Phantastic Phils are TNB+50 Champs!
2022 Playoff Champions!
Plug Uglies 6
At last it was here: the TNB+50 2022 Championship Game at Whalley Field in Southwick, MA between the Phillies and the Plug Uglies. The championship ceremonies had all the pageantry and drama you’d expect: hot dogs, beverages, a live DJ, walk-up songs, a PA announcer and Jimi Hendrix (in absentia) playing the National Anthem (even a couple of Rickrolls for good measure). It was a matchup to determine who would hold the most TNB+50 titles in league history: the Uglies and the Phils were both deadlocked at 2 championships each, and had already met in the finals 3 previous times. And it was the matchup no one expected, with the Uglies seeded 3rd and the Phillies seeded 5th. The story going into the game certainly belonged to Phils, who toppled the #1 Grays in an epic back and forth victory to earn a spot in the championship just 7 days earlier.
Before the action got started the 2022 team MVPs met at home place for a ceremony to receive their much deserved awards: Chris Bernacki (Grays), Tom Conway (Fainting Goats), Greg Elbaum (Plug Uglies), Andy Klepacki (Phillies), Dave Warner (Isotopes) and Tod Garfield (Wonders). Then league president Stu Clark announced the creation of a new award that will be presented each year, named in honor of TNB+50 founder and baseball guru Pres Pieraccini that acknowledges his tremendous impact on adult baseball leagues in Western Mass. The award will be given to a player who demonstrates the spirit, integrity, and respect that Pres and TNB+50 exemplifies. This year's deserving recipient was Jeff Whitehead of the Plug Uglies. After the ceremonial first pitch from super-fan Barbara Partee to her son Morriss "Mo" Partee (Plug Uglies) the game got underway.
The game got started in typical Plug Ugly fashion: Jeff Whitehead, pitching for the Uglies, took care of the Phillies 1-2-3 in the top of the first. Phillies manager Kenny Sloat took the mound in the bottom of the first and was greeted with RBI singles from Matt Boulanger, Jeff Cabana, Morriss Partee and Nolan Anaya that put the Uglies up 4-0. In the top of the second the Phillies got on the board with an RBI single from John "Duse" Dusenberry that scored Andy Klepacki, and another RBI single from catcher Ron "Tater" Totten that scored Yami Baker. In the bottom of the second Sloat bounced back and retired the Uglies on four batters. Plug Uglies 4, Phillies 2.
Colin Hosley took the mound for the Phillies in relief of Sloat in the bottom of the 3rd and was able to effectively stifle the Plug Ugly bats. For the next 5 innings he gave up just 2 hits, with 3 Ks and no runs. Things stayed quiet until the top of the 6th when Whitehead faced the top of the Phillies order. Paul "Kappy" Kaplan reached on a single, followed by Sloat reaching on an E-6. Paul "Gris" Griswold got on base on a fielders choice. A single from Hosley scored Sloat, then Yami Baker was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Dusenberry reached base on an E-3 that scored Griswold, followed by a Totten opposite field shot down the right field line that rolled past right fielder Chris Scanlon that drove in Hosley. At the end of six the Phillies took the lead 6-4.
The game was still in reach for the Uglies going into the 7th inning, but the wheels fell off quickly and the Phillies capitalized. Greg "G-Bomb" Elbaum came in to relieve Whitehead and did not have his best stuff. A single from Max Strubel, an error and a walk quickly loaded the bases. Paul Kaplan drove in a run followed by an RBI single from Sloat. Griswold walked, Klepaki reached on a fielder’s choice, Hosley walked. No outs and six runs later reliever Jon Adolph came in to get the Uglies out of a big jam. Jonny A did his job but the damage was done: the Phillies now led 11-4 in the middle of the 7th.
In the bottom of the 7th with 2 outs Ugly shortstop Bill Evans reached on a single and stole 2nd base. Elbaum hit a shot to the outfield and it looked like Evans would score from second. But shoddy base coaching made Evans hesitate when he should’ve gone straight to home, causing him to lose a precious few seconds and was thrown out at home on a very close play.
Adolph pitched a scoreless 8th to keep the Uglies in the game. In the bottom of the 8th the Uglies finally got to Hosley, but could only get one run across on a Mo Partee sacrifice fly. Phillies 11, Uglies 5.
As has been the case so many times this season, the bottom of the 9th was anything but routine. Despite a 7 run lead the Phillies were going to have to fight for the win. Coming on in relief of Hosley was Max Strubel. Miracle Max got Mike Olkin to ground out and struck out Eric “Noodles” Bennett on a controversial called 3rd strike that was in the dirt. Two outs, but the miracles ran out for Strubel as he walked Scanlon, hit Steve Wall, walked Brian “Benji” Benjamin, and issued another walk to Jack Wileden to bring in a run. With the Uglies threatening and a score of 11-6, Sloat made the move to bring back Hosley to finish things up.
With the bases loaded and the top of the order coming up, Hosley faced Bill Evans. The Uglies leadoff hitter worked a 3-2 count, and it looked as if another run would cross the plate on a walk. It was not to be, however, as Evans was called out on another controversial 3rd strike looking, and it was all over. The Phillies were TNB+50 champions for the 3rd time in 8 years, completing their unlikely 2022 playoff run. And there was much rejoicing.
"Underestimate the Phils at your own peril,” said Uglies manager Chris Scanlon before the game. “Good or bad, their regular season record means nothing once the playoffs start: they're a different team in the post-season." The Phightin' Phils proved just that, playing as a tight unit with strong defense and crafty and timely hitting. With three championship pennants do we dare say it’s a dynasty? Time will tell. All hail the Phillies: TNB+50 2022 Champions!
See you in the spring, folks!
Game photos courtesy of Stu Clark