After dropping a sloppy 12-4 decision to the rough and ready Moorestown Marlins in the first of a best-of-three final series, the Washington Township Senators let the pitching carry the day as they beat the Marlins in two straight games to take their second consecutive NJIBL 45+ Division Title, their third title in a row, their fourth in the past five seasons. Riding the backs of John DiPietro and Gabe Mastrangelo, the Senators held the powerful Marlin offense scoreless for 16 consecutive innings on the final weekend, sweeping the two games by scores of 6-0 and 12-9. Mastrangelo helped his cause and DiPietro's, homering in both games.
The Sunday, August 4 match featured a sloppy defensive effort by the Senators, who made a whopping SEVEN errors, which led to an equal number of unearned runs in the 12-4 loss. The Marlins Steve Guanay held the Senators at bay before leaving with what appeared to be a serious arm injury. Each team collected 14 hits in the game, the Marlins led by three from Donny Davis and two each from Richie Swan and Marty Nemo, who also relieved Guanay and held the Senators scoreless from the remainder of the contest.
It was a fairly tense 4-3 game, with the Senators holding the slim lead, when the train went off the tracks in the bottom of the fourth. The Marlins collected four singles in the inning, and were helped immensely by five Senator errors in the frame. When the dust settled, it was 10-4 Marlins, and they did not look back. Mark Alessandrini had three hits for the Senators in a losing cause, while Kurt Ley, Frank Izzi, Miles Reader and Hector Colon each had two. Mastrangelo took the tough loss, though he battled mightily in his seven innings of work, tossing 111 pitchers.
With Guanay somewhat disabled by the arm woes, Marlin skipper Joe Basara went to Nemo for what the Fish hoped would be the clinching game on Saturday, August 10th. Senator manager Nick Frese opted for a rested DiPietro, the long-time Senators ace, and he stepped it up for this one.
DiPietro notched seven masterful shutout frames, scattering five hits, walking two, and tossing 105 pitches to pick up the 6-0 victory. The Senator offense managed 11 hits off Nemo, led by Billy Trotman's 3-for-3 performance and a solo homer by Mastrangelo deep over the right center field fence at Glassboro. And it was the bottom of the Senator order that did the majority of the damage, as the 7-12 hitters went 8-for-18 and scored five of the six runs in the game. Frank Rose and Izzi each chipped in with two hits. The only Marlin who was on to DiPietro was the always tough Dan McGann, who collected three of their seven singles.
The shutout win set the stage for a Sunday rubber match at Rotary Field in Voorhees, and the Senators spent the previous night wondering who Basara would send to the hill in this critical contest. They should have known.
Despite the fact that he obviously was not 100%, Guanay sucked it up and took the baseball. And he did manage to hold the Senators off the board in the first, working a 1-2-3 innings. But an old foe got him in the second.
Izzi led off the second by walloping a 3-2 pitch over the right field fence right down the line, a frozen rope if ever there was one. Incredibly, it was his first ever homer as a Senator. Dan Laudisio followed with a solid single to left, and Reader moved him up with a sacrifice bunt — a very rare use of this device by a Frese-managed club, as he tends to follow the Earl Weaver method (and no, the play as NOT called from the bench). Anyway, Bobby Wood made it work by slapping a two-out RBI single to give Mastrangelo a 2-0 buffer.
Mastrangelo keep tossing zeroes at the Marlins, and the score remained 2-0 until a Senators sixth-inning explosion provided some breathing room.
Hector Colon singled to start the rally, and Wood followed with a booming double that one-hopped the fence in right, putting runners on 2nd and 3rd. Jimmy Toth grounded to first for the first out of the inning, and that set the stage for Mastrangelo, who sent shockwaves through both dugouts by sending another blast deep over the fence in right for a three-run homer that made it a 5-0 game.
Guanay retired Rose on the old 9-3 putout for the second out, but Mike "Don Fanuci" Fanelli singled and stole second. Angel Rivera followed with a grounder that Guanay misplayed, leaving runners at the corners, a play that would cost the Fish dearly.
Rivera broke for second with Ley at the plate, and Fanelli took off for home when the throw went down to second. Both runners were safe, and Ley made it even worse by slapping an RBI single to give the Senators what appeared to be an insurmountable 7-0 advantage. Guanay exited after hitting Alessandrini with a pitch, with Nemo once again taking the baseball. He appeared to have retired Izzi to end the inning, but his pop to center was dropped and the Senators had an 8-0 lead before Laudisio popped to Basara to end the big inning.
Nemo got himself into big-time hot water in the 7th when his control left him. But honestly it was amazing the guy was on the hill at all after having tossed 122 pitches the prior day. He walked Mastrangelo to start the inning, but got Rose and Fanelli before walking Chris "Aunt Betty" Johannes and Rivera. Ley did the rest, mashing a bases-clearing double to make it 11-0, a lead that NO team could possibly blow...right?
Rivera relieved Mastrangelo to start the 8th, and the Marlins got two unearned runs off him thanks to some shaky Senator infield defense. They managed just one hit off Rivera in the inning, a Nemo single, but two errors and a Guanay sacrifice fly got the Marlins on the board. Still, an 11-2 lead with just one inning to play was looking pretty good to the guys in red.
The Senators managed an "insurance" run in the ninth thanks to two more walks and a Frese RBI single, and the manager handed the 12-2 lead to the veteran DiPietro, giving him the opportunity to be on the hill for the pentultimate out.
But Lord, it was not to be.
The Marlins staged a furious rally, whip-lashing DiPietro with five consecutive rocketed singles followed by a walk, followed by two more rocketed singles. VERY fortunately for the Senators, Nemo was erased trying to stretch the last one into a double, and DiPietro exited the contest with a man on third and one out rather than 1st and 3rd with none out.
Fittingly, Frese called Mastrangelo back to hill to stop the bleeding and close things out for...himself (not a save situation, but close to one). The veteran lefty got Guanay on a deep drive to center that Alessandrini ran down for the second out, Steve Degnan scoring the Marlins 9th run (7th of the inning) on the play. But Mastrangelo fanned the always tough Dave Baril on three pitches to finally, FINALLY end the game.
The Marlins out-hit the Senators by a 17-11 margin, but seven of those hits came in that last inning. McGann, Tom Donahue, Nemo, and Kenny Young each had three hits for the Fish. The Senator offense was led by Ley, who had two hits and four RBI, Wood (2-for-4) and of course, Mastrangelo, who got the win, scored three runs, and hit the three-run ding-dong. Quite a weekend for the first-year 45+ Senator!
Notes: For the Senator franchise, this was their 11th overall championship (four by the 25+ club, three from the 35+ boys, and four from the 45+). An enviable record for sure...having Izzi back for the finals was a surprise for the Nats, and a major shot in the arm. The fella can hit a little...the Senators were without Billy Trotman, no small thing, since the guy was seven for his last seven this season...the Marlins obviously missed Gary Rodriquez, who was sidelined several weeks ago with a broken ankle. If he is there, maybe things are different in this series...the mutual respect these two clubs have is amazing, borne from years and years of competing against each other. Every single game is a pitched battle, and a hell of a lot of fun, too. It's a damned shame somebody has to lose.