BML finals go to game five
Even with the Bulls just coming off a five-run inning in the top of the third, Limeport co-manager Mike Cudwadie had a few words for his teammates and players going into the fourth: "We're not done yet."
The Bulls' offense certainly wasn't finished, but that would have been more than enough with pitcher Jared Schaffer dealing on the mound.
Limeport added a run in the fourth and tacked on four more in the seventh inning, while Schaffer threw a complete game gem that helped the Bulls route the Northern Yankees, 10-1, in Game 4 of the Blue Mountain League championship series on Tuesday evening at Coplay's Sam Balliet Stadium. The winner-take-all Game 5 will be played on Thursday night at Limeport Stadium.
The Bulls have seen their bats both struggle and explode in the playoffs, but Thursday's performance might have been their most consistent outing of the postseason up and down the lineup.
"We got a consistent effort because pretty much everybody on our lineup contributed tonight," co-manager Adam Ganser said. "Overall it was probably our most consistent effort in terms of not relying on one guy to try to do the whole job."
"It's great to have run support because then you can go out there and pitch with a lead, keep pounding the strike zone even more, and making them do the work," Schaffer said. "The offense stepped up well today, and that was huge for us."
Cudwadie got it started in the third with a single, and Preston Amato and Damin Muth drew walks to load the bases. Juan Ortiz (2-for-4 with 3 RBIs) then ripped a two-run single to left centerfield that made it a quick 2-0 ballgame.
Momentum only seemed to carry the Bulls from there.
In the next at-bat, Matt Godusky launched a three-run homerun to centerfield that gave Limeport their most comfortable lead of the series at 5-0.
"When I hit them higher like that sometimes, if you get enough backspin on them they can fly," Godusky said. "That's why the pros hit them like they do. They hit a lot of fly balls out when a guy is throwing decently hard. It's about getting a good pitch to hit and making good contact."
Schaffer, who shut out the Yankees in Game 1 of this series, was masterful once again. He allowed just one run on eight hits and struck out three batters.
"I just pounded the zone," Schaffer said. "I made them hit the ball and see what they can do with it. But as long as you pound the zone, things are going to turn out alright."
The Yankees finally crossed home in the fifth to make it a 6-1 deficit after Ryan Nazario's RBI-single scored Chad Cooperman. But after loading the bases with no outs in that frame, bringing one run home wasn't the game plan the Yankees had in mind.
Instead, the Bulls were able to turn their third inning-ending double play of the ballgame to end the Yankees' threat. Limeport was able to get out of similar jams in the first (runners on first and second with one out) and third (runners on first and second with no outs) innings.
"Double plays are huge, that is six outs out in 27 outs in three innings," Schaffer said. "That really shuts down the innings once you get those plays."
The floodgates then opened in the seventh inning. Pat Rhoads lined a single to left field, scoring Cudwadie for the second time, and CJ Saliby added a three-run double two batters later.
"Usually we have that spark and we have one or two big innings that we can usually take advantage of," Godusky said. "We're not usually the team that is going to get one here and one there. It's more or less we get big innings, and you can do that with guys with some speed and guys who can put the ball into play."
A new champion will be crowned on Thursday night, as neither team has won a Blue Mountain League title. The Bulls, who have been in the league longer than the Yankees, haven't won a championship in either Blue Mountain or Tri-County.
"It's not going to be easy," Ganser said. "We have some real battles with these guys. We know they are going to show up, and so far the home team hasn't won in this series. Hopefully we reverse that fortune on Thursday night. But our guys are confident."