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PLAYOFFS (1st round): Plugs Walk Off Goats, Phillies Eliminate Wonders

Jeff Whitehead delivers a pitch against the Fainting Goats in first round playoff action at Herlihy Wednesday night.

Goats 3

Plug Uglies 4

The 2022 TNB+50 playoffs got under way Wednesday night at Herlihy Field as the Fainting Goats and the Plug Uglies faced off in Round One. Tom "TC" Conway toed the rubber for the Goats while Jeff Whitehead started for the Uglies. The game turned out to be a TNB+50 classic, featuring a pitching duel between two crafty hurlers, some great fielding, smart heads-up baseball and a walk-off finale.

It was unclear how much the Uglies could count on Whitehead, who had been out with an injury for the previous 3 weeks. The action got started in the top of the first with two outs when Hector Arroyo reached on a fielder's choice, followed by a Todd Neumann double. John "Troop" Waitekus hit a single to score Arroyo followed by another single from manager, Stu Clark to score Neumann. The Uglies got a run back in the bottom of the 1st after Bill Evans hit a double and scored on an error (one of just two errors committed all evening for both teams). After one it was the Goats 2, Uglies 1.

From there, the Goats coasted, turning double plays, stranding Ugly runners on base, playing solid defense behind a great pitching performance from Conway. Through six innings he kept the Uglies at bay, giving up 3 hits, with 1 strikeout and a walk.

On the other side Whitehead pulled it together after a shaky first inning and pitched a gem of his own, giving up 5 hits, striking out 3, 2 earned runs and going the distance. Though the Goats scored another (unearned) run in the 4th the Uglies starter kept his team in the game and within striking distance.

Everything was going right for the Goats right up to the bottom of the 7th with the Uglies down 3-1. Leadoff hitter Chris Scanlon hit a shot to center field that looked like a sure hit, but speedy center fielder, Josh Weiss read it perfectly and made an incredible catch, silencing the Uglies bench. It was looking like the Goats would pull off a first round win for the 2nd year in a row.

But the Plugs stayed the course. Bill Evans was able to work a walk against Conway, followed by single from Greg Elbaum. Catcher Matt Boulanger hit a weak ground ball that looked like an out, but the ball died in the grass: he was able to leg out a single to load the bases with one out. Clark went to the bullpen and brought in Fainting Goats flame thrower Todd Neumann, who arguably has the toughest fastball in the league. Jeff Cabana stepped in against Neumann, power versus power. The Uglies third baseman smacked a double to score Evans and Elbaum and suddenly the game was tied 3-3. Neumann bared down and struck out Morriss "Mo" Partee, and it started to look like the game would go to extra innings.

With Boulanger on 2nd, up to the plate came Whitehead, who couldn't even run to 1st base because of injuries. But just because he couldn't run it didn't mean he couldn't hit: Whitehead was able to get a hold of a Neumann fastball and sent it to left field. Boulanger went full speed from second base and came around to score. The Plug Uglies bench erupted. In a stunning turn of events the Uglies beat the Fainting Goats on a walk-off single.

Many a Plug said it was one of the best and well played games they'd been a part of in all their years in TNB+50, on both sides. "It’s a game of inches, and this one was decided by inches." said Boulanger after the game. "Lots of respect for the Goats as a great ball team and a great bunch of guys."

With the victory, the Uglies advance to the semifinals on Wednesday to face the #2 Isotopes.

Game photos courtesy of Patrick Johnson

It's always a pleasure when Dave Roback, the retired award-winning Republican photographer, stops by to catch a game. Thanks for the fantastic photos, Dave!

Phillies 6

Wonders 1

One of the most frequently stated axioms in sports is “defense wins championships.” The Phillies made a strong case for that argument Thursday night in preliminary round playoff action at Herlihy Field.

Colin Hosley allowed just 4 hits and the Phils' defense made all the plays in the field to keep the Wonders off balance all night. Hosley's counterpart, Rick Stacy pitched well, but five costly errors by his defense sealed the Wonders' fate. "You just can't win a game with more errors than hits," lamented Wonders' manager, Larry Pietras. "They took advantage of the miscues and played nearly a perfect baseball game."

The score was tied at one heading into the third, when Gordie Lustila started the inning with a double and Yami Baker followed with a single for the Phils. But the story this inning was the Wonders' defense, which inexplicably committed four errors, allowing four runs in the process. The Phils added an insurance run in the sixth for a 6-1 lead and hung on for the win.

The bottom of the order, Gordie Lustila (2-3, 2R) and Craig Alaben (1-2, R, RBI) led the Phillies' offense.

The victory, propels the Phillies to the semifinals next Thursday against the #1 Dorian Grays.

Game photos courtesy of Stu Clark

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