Teams are blaming faulty fax machines, or misdirected emails, but whatever the cause, both Rimouski and Ohio failed to field their expected starting pitchers for Game 1 of their LL Elimination Round series, it has come to light.
The Ohio Oxen were widely expected to start Sandy Koufax Award contender Frasor Clause or A.C. Deucey for the first game of the series. Clause set a Lake League record for wins, going 15-2 this year, while Deucey set a club record for ERA at 2.25.
But instead, Heath Smokem, coming off one of the worst seasons of his career, with a LL-leading 12 losses and just five wins, a 4.42 ERA and a career high number of free passes handed out, a LL-leading 85 walks, got the word that he would start in Game 1.
He was as surprised as anybody, including the fans and media, who wondered if Ohio had blown an opportunity. Especially when it came to light that a similar mixup for Rimouski ended up putting 2nd starter Andrew Ward on the mound, instead of high-flying sophomore Nick Seer (pictured).
Ward was adequate during the season, going 11-7 with a 3.31 ERA. But his team average-level ERA was not what Moose fans had expected to see for the opening match between the two teams. Seer, a finesse pitcher, was 10-6 through 20 games, but was 10-4 after being traded to Rimouski from Arizona, where he had started the year off with a pair of losses. Seer’s 2.47 ERA with Rimouski put him #2 on the club’s ERA leaderboard. Seer’s season exploits included 14 quality starts, and a shutout.
Nevertheless, the game was close, as Ohio struck early, with two runs scored on four singles and a throwing error in the bottom of the 1st inning, before the Moose fought back to score 3 in the 3rd, including a 2-run shot by LL home run leader Alan ‘Dangerous’ Isimo, and a run-scoring double by Juan Medina, bringing the Moose into the lead 3-2.
Then, in the 4th with Ward still pitching, Ohio’s RF Ollie Oxenfree reached on an errant throw by Isimo, and took second base as a result. Then, with SS Corrosive Joseph at the plate, Ward threw one to the backstop and Oxenfree took third. Joseph then smacked a grounder to second, Oxenfree scoring easily as Joseph was thrown out at first, but the score was tied up at 3-3.
It stayed tied until the top of the 8th, when Rimouski worked some smallball tactics, taking an opportunity after Joe Street’s lead-off single off of Ohio’s reliever, Chris Soundgarden, to have Ellis Bendel sac bunt to move him into scoring position, a play that worked out better than expected as Bendel was safe on the throw at first as well. Todd Salvato followed with his own sac bunt, moving Street to third and Bendel to second, but not beating the throw to first himself. Then Juan Medina teed up a first pitch line drive to center, and Street was able to tag up and score. Israel Paez then singled to right, scoring Bendel all the way from second base, and putting the Moose up 5-3.
Ohio answered in the bottom of the 8th with a leadoff double from Brad Bogus. But with Marc Garland on the mound now for Ward, he quickly found his groove and sent the next two batters down on strikes. Ollie Oxenfree lined one down to the right field corner, a triple that scored Bogus and cut the lead to one run.
But Garland stayed strong to close out the 8th, and return to get another strikeout in the 9th.
Game 2 continues tomorrow in Toledo.