The South Jersey Hot Stovers bested the Washington Township Senators Sunday at Campbell Field in Camden, NJ by a slim 6-5 margin to close out the inugural regular season of the NJIBL's 45+ Division. Luis Rodriquez picked up the victory with seven strong innings of work, and the Hot Stover ace also delivered a 3-for-3 performance at the plate.
The Senators got two runs in the top of the first. Angel Rivera singled to open the contest, and Kurt Ley's single to right moved him over to third. Mark Alessandrini's infield grounder plated another run, and a throwing error on Dan Laudisio's infield grounder made it 2-0. But Miles Reader grounded into a double play to end the inning.
But the Hot Stovers reponded quickly and powerfully against Senator starter John Dipietro. Rodriquez doubled on DiPietro's first offering, and Pedro Maldonado singled to put runners at the corners. Edwin Nunez followed with an RBI double to make it 2-1, and a Jorge Gonzalez sacrifice fly tied matters. DiPietro skating around a walk to Rick Santerone to keep it a 2-2 game.
The Nats forged ahead in the third. Bruce Schumin walked and Nick Frese dumped a single into right, but Rodriquez recovered to fan DiPietro and Mike Fanelli looking. Fortunately for the Senators, Rivera stayed hot and delivered the RBI single. But Rodriquez also fanned Ley to close out the rally.
The Stover top of the order, hot all day, got them back on top in the fourth. Rodriquez singled again to start things, and Nunez and Gonzalez followed with one-out singles to make it 3-3. Carlos Perez then banged an infield groundout that produced a fourth run, but DiPietro retired Santerone and Juan Martinez to end the threat.
Not for long. Johannes relieved DiPietro to start the fifth, and he walked Mike Kelly, who then stole second and moved to third on a passed ball. Mark Mehler's grounder to third gave the Stovers a 5-4 lead.
Yet again the Senators were able to tie it up, this time in the top of the seventh. Ladusio reached on an infield error with one out, and he advanced to third when Reader and Hector Colon followed with singles. Fortunately for the Senators, Laudisio was able to scamper home on a wild pitch, because Rodriquez got Wood and Johannes to hold things at 5-5.
Again the Hot Stover top of the order was up, and again the lead was short-lived.
Frank Rose took the hill for the Senators, and Rodriquez greeted him with this third hit, a single. Nunez and Gonzalez also singled to load the bases, and Perez's ground out plated Rodruiquez to make it 6-5.
The Senators had a great chance to move ahead in the bottom of the eighth. Jim Toth and Rose singled to off Hot Stover reliever Eric Mehler, but Schumin hit a tailor-made DP grounder to Maldonado at short, and he easily turned two. Frese then grounded to third and the Hot Stovers escaped still ahead 6-5.
It looked like the Senators would go down with a whimper in the ninth, but Ley drew a two-out walk after a great at-bat. It then looked like the Senators would tie things up when Alessandrini lofted a pop into no-man's land in short right.
But Mark Mehler came out of nowhere and made a tremendous diving catch, full extension, to end the well-played contest. It was a great catch.
The Senators actually out-hit the Hot Stovers by a 14-9 margin, with Rivera leading the way with three hits. Frese, Toth, and Rose each had a pair. The Stovers did ALL of their damage via the top of the order. Rodriquez and Nunez had three hits apiece, while Gonzalez had two. No player below the clean-up spot had a even single hit for the Stovers. But the Stovers hit when they had to.
So ends the inaugural NJIBL 45+ regular season. The Senators ran away with the division, finishing with a stellar 14-3 record, their only losses coming today, and against the Mooretown Marlins and undefeated Audubon Blue Sox. But now the real games begin, as the Senators move forward to face the Philadelphia Blue Claws next weekend in the first round of the playoffs. Everyone is back to 0-0 now.
Notes: Playing at Campbell Field is a GREAT experience, and the Senators want to thank the Hot Stovers for allowing us to have the opportunity. We wish them luck in their first-round series vs the Marlins...both teams hit all their playes in this contest, so it really wasn't much of a barometer for what is to come. But clearly, both teams can hit and pitch the baseball. Bring on the post season!