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 Friday, August 6, 1999




Gabelsville clips Cetronia

Reliever Bob Graber halts a late rally as owls win 7-6 in Tri-Co playoffs.

Of The Morning Call


If Bob Graber needed a reminder of why he ended a 20-year relationship with Upper Perk in the Tri-County League and joined the Gabelsville Owls this season, it came in the bottom of the sixth inning Thursday night.

Gabelsville led by one, but host Cetronia had the bases full with one out when player-manager Mike "Doc" Moyer gave the ball to the grizzled Graber.

The lanky 37-year-old right-hander struck out Chris Gordon on three pitches and got Pete Spisszak on a fly to left to end the Cetronia threat -- and the game.

The umpires stopped play after the sixth because of darkness, and Gabelsville had a 7-6 victory and a 2-0 stranglehold on the Tri-Co's semifinal series.

The Owls can sweep the best-of-5 series and earn a spot in the finals with a win at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Graber won three Tri-Co titles with Upper Perk, the last coming in 1987. But the Chiefs hit hard times. As the head chief, Graber got tired of the hassles.

"I had been after `Grabes' for five years to come over, and he kept turning me down," Moyer said. "I understood his loyalty, but we're glad he's finally with us. He's a good friend, a good guy. He works hard. He may be 37, but he busts his butt more than the 20- year-olds who float around."

Graber has never minded hard work, but he wasn't rewarded with any meaningful games in August in recent seasons at Upper Perk. That's why he enjoyed the tense situation Moyer put him in during Cetronia's threat.

"This has been great for me," Graber said. "This is a whole different situation. I wish Upper Perk well, but I just had to get away. They looked to me to do all kinds of stuff, and I just couldn't do it anymore. Here, all I have to do is come and play."

And Graber, who entered the season second on the Tri-Co's all-time hit list with 577, can still play. He was 3-for-3 at the plate and drove in a run with a double to left when the Owls broke on top with four runs in the third inning.

But his moment of glory came on the mound in the sixth when Cetronia seemed certain to tie the game or win it.

The Longhorns, who squandered leads of 5-0 and 7-1 in Game 1 on Wednesday, battled back from a 7-1 hole this time and pulled within 7-6 with four runs in the fifth.

Matt Moore led off the sixth with a single and turned it into a double by taking advantage of lackadaisical outfield play. After Gabelsville starter Justin Konnick struck out Jon DiBonaventura, Moore scampered to third on an errant throw by the Owls catcher.

Moyer then instructed Konnick to walk Mike Merkel intentionally to put runners at first and third.

"I'm not going to lose to Merkel," Moyer said. "He's one of the best hitters in the league. No disrespect to the next hitter, George Horn, but I'd rather take my chances with him. Plus, if he hits a ground ball, it's a double play."

Horn seemed to foil that strategy by working Konnick for a walk to load the bases. That's when Graber went to the mound.

He fanned Gordon and then came back from a 2-0 hole on Spisszak.

"I don't have the fastball I used to have, so now my `out pitch' is a sidearm slider," Graber said.

"It's almost impossible to hit when it's moving right," Moyer said.

Now, Cetronia (22-14) faces the nearly impossible task of beating Gabelsville (29-5) three straight.

"We can't relax the way those guys can hit," Moyer said. "Top to bottom, that's a tough lineup."

Hassan DeJesus led a balanced Cetronia attack with two hits, including a home run, and two RBIs. Greg Gilbert countered for the Owls with a two-run home run and an RBI single.

"We've played them tough twice, and I think our lineup is just as good as theirs," said Horn, Cetronia's player-manager. "We could just as easily be up 2-0 as down 0-2. So, we can't give up."


From The Morning Call -- August 6, 1999

Copyright 1999, The Morning Call