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The Diamondbacks topped the 45 American Division all season long. They started the season 8-0 on their way to outscoring opponents by 76 runs, the fifth best run differential in the entire Lehigh Valley Men’s Baseball League. At no point in 2017 did they have a losing record.
The Dodgers spent most of the season second-to-last in the 45 American Division. They started the season 0-6 on their way to being outscored by 56 runs, which was 12th worst in the entire Lehigh Valley Men’s Baseball League. At no point in 2017 did they have a winning record.
So of course the championship series between these two teams was a back-and-forth, nail-biting thriller that ended on a come-from-behind, extra-innings, bases-loaded walkoff drive that plated the tying and championship-winning runs.
The Diamondbacks captured their first LV MSBL title in a wild series that records and run differential never could have predicted. While the end result was the D’backs sweep that many foresaw, 9-5 and 12-11, the series was full of momentum, emotion, and excitement that turned just as quickly as the scoreboard.
Game 1 featured five lead changes, Game 2 featured five more, and in both games the lead changed in the final inning – to the Dodgers’ chagrin, they lost a final-inning lead in both games. Most dramatically, the final lead change came on the final at-bat.
Down by a run with the bases loaded in extra innings, the D’backs “hitting machine” Richie Hansen stepped to the plate with the bases loaded. His drive to right-centerfield plated Harry Figueroa with the tying run and Cleve Marshall with the winning run to capture the title.
“We’ve built a great core of guys who have become not just teammates, but also friends,” Diamondbacks Manager-Player Brian Stine said. “It took a whole team to get us to this point, to our first championship. Great team effort, everything we started practicing for in January has come full circle.”
Of the resilient opponent, Stine said, “The Dodgers came to play and we knew that they were playing at a much higher level than their record showed. The Dodgers played their butts off and proved they belonged in the championship series.”
After 5 Lead Changes, 5-Run Inning Goes Unanswered
Each time the Diamondbacks looked destined to fall to the underdog Dodgers, that’s when they rallied.
In Game 1 on Saturday, August 26, at the Dodgers’ home at Emmaus Community Park, the early and middle innings swung back and forth until it looked most dire for the Diamondbacks as they entered the final inning trailing 5-4.
But cleanup hitter Keith Hawk led off the top of the ninth inning with a bunt single, followed by free passes to Richie Hansen, Tom Brago, and Donnie Miller to plate a run. The big blow was when Tim Ybarra cleared the bases on a sharply hit ball that got past the right fielder.
The 5-run outburst ended when Ybarra scored on a passed ball that may have been aided by Jim Hoffman’s fake bunt, and the Diamondbacks closed the door in the bottom half to win 9-5.
This Time, there's an Answer -- and then Dramatics
In Game 2 on Sunday, August 27, at the Diamondbacks’ home at Laurys Station Park, the Diamondbacks faced even more dire situations – starting with allowing a 5-run first inning. The Diamondbacks trailed 6-2 after two innings and 7-5 after four before putting together a 5-run inning of their own for a second consecutive game.
The Diamondbacks carried that 10-7 lead into the seventh and final inning, three outs away from the championship – and that’s when the excitement started.
The Dodgers Chris Choiniere lead off with a walk, Ron Hack reached on an error, and Stephen Ramer walked to load the bases and bring up Dave Morris – “one of the clutch hitters in the division,” Stine said. Morris hit a bases-clearing, game tying triple to the leftfield fence.
Relief pitcher Marshall recorded two critical outs to leave Morris at third, the Diamondbacks went scoreless in the bottom half, and the game entered extra innings.
The Dodgers strung together three hits to take an 11-10 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth, but it would only set the stage for Hansen. Figueroa reached on a hot shot to third base then Marshall and Keith Hawk walked.
That brought up Hansen, who with one swing delivered the series’ 10th and final lead change and made the Diamondbacks champions for the first time.
HOW THE SERIES TURNED
There were 10 lead changes in the 2017 LV MSBL 45 American Division Championship Series