UNBEATEN! Grays Whallop Plugs, Claim TNB+50 Championship, Perfect Season
The Dorian Grays defeat the Plug Uglies in the TNB+50 Championship
Plug Uglies 6
Dorian Grays 15
WP: Chris Bernacki
LP: Jeff Whitehead
It was a beautiful night at Mackenzie Stadium in Holyoke for the 9th annual TNB+50 Championship Game. The 2nd place Uglies came in as underdogs against the undefeated Grays, who were one win away from the first perfect season in TNB+50 history.
Before the action got started a pregame ceremony commenced, recognizing team MVPs. Awards were presented at home plate to Tim Sigda (Grays), Ken Sloat (Phillies), Jeff Cabana (Plug Uglies) and Mike Arbour (Isotopes). Todd Neumann (Fainting Goats) and Scott Taylor (Wonders) were in absentia. The 2023 Pres Pieraccini Sportsmanship Award, given to a player who exhibits sportsmanship and leadership on the baseball diamond, was presented to Chris Ciepiela of the Wonders.
On to the game...It was a battle of team aces as the Grays' Chris "Nacho" Bernacki went up against the Uglies' Jeff Whitehead. The Grays got to work in the first inning with a Dave Rist double, who was knocked in on a Tim Sigda single. After the 1st it was Grays 1-0. The Grays added two more runs in the 3rd when Mitch Gaslin squeezed a walk off of Whitehead and Rist hit another single. With runners on 1st and 2nd, Ken "Papi" Hartwright smashed a single that scored both runners. Grays 3-0 after 3 innings.
In the 4th inning the Uglies came roaring back into the game. Bill Evans lined a single and quickly stole 2nd base. With two outs Jeff Cabana and Jeff Whitehead reached on consecutive walks. With the bases loaded Nacho walked Matt Boulanger to bring in a run. Then red hot Steve Wall smashed a shot to the outfield that cleared the bases and earned him a double, and the Plugs took the lead 4-3.
But that lead would not last. The Grays stormed back in the bottom of the inning, starting with a Tim Bombard walk, a John "Ski" Malikowski reach on an error, and a Steve Powers single to load the bases with no outs. Don Edwards hit a grounder to 2nd, and instead of going for the double play and conceding a run, the Uglies threw home. The throw was late and the run scored, bases still loaded, no outs: this proved to be the turning point of the game. Brian Krylowicz followed with walk that brought in Malikowski. Rick "Ricky Bobby" Fleurent lined a single that scored two more, followed by another Dave Rist single. When the dust settled the Uglies brief lead evaporated into a 6 run Grays response. After 4 innings it was the Grays 9, Plug Uglies 4.
In the top of the 5th Morris "Mo" Partee reached on a walk and advanced to second on a Chris "Chaka" Scanlon single to left. And that was it for Bernacki, who left the mound without recording an out. Fleurent came in to relieve, and the Uglies were hoping to capitalize on the Grays ace's departure. Ricky Booby had other plans though, and quickly ended the Uglies threat and retired the side. In the bottom of the 5th the Grays refused to let up and kept adding to their lead. Sigda and Jay "Sup" Sadowski singled to get things started. Malikowski reached on an error that scored Sigda, then Don Edwards ripped a double to score Sadowski. After 5 the Grays pulled ahead 11-4.
It was more of the same in the bottom of the 6th as the Grays tacked on 3 more runs. Fluerent doubled and scored, Bernacki was hit by a pitch and scored, and Sigda hit a bomb to left field that rolled to the fence that plated another run. In the 7th the Grays added another, and the Uglies hopes a third championship were fading fast. At the end of 7 it was Grays 15, Plug Uglies 4.
The Uglies tried to climb back into the game in the 8th. Nolan Anaya and Mike Olkin hit consecutive singles, then both scored on a Bill Evans single. But by that point the damage was done. The Uglies couldn't make much of a dent against Fleurent, who pitched brilliantly in relief of Bernacki. He put a stop the Uglies mid-game momentum and stifled their bats the rest of the way, cruising through the 9th inning to secure the win. FINAL SCORE: Grays 15, Plug Uglies 6.
And with that the Grays were crowned 2023 TNB+50 Champions for the second time, completing the first perfect season in league history.
GRAYS PLAYERS OF THE GAME: Rick Fleurent (On The Mound: 5 IP, 2 R, 3 K. At The Plate: 2-4, 2 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI), Dave Rist (3-4, 3 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI) and Don Edwards (3-3, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB).
PLUG UGLIES PLAYERS OF THE GAME: Steve Wall (2-4, 2 2B, 3 RBI) and Bill Evans (2-4, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 SB).
Game photos courtesy of Patrick Johnson