Kurt Ley went 4-for-4 and John DiPieto tossed a complete-game gem as the Washington Township Senators capture the first-ever NJIBL 45+ Division championship with a 7-4 win over the South Jersey Hot Stovers Sunday at Rabinowitz Field in Voorhees. The Senator offense produced 13 hits off Stover hurler Luis Rodriquez, who also pitched a complete game.
As they have done in every single first inning of the post-season, the Senator offense got on the board. Ley drilled a one-out double, moved to third on a passed ball, and scampered home with the game's first run on a wild pitch. But that was all the Senators could manage, and they quickly gave the run back in the bottom of the second.
Stover standout Elvin Nunez smacked a 2-0 pitch into right, and Bob Wood could not come up with it despite a diving attempt. The ball trickled to the fence, and Nunez waltzed easily into third.
Mark Leise followed with a booming singlf off the fence in right-center to plate Nunez, but DiPietro then immediately caught courtesy runner Pedro Maldonado leaning off first and picked him off, derailing the inning. DiPietro fanned Carlos Perez and retired Jorge Gonzalez on an infield grounder to minimize the damage.
The Senators forged ahead in the fourth, and it was again Ley who led the way. The Senator left fielder singled and moved to second on a passed ball, and Mark Alessandrini followed with a single to left and promptly stole second. Frank Izzi send Ley home with a sacrifice fly to deep center, but Rodriquez got Dan Laudisio on a grounder to first, and survied a Miles Reader rocket to left for the third out to keep things at 2-1.
But the lead was short-lived, as the Hot Stovers rallied for three runs in the bottom of the inning. Mike Kelly started things with a grounder in the shortstop hole. Angel Rivera tracked it nicely, but Kelly beat the throw to first, and Rivera's throw sailed over the fence sending the Stover fly chaser to second.
Juan Martinez followed with a pop to the left of the mound, but neither Senator third sacker Frank Rose nor DiPietro could see it, and ball dropped for an error. Maldonado then dropped a perfect bunt single to load the bases with no outs, and the Senators were in a heap of trouble.
Luis Rodriquez slammed DiPietro's next pitch into left for an RBI single, and then the Stovers played small ball, as consecutive grounders to second by Nunez and Leise produced two more runs before DiPietro fanned Carlos Perez to end the mess. But the Stovers had themselves a 4-2 lead.
The Senators clawed back in the sixth off Rodriquez. Chris Johannes dumped a one-out single into center, but Rose popped to second for out number two. Rodriquez then walked Rivera, and Ley again stepped into the spotlight, drilling an RBI double. With runners on second and third with two, Stover skipper Tom Haas decided to walk Alessandrini to face Izzi. The Senator first baseman was struggling with a very painful rib injury, but the big guy sucked it up and legged out an infield single to tie the game. Laudisio grounded to third to end the inning, but it was a new game at 4-4.
DiPietro worked around several miscues in the sixth and seventh to keep things knotted. First there was an missed fly ball in the sixth. Then, in the seventh, DiPietro's errant pick off throw to first sent Maldonado, who had singled, down to second with one out. A walk to Rodriquez followed, but the right-hander stepped it up and got Nunez and Leise to end the inning.
The Senators broke loose in the top of the eighth. Jim Toth singled to start the inning, and manager Nick Frese called for Mike Fanelli as a pinch-runner. Fanelli stole the bag, and Johannes followed with a walk.
The Senators then went to the rarely used sacrifice bunt, and predictably, it didn't work. Rose got the ball too close to Rodriquez, who easily nailed Fanelli at third. Rivera followed with a grounder to third, and the Stovers got an out at second, but could not turn two on the fleet Senator shortstop.
And once again, Ley stepped to the plate in a big spot. And once again, the lefty delivered, this time with an RBI single. With no base open this time, the Stovers pitched to Alessandrini, and he made them pay with a booming double to right-center to give the Senators a 6-4 lead. Izzi followed with a sharp grounder to second, but Mark Mehler picked it nicely for the third out.
The Stovers had a chance to get a run across in the bottom of the inning, but they ran themselves right out of it. Perez banged a one-out single and stole second. After Rick Santarone popped to short, Perez made an ill-advised attempt to steal third, and Laudisio promptly gunned him down to end the inning, and put a major damper on the Stover's chances of getting back into things.
To add insult to injury, the Senators tacked on an unearned insurance run in the top of the ninth to make it 7-4. And that's how it ended, as DiPietro closed out the Stovers with three infield grounders in the bottom of the inning. And like that, the Senators had their title, becoming the first-ever champions of the NJIBL's flegling 45+ Division.
DiPietro scattered seven hits in picking up the win, and held the Stovers off the board after the fourth. Meanwhile, Ley was pounding baseballs all over the park, delivering a 4-for-4, two double, two RBI tour de force. Alessandrini, Izzi, and Colon each contributed two hits to the Senator attack. The Stovers got two hits out of Maldonado, and a great complete-game effort from Rodriquez, who certainly pitched well enough to win.
For the Senator organization, it was their ninth championship win, third at the 45+ level alone. Just a few minutes later, the 35+ Senators would make it an even 10, as they won the 35+ Division championship, making the special day even more special.
Notes: The Stovers gave the Senators all they can handle all year long, and the final was once again a close game. These are two evenly matched clubs, and one can only imagine what is to come in 2013...DiPietro was outstanding all season long, and he did not taste defeat even once...the Senator offense had tons of heroes all year long, and this may have been their most consistent offensive team ever. Choosing a team MVP is going to be one difficult proposition...the Stover offense was greatly improved this year with the additions of Nunez and Martinez. They will clearly be a force to be reckoned with going forward...here's hoping that this excellent 45+ group of teams continues to grow, and that next year's battles feature 8-10 teams fighting it out for the division championship in this outstanding baseball league.