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 Wednesday, August 16, 2006




Fleetwings' force fifth game

Coplay's 7th-inning rally falls one run short, season finale set for Friday.


 By Steve Smull              



    LIMEPORT -- The Fleetwings used a five-spot in the fifth and then hung on for dear life in the seventh to edge Coplay 5-4 to tie the best-of-five Finals at 2-2 and force a fifth and deciding game to conclude the Trico season.


    Game 5 will be at 7:00 on Friday at Limeport Stadium.


    Depth is important in the playoffs. Injuries, vacations, weddings and players returning to college can leave a Trico manager awfully thin with numbers in mid-August. It is probably not a coincidence that the four deepest rosters in the Tri-County League were all in the Semifinals.


    And this series has been a testament to just how vital team depth is for the playoffs.


    On Wednesday, Coplay's scheduled starter Kevin Reese warmed up briefly, but was unable to go due to a suspected pinched nerve in his throwing shoulder. But manager Shawn Andrews was not strapped for arms. He had a few choices and elected to go with Dan Fassl, who was the Game 5 winner in the Semifinals against the Limeport Bulls, throwing a complete-game, five-hitter at Limeport Stadium.


    The Reds were also missing second-baseman Kyle Rhoades, who will miss the remainder of the season due to an injury suffered late in Game 3. Pitcher Derick Reis is in Canada for the Finals. The Fleetwings are also missing two starters now as outfielders Tom Williams (gone after Game 1) and Brian Martin (gone after Game 3) are no longer available due to prior commitments.


    Despite all of the MIAs, both teams are still putting together solid lineups, one through nine, thanks to getting a lot of quality players eligible for the playoffs.


    Woodlawn sent Scott Bolasky to the mound and he showed why he has been their ace the past couple of seasons as he was in control of this game, allowing just one run on six hits through six innings.


    Bolasky did not allow a hit until there were two outs in the second, when Mike Bortz lofted a single to left and then moved up 90 feet after a wild pitch. J.R. Graver then stepped up and grounded a bad-hop single over the shortstop's head, but center-fielder Matt Marcks charged the ball hard and made a strong throw to the plate. The throw was on the money, but slightly high as Player/Manager (and catcher) Jeremy Arner had to jump up to catch it and slap a quick tag on the sliding Bortz at the plate for the out on a bang-bang play that could have gone either way.


    Meanwhile, Fassl faced the minimum number of batters through two innings thanks in part to his battery-mate, Caleb Calarco, throwing out a runner stealing in the first. Fassl then picked off a runner at second to end that inning. Then shortstop John Curreri helped Fassl keep his shutout through three innings.


    Arner singled to left to start the third, was sacrificed to second by Dan Hemberger and then Matt Nuhfer singled to right to put runners on the corners with one out. Scott Garger hit a blooper to shallow left that seemed destined to fall for a RBI single, but Curreri made a nice catch with his back to the plate, holding the runners at bay. A ground-out ended the threat.


    Coplay then got two base-runners on in the fourth with one out on singles by Calarco and Jesse Borden. A passed ball moved both runners up 90 feet, and Bortz hit a fly-ball to center for a sac-fly and a 1-0 lead for the Reds.


    The Fleetwings made some noise in the fourth. Singles by Ben Swatsky and Matt Godusky put runners on first and second with one out. But first-baseman Brandon Leslie started a nifty 3-6-3 double-play to end that threat.


    Woodlawn would finally put some runs on the board in the fifth.


    Just when it seemed like Fassl might have a shot at a shutout with one out an nobody on base in the home half of the fifth, the Fleetwings would string some hits and some luck together.


    Hemberger singled off the glove of a diving Leslie at first and Nuhfer singled to right to put runners on the corners. Garger lofted a sinking liner to shallow left that may have been caught had the time of day been 15 minutes earlier or 15 minutes later. At Limeport, the toughest time of night for the left-fielder is that amount of time after sunset until the time it gets pitch-black dark. The ball is tough to pick up during that twilight period of time. Fortunately for the Fleetwings, Garger delivered his sinking liner during twilight time, and the late jump by the left-fielder cost him the catch, giving Garger a RBI single to tie the game at 1-1.


    With runners on first and second. Marcks singled to up the middle, off the glove of a diving Joe Bubba, for a base hit, scoring Nuhfer for a 2-1 Fleetwings lead. Garger took third on the hit.


    Exit Fassl. Enter Jose Medina.


    On Medina's first pitch to Justin Godusky, the Fleetwings executed a perfect double-steal to make it 3-1. Godusky then hit a grounder to deep short for an infield hit and advanced 90 more feet when the throw got away at first and went out of playing, allowing Marcks to score to make it 4-1 Woodlawn. After a strikeout, Matt Godusky lofted a shallow fly-ball to short left, which seemed to disappear into the Bermuda Triangle as the ball fell between three fielders for what would later prove to be a huge RBI single for Godusky, making the score 5-1 Fleetwings.


    Medina would retire the next four batters to keep it at 5-1 into the seventh.


    Coplay has shown a propensity to score runs in bunches in the 2006 postseason. In the time it takes a fan to grab a soda and a hot dog from the Limeport concession stand, the Reds can score three or four runs by the time you get back to your seat.


    And that is what happened again in the seventh.


    In just six pitches, Coplay scored three runs. Bortz lofted a single to right-center, Graver ripped a single to left and Curreri launched a deep fly-ball to left-center for a two-run triple. The throw to third went out of play, allowing Curreri to score and suddenly, it was 5-4 Fleetwings. Bubba then singled to right to put the tying run at first and there was still nobody out. Mueller sacrificed Bubba to second and the drama deepened. But Bolasky bore down to get the Reds' 3-4 hitters on a ground-out and a pop-up to end the game and give the Fleetwings life, as they staved off elimination to tie the series at 2-2 and set-up a fifth and deciding game decide a league champion on Friday.


    Bortz finished 2-for-2, Graver 2-for-3 and Curreri went 2-for-3 with a triple and two RBI for Coplay. Garger, Nuhfer and Matt Godusky all went 2-for-3 for the Fleetwings.