PLAYOFFS (Seminfinals): Plugs Trample 'Topes, Phils Stun Grays
John Malikowski drives in teammate, Jay Sadowski in semifinal playoff action at Whalley Park.
Plug Uglies 19
Round II of the TNB+50 playoffs got started Wednesday night under the lights of Whalley (Backman) Field in Southwick, MA. With the sounds of the Bad News Jazz & Blues Orchestra playing to a packed pavilion yards from the field, the scene was set for 9 innings of playoff action. The starting pitchers were Jeff Whitehead for the Plug Uglies and Steve Ostrowski for the Isotopes. For a game that was predicted to be a close matchup, the results were anything but.
The Isotopes were idle during round one of the playoffs after securing the 2nd seed and a bye week. The Uglies had the same regular season record (7-5) but lost the tiebreaker and had to fight their way out of the first round. Did the Uglies have momentum? Were the Isotopes rested and dangerous? Who had the advantage?
Before the action got started there was some pregame drama. Plug Ugly Mike Olkin was hit in the face with a ball during infield practice and had to go to the hospital for 5 stitches, with some members of the Isotope squad offering assistance. The Uglies vowed they'd win it for their injured player...and to text him the score while he waited in the emergency room.
With an 11 piece horn section playing behind them, the Plug Uglies hammered away early and often at Ostrowski to gain a significant lead. With RBI hits from Jeff Cabana, Morriss "Mo" Partee, Steve Wall and Greg Elbaum (while also capitalizing on 3 Isotopes errors) the Uglies had a 9-0 lead after 3.
The Isotopes hitters tried to get things going against Whitehead, but were stopped in their tracks. In innings 1 thorough 5 the Topes had 5 runners on base, with singles from David Leslie, Dave Warner, Jon Zajak and walks from Luke Cavanagh and Leslie. But they couldn't cash in: Whitehead was dealing, pitching 5 scoreless innings while striking out six.
Lundy Bancroft came in to pitch in relief for the Topes and gave up three more runs in the 5th and 3 in the 6th, putting the Uglies up 15-0. In the 6th Plugs crafty reliever Greg Elbaum entered the game for the duration. Though the Isotopes were able to score 4 runs (3 earned) off of "E-Bomb" it was too little too late. A combination of hits, walks and RBIs from Warner, Zajak, Bancroft and Shawn Wrisley couldn't repair the damage.
The Uglies added 3 more in the 8th and 1 in the 9th. The Isotopes were never really in the game, ending a hard fought and well played season for the defending champs. Final score: Plug Uglies 19, Isotopes 4. The Plugs advance to the championship game for the third year in a row.
Game photos courtesy of Stu Clark
Game photos courtesy of Dave Roback
The Grays and Phillies went head-to-head for the championship in 2019 in a 16-14 thriller that earned the Grays their first league title. On Thursday the two teams faced off again, this time in the semifinals, a trip to the league championship game on the line. It was another epic battle.
The Phillies struck first against Grays starter, Chris "Nacho" Bernacki. A Grays' error on the first batter of the game set the tone, allowing Paul Kaplan to reach safely. Back-to-back singles by Paul "Grizz" Griswold and Andy Klepacki, and another Grays' error, scored two and gave the Phils the early lead. Grays catcher, Steve Powers picked off a runner at third to end the threat and limit the damage.
The Grays responded in their half when Brian Krylowicz reached on an error with one out. A walk to Jay "Supe" Sadowski and a second Phillies error scored 1 and kept the inning alive. John "Ski" Malikowski grounded out to knock in Sadowski and a single by Steve Powers scored Tim Bombard and gave the Grays a 3-2 lead after one.
The Grays broke out the bats in the third, plating three runs on a leadoff hit by Don Edwards, a walk to Krylowicz, and a big 2 RBI double by Sadowski. Malikowski capped the Grays' scoring by knocking in Sadowski with a double of his own and the Grays took a 6-2 lead.
The Phillies, not to be outdone, battled back in the top of the fourth. John "Duse" Dusenberry started the rally by reaching on a dropped third strike. A single by Ron "Tater" Totten and three consecutive errors by the Grays led to four unearned runs and tied the game.
The score would remain tied until the bottom of the sixth when the Grays' bats exploded with three extra-base hits. Doubles by Tim Bombard, Steve Powers, and Ricky Fleurent, coupled with walks to Malikowski and Steve "Money" Monette, led to an explosive fourth inning; the Grays reclaiming the lead, 10-6.
The Phillies would add a run in the top of the 7th off Grays reliever, Ricky Fleurent, on a leadoff single by Klepacki and back-to-back errors, and the Grays took a 10-7 lead into the 8th inning. The Grays were confident and were just six outs away from advancing to the championship game.
Perhaps an omen for the improbable events to follow, Paul Kaplan reached base to start the 8th on another Grays error, followed by Sloat, and Griswold, and Klepacki, and... The first six Phillies batters reached base in the 8th and scored, aided by three more Grays' errors. The scattered fans in attendance were stunned; the energy on the Phils' bench was palpable. When it was over, the Phillies led 13-10.
Kenny Sloat, who came on in relief of starter, Colin Hosley, shut the Grays down in the 8th and 9th and the fifth place Phillies defeated the #1 seed, and advance to the finals for an opportunity to win their third league title.
Game photos courtesy of Stu Clark
The TNB50 Championship Game will be held Thursday, August 18th at Whalley Park. A postseason awards ceremony recognizing team MVPs will begin at 6:00 followed by first pitch at 6:15. All TNB50 players, their families, and friends are invited to attend. We will have hot dogs, snacks, and cold drinks. Pregame music, player walk-up songs, and a professional PA system will provide a big-league atmosphere for players and their fans. We hope to see you there!