The 2nd annual St. Andrew’s Day Series took place yesterday, and was a resounding success by all accounts. For the first year, the exhibition games involved all 20 teams in the Bull League, and fans, scouts and GMs were treated to some great performances by the players.
At most of the games, a pre-game ceremony involving the famous Robert Burns “Address to a Haggis” took place, as bagpipes played and a Scotch whiskey toast was drunk by the invited guests.
The crowds at most of the events were a fair size and the fans were treated to some great off-season baseball.
CHICAGO PIT BULLS, 9 – BATTLE CREEK ATTACK, 2
Chicago’s Greg Whittington put on a pitching clinic as he held off the Attack over 8.0 innings, allowing just 2 runs on 6 hits and a walk, while striking out 6.
Battle Creek’s rookie of the year contender, Jason Nelson, brought out the lumber and went yard in the 2nd, while Chris “Su Lu” Sulis brought in the second run later in the 8th.
But Chicago had the game in hand from early on, finding home runs from clean-up hitter George Hubbard, twice, along with outfielders Mike Strang and Oscar Barajas.
Creek’s Neik Rodriguez had to come in during the 8th to stem the flow of Chicago runs, but by then the damage was done. Whittington got player of the game honors, which included a commemorative bottle of Dalwhinnie. The game was played in front of 24,454 fans in Battle Creek’s Battle Dome.
JACKSONVILLE RAVENS, 2 – OHIO OXEN, 1
It was a very tight game in the Florida sun as the Ravens hosted the Oxen, but the Ravens managed to get the job done on the back of yet another strong pitching performance by 4-time Sandy Koufax Award winner Ricky Rodriguez. Rick-Rod came down hard on Ohio’s batters, but had help from the Ravens defense, after allowing the Oxen 7 hits and a walk.
Ohio’s Frasor Clause put in 7.0 innings of work, allowing just four hits. But the 5 walks given up were costly, in particular his second of the night, issued to Ken Rankin to lead off the 5th inning. Rankin scored on an Alex Saldana double the next at bat. Oxen would manage to push Dave Bird across the platter in the 7th to even the score, but by then Clause had enough and reliever Chris Soundgarden came in to finish.
But Soundgarden allowed a lead-off double to Jax’s David Baker, a very speedy infielder. That would set up the intentional walk to Gabel Reyes, and the pair of runners moved to 3rd and 2nd on a ground out. Then, Soundgarden let slip a rare wild pitch, only his second of the year, which allowed Baker to score what would be the winning run.
Rodriguez was named player of the game, and 41,971 fans enjoyed the festivities, which included a tailgate Ceilidh.
DETROIT MOTORHEADS, 5 – NEVADA SPEEDERS 4 (10)
It took an extra inning to decide this close race between the “Motorcity” Motorheads and their spirit cousins from the opposing league, the Nevada Speeders. In the end Detroit’s free agent signing, William Febres, prove how valuable he would be to the team next year, showing 5 innings of incredible pitching that saw him strikeout 11 Speeders batters, and allow just a pair of hits and a single run.
In fact, it looked like Detroit had the game in hand – they were then 2-1, when Febres was replaced in the 6th inning by the normally capable Chris Jones. But Ceejay, who looked solid after coming in with a runner on and no out, and eventually freeing himself from the jam, fell apart in the 7th when he allowed center-fielder Tsutomu Hiraoka to triple to lead off the Speeders. Hiraoka scored during the next at bat, Bill Brewer, who tripled again off his first pitch from Jones. Two batters later, Chris Huber grounded out with bases loaded, scoring Brewer, and taking the lead away from Detroit.
A solo shot from Ramon Gomez would even it at 3-3, then in the 9th both teams would add one more and send the game to extras. Speeders put Josh Agnello out to stop Detroit from scoring any further, but the normally stellar closer walked Chambliss with one out. Chambliss was replaced by Billy Leyva as pinch runner, and he promptly swiped second, setting up an intentional walk to Gomez. That was all Matt Moore needed when he singled in the next at bat to score Leyva, who beat the throw from right field. Agnello regrouped, but the Speeders couldn’t answer in the bottom of the 10th.
Detroit stole three bases, effectively holding a base-running clinic in the SpeederDome. Motorheads’ Danny Hooten blew the save but won the game. There were 32,002 fans in attendance.
RIMOUSKI FIGHTING MOOSE, 5 – NORFOLK SHARKS, 3
The Sharks held a hitting clinic in chilly, windy Norfolk, VA, gathering 12 hits in all, but still couldn’t overcome the home run onslaught from Rimouski, who would send 4 balls over the outfield wall and score a 5th run in a more conventional way to beat Norfolk 5-3.
Veterans Alan Isimo and Zenjiro Suga proved they still had the right stuff, when the two 38-year-olds teamed up to hit 4-for-9 with two homers, 3 RBIs, and a walk. Suga doubled as well, giving himself 7 total bases on the evening. But Norfolk’s Danny Sanchez earned player of the game, and a commemorative Scotch decanter, for his 2-for-3 effort that saw him bat in all 3 Sharks runs, in addition to a pair of walks, for an on-base percentage of .800 on the day.
But the Norfolk hits had been sufficiently neutralized by Rimouski’s fielding. Despite committing 3 errors, their pitching and pair of double-plays did the job in shutting down the Norfolk run machine.
The game was played in front of 35, 437 fans. Norfolk catcher Earl “Blur” MacPherson was bestowed the title of Honorary Clan Chieftain for Clan MacPherson in the pre-game ceremony.
