept the rundown going long enough that Jeremy and Nathan were able to advance to third and second, now with two out.

Joe Meehan visited the mound at this point, and motioned to the umpire for an intentional walk to Luke — the first time I’ve seen that in my nine years of coaching in this league. The gambit backfired, though, as Tom then plunked Isaac to force in the go-ahead run. Jordan G then delivered a ground single up the middle to drive in one more, and Yates hit a ball to third that the Meehan fielder bobbled — Meehan’s side had a tough time in the field this game — and suddenly we had a 4-1 lead.

Dylan again walked the leadoff hitter in the bottom of the 5th, but worked out of it with a soft lineout that Isaac snagged at second, an attempted bunt that Marco caught in the air for an out, and his 5th strikeout of the game. With Anthony now on in relief of Tom, we loaded the bases with two outs on two walks and an infield single in the 6th, but were unable to score.

On to the bottom of the 6th, with Dylan at 84 pitches but not showing any signs of weakening, sending the first batter down swinging. The next hitter walked and stole second, and one popout later, Brian mashed a ball down the right field line for an RBI double — the first hit off Dylan in the ballgame. Marco gunned down Brian’s ill-advised attempted steal of third, but our lead was now just 4-2, with one final inning to go.

We badly needed insurance runs, and one out later, we started working our way toward getting some, as Jordan G was hit in the back and Yates worked a walk. A second out followed, but then Roan — who’d hit two balls hard to left field earlier in the game that were both caught — turned on an inside pitch and pulled it to right, where it fell in front of the Meehan fielder for a run-scoring single, as Yates motored to third. Roan took second on defensive indifference — after I assured him he should head for second, since even if they threw down, it would gave Yates a chance to score (or so my increasingly urgent hand gestures were meant to convey) — and Dylan made Meehan pay by delivering a single to right, with Roan motoring home all the way from second to easily beat the late throw.

Now staked to a 7-2 lead but at 106 pitches, Dylan just needed three outs to nail down a trip to the championship. For the third time in the game, he walked the first batter, but got the next two to ground out weakly to the mound, tossing easily to Roan at first both times to secure the outs. Another walk followed — and then another grounder back to the mound, another toss, and after seven innings and 128 pitches, Dylan had a complete-game one-hitter, and the Green Blueberries were headed to tomorrow’s championship game(s) against 78 Steckel. 78 deMause 7, HN Meehan 2

Clearly the story of the game was Dylan’s masterful pitching performance: six strikeouts and just one hit across seven innings, plus five groundouts back to the mound and three to first base. But the rest of the team performed almost flawlessly too, fielding ball after ball flawlessly (I think this was our first game this year with no fielding errors, aside from a single misplaced throw from catcher) and pounding Meehan pitching for ten hits and seven runs. We’ve been playing terrific baseball of late, and everyone on the team should take pride in battling back to make it to the championship game the hard way, after losing our first tournament game. Whatever happens tomorrow, making it to be one of the last two teams standing — and knocking out powerhouses Shiffman and Meehan (the latter of whom had never failed to win a championship before this season) along the way — is a tremendous accomplishment; now let’s see if we can top it off by beating Steckel twice to take home a title.

Tomorrow’s first game starts at 9:30 am, and will go seven innings, no time limit; if we win that, there will be a second game immediately afterwards for all the marbles. Marco will be absent, but Emmett will be suited up — please arrive at 9 am and be ready for a wild finale to a baseball season that has already taken many unpredictable paths to get to this point. See you then!