The players who didn’t start it were instrumental in ending it.
The DM Palmisano Sanitation Rangers are at the top of the Lehigh Valley Men’s Baseball League after a pair of extra-inning, comeback thrillers in the Tri-County Black & Blue Division Championship Series.
The Rangers used every part of a deep roster to defeat the upstart UMB Pirates for the crown in the LV MSBL’s elite division and the seventh championship in the Rangers 22-year history.
“This was an excellent series. The Pirates gave us all we could handle. Any time you have two games go into extras, you know you're in for a battle,” Rangers Manager-Player Jason Gonzalez said. “But my guys took what they wanted, and capitalized on every opportunity the series presented. It was a complete team effort. Every single Ranger contributed.”
The Pirates, who fell despite home runs from three players, made a third title series appearance in their three-year history but had to settle for second place for a second consecutive season. It was the Pirates’ first season in the elite Trico B&B Division.
“Congratulations Rangers on a great season and great series. Although we fell short in our quest for a championship, the season by no means was a failure,” Pirates Manager Jorge Rodriguez said. “It's simple, they won we didn't. They earned it and we'll be coming for it next summer. Recruiting season has just officially begun.”
What a Relief
The new kids on the block came out swinging. The veterans on the other side had the depth to absorb the big blows.
At Tuskes Community Park in Nazareth on Saturday night in Game 1, the Pirates scored five runs in the first three innings off of the Rangers starting pitcher. Then Josh Brietholze relieved, and things got quiet.
Brietholze allowed just two runs in the next eight innings, carrying his come-from-behind Rangers to extra innings as his batters chipped away. To get there, Marc Fish and Greg Taylor each had two RBI on two hits and Cam Kichline two RBI on three hits. Brietholze also wriggled out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam as the Pirates batted in the bottom of the ninth.
Like Brietholze, who earned the win, it was another non-starter who made a big difference in extra innings. Pinch hitter Danny DeLeon cleared the bases with a 3-run double to break an 11th inning tie. It was the big blow in a 6-run inning that gave the Rangers Game 1 by a final score of 13-7.
“I would have to say that we have co-MVPs of the championship series,” Gonzalez said. “Josh Brietholze and Danny Deleon. Those two sparked us. Josh attacked their hitters for 8 straight innings and stopped what seemingly was going to be the Pirates winning drive. Danny Deleon comes up in the 10th with the bases loaded double – biggest hit of the season.”
Walking Off Champions
The next game brought Rangers ace Daron Whitmore backed by a defense that was bolstered all season long by smooth-fielding double-play combination Henry Concepcion and Dan Gonzalez.
And the Pirates -- who had homeruns in the series from Dillon Dunne, Raul Rierra, and Collin O'Connor -- still got out in front.
At Reeders Field in Reeders, Pa., on Sunday afternoon in Game 2, the Pirates carried a lead into the final inning. But the resilient Rangers came back once again to force extra innings.
This time it was three hits from Fish, two hits and two RBI from Joe Wernimont , and an RBI each from Greg Taylor and Concepcion that got the Rangers to extras.
Then Wernimont delivered the final blow. Wernimont’s teammates rushed him near the center of the diamond after he knocked in the winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning. In a group, they hugged and jumped in a celebration of the 5-4 series clincher.
Looking for More
The Pirates, who had in sparkling inaugural season in the elite Trico B&B Division didn’t go unnoticed. Now, the LV MSBL would like to add even more teams.
“I'd like to tip my cap to the UMB Pirates,” LV MSBL Commission Ron Cahill said. “I know how much Jorge does to have a great team. I expect the UMB Pirates to be even better next season.”
“The UMB Pirates have a classy manager in Jorge Rodriguez as well as many great sportsmen on the roster. Moving from 18s to Trico B&B in just their third season and then making it this far is impressive in its own rite,” a fellow manager wrote on Facebook.
Cahill said the MSBL will strive to have more teams in the elite division next season.
“There will be more teams in the Black & Blue next season and it will be even more challenging,” he said.
For the resilient, comeback, extra-inning Rangers, that’s fine. Just so long as it ends once again with a Rangers mosh pit at the center of a diamond.