DALLAS DEPUTIES, 6 – MONTREAL METROS, 5 (12)
It took 12 innings, and 27 hits to decide the winner, but the Dallas Deputies prevailed in the end, pulling off an upset over the juggernaut Montreal Metros, at home.
The feat is even more formidable considering Montreal teed off for the long ball 3 times against Dallas pitchers, and had hits from their speediest guys, including 2B Peyton May, Orlando “Cha Cha” Garza, and 2017 Lake League stolen base titleholder Robert Araica. But behind the plate for Dallas was Jerry “Crash” Bravo, with a howitzer arm, and the speedsters never tried to steal despite having many opportunities to do so.
Chisen Aoshima was named player of the game for Dallas, after the DH went 3-for-4 with a walk and three RBIs, garnering Dallas’ only home run. Nate Weil earned the win in relief, Alex Martinez the loss for the Metros. It was a chilly, wet day in Dallas as the game was held up for 17 minutes due to rain in the 8th inning. A total of 23,190 fans were seated for the opening, but far fewer by the time the last pitch was thrown.
ARIZONA COWBOYS, 7 – ANCHORAGE ACES, 5
Aces’ Jose Soto suffered his first loss of 2017, though it came in an exhibition game and therefore won’t count against his current 15-game wining streak when he takes the mound in 2018. But the 7-5 loss to Arizona comes as a blow to the Aces anyway, and foretells of a sea change in the AEL West Division that suggests the balance of power has tipped away from historic years.
The Cowboys looked energized as they tallied hits from former Toronto Nomad’s outfielder Alexis Rosa, Neil Krug, and particularly Jorge Velazquez, who went 3-for-4 with a home run off Soto in the 2nd inning.
Soto was shelled for 7 runs in 4.1 innings, and Estevan Rikhof had to come in to put a stop to the mayhem. Arizona’s ace, Alex Orellana, managed 6.1 innings, weathering the Aces offence and holding them to just 5 runs on 7 hits, and was well supported by the Arizona offense.
Velazquez was given the player of the game decanter, and 28,660 fans filed into the stadium to enjoy the show at Cowboy Stadium in Mesa, AZ.
NEW YORK DRAGONS, 6 – DENVER DANGER, 1
The Dragons spat fire all over the Denver Danger’s Rich Ojeda, with a pair of 2-run homers and a solo shot to collect the majority of their scoring. New York’s Jose Castaneda stuck around for the whole game and had a 5-hit, 1-run complete game, notching 10 strikeouts along the way, and looking in fine off-season form. The sole run allowed was not even recorded as earned, coming off a Jake Jett error in the 5th inning.
Denver veteran catcher Javier Chavarria tried his best to rally the side, going 3-for-4, but the Danger struggled to get hits from more than two other batters in the order. Castaneda was the obvious vote for player of the game, and 35,779 fans packed the Highlander Dome in Denver to watch the festivities.
CALGARY INFERNO, 8 – TORONTO NOMADS, 3
It was no shock to anyone that the 2017 Bull Cup Champion Calgary Inferno steamrolled over LL West’s last place Toronto Nomads. But it was a surprise that Nomad’s starter Alex Medina was so easily manhandled by the Inferno bats. The $40 million a year left-hander, who has recently proved to be a very hard bargain for Toronto, was given an 8-hit, 8-run ride by Calgary, including 3 shots over the wall.
Toronto’s hitting couldn’t solve Calgary international free agent acquisition Takahide Higuchi until the 3rd, when they managed to finally get on the scoreboard with a run, set up by a Ronnie van der Wal double, who later then scored on a Joseph “Fish” Walker single to left-center.
But the Nomads ran out of gas as the Inferno stepped on the gas. Israel Medina put the finishing touches on the Calgary offense with a 5th inning solo shot, and although Toronto would stitch together two more runs, they couldn’t close the gap enough. An ecstatic Calgary crowd of 36,035 braved the chilly Inferno Park, which despite having the roof closed was nevertheless in the middle of a Calgary winter that could be felt everywhere except the badly burned Nomads dugout.
CALIFORNIA TIDALS, 3 – BOSTON BRAWLERS, 2 (10)
It was a close one in L.A. as the Brawlers drew first blood against the hometown Tidals, with an early 2-0 lead. California answered with a run of their own in the 3rd to cut the lead to 2-1, then had a nailbiting tying run score in the 9th with two out and a runner on second. Cali’s CF Sooky Ichimura battled back from a 1-2 count against Jesus Carillo, finally singling home Arturo Salazar from second.
The bruisers from the Boston order were up for the top of the 10th, but they failed to produce a result. Then the Tidals broke the deadline quickly as Jim Lahey walked with two out, setting up a David Chinchilla double that put two runners in scoring position. Finally, Salazar was the hero again as he hit a walk-off single to right to score Lahey from third.
California starter Joe Lund was given the nod as player of the game, having pitched 8.0 innings and only allowing 2 runs on 4 hits, in front of 32,284 happy Tidals fans.
KINGSTON CANNONS, 5 – SEATTLE SALTS, 3
The Cannons upset the team with the best record in 2017, drowning the Salts in 5 runs on 10 hits, and holding Seattle to just 3 runs despite committing a pair of errors.
Cannons new ace, Jake Figurski, who had now taken the crown after Ron Alder left as a free agent, was superb in 8.0 innings, nailing 10 K’s and only allowing 5 hits and a pair of walks from the Salts. Closer Bill Paradis was nearly perfect in shutting down any late comeback by Seattle, allowing just a hit while striking out another two.
Figurski took player of the game honors, 39,655 disappointed Salts fans braved the chilly, wet weather at Salty Park.