Car­di­nals grab early lead, hang on to down Roy­als in Over-40 Base­ball cham­pi­onship ac­tion

The Dundalk Eagle - - FRONT PAGE - By BILL GATES bgates@ches­pub.com

Dale Hunter helped pitch the Cubs to the 2019 East­ern Bal­ti­more Coun­tyOver-40 Base­ball League ti­tle, but the de­fend­ing champs opted not to re­turn this sea­son when the league played an ab­bre­vi­ated sched­ule due to the COVID-19 pan­demic.

So Dale and two team­mates, Chris Mirabile and Scott Ru­dolph, joined the Car­di­nals.

Sun­day, Hunter helped pitch the Car­di­nals to a 7-6 win over the Roy­als in the league post­sea­son tour­na­ment cham­pi­onship game at the Le­gion Post 38 Field.

So much for an ex-Cubs Curse in this league.

Hunter pitched the fourth through the eighth in­nings and got out of a cou­ple of tough spots as the Car­di­nals held off the Roy­als.

The Car­di­nals led 4-0 af­ter two in­nings. The Roy­als cut it to 5-4 en­ter­ing the sev­enth in­ning.

The Roy­als could have led, but were un­able to take bet­ter ad­van­tage of an op­por­tu­nity in the fifth in­ning.

A walk, hit bat­ter and a bunt sin­gle loaded the bases with no outs. But the next five bat­ters were un­able to get the ball out of the in­field, and the Roy­als only scored two runs to close to within 4-3.

One run scored on a fielder’s choice grounder from Lloyd Fox, and the sec­ond run scored when Andy Corcoran stole home.

Hunter got a called third strike on a bat­ter for the sec­ond out with the bases loaded, and the in­ning ended with a ground­out to sec­ond.

That would be the Roy­als best op­por­tu­nity un­til the ninth, af­ter Hunter left the mound due to in­nings limit with the Car­di­nals lead­ing 7-4.

Two walks and a sin­gle loaded the bases with one out and brought the goa­head run to the plate.

Af­ter a fly­out to shal­low right field, Dan Crow­ley lined a sin­gle to cen­ter to score two runs. Re­lief pitcher Justin Padin, who started that in­ning, slipped a called third strike past the next bat

ter to end the game.

“I just throw off-speed pitches, try to keep the hit­ters off-bal­ance,” Hunter said. “I’m just happy to be able to play the game I love at age 51.

“The [fifth in­ning] was kind of rough. But I buck­led down and got some help from my in­field and out­field. It was kind of easy af­ter that.”

The Roy­als hurt them­selves with a cou­ple of er­rors in the sev­enth in­ning to hand the Car­di­nals what turned out to be two cru­cial runs.

An­gel Clark started the in­ning by reach­ing base on an in­field er­ror. Clark then

stole sec­ond, went to third on a throw­ing er­ror, and scored on an­other throw­ing er­ror.

Two outs later, Hunter sin­gled through the left side to score Brian Marvin for a 7-4 lead.

“We threw the ball around too much,” Roy­als man­ager Jeff Patti said. “And we didn’t hit.”

The Car­di­nals’ vic­tory makes it five dif­fer­ent cham­pi­ons in a row for the Over40 League: Pi­rates, Dodgers, Roy­als, Cubs and Car­di­nals.

Prior to that, the Dodgers had won four straight ti­tles, and then the Pi­rates went back-to-back.

“We built this team over

the last three, four years, went out and got a lot of the right guys,” Car­di­nals man­ager Pat Hei­necke said. “I thought we would go all the way this year.

“I just feel blessed to be able to get out here and play.”

The Car­di­nals had been plagued with pitcher in­juries the past few years, and the sea­son started on an omi­nous note when Ru­dolph in­ured his knee in the sea­son opener and had to sit out the sea­son (al­though he was present at ev­ery game).

But he was the only in­jury, and the Car­di­nals went through the sea­son with the trio of Chris Buck­hold, Hunter and Padin.

The Car­di­nals were miss­ing an­other player when Bryan Pas­cuzzi fell ill last week and was un­able to play. The team ded­i­cated the game to him.

The Roy­als and the Car­di­nals both fin­ished 4-2 dur­ing the short­ened reg­u­lar sea­son, with the Car­di­nals win­ning the reg­u­lar-sea­son matchup 13-11.

In the post­sea­son semi­fi­nals, the Roy­als knocked off the top-seeded Astros 14

12, while the Car­di­nals dis­missed the Dodgers 6-3.

There was a lit­tle con­tro­versy in Sun­day’s ti­tle game.

With two outs and a run­ner on sec­ond in the bot­tom of the first in­ning, the run­ner at­tempted to steal third and the Roy­als felt he was out.

In­stead of the in­ning be­ing over, the Car­di­nals went on to score three runs on RBI sin­gles by Buck­hold, Mirabile and Hunter.

(The first two Car­di­nal bat­ters in the first flew out to left. The Car­di­nals feel one of those balls was dropped but still ruled an out.)

In the sec­ond in­ning, Juan Zayas walked, stole sec­ond and scored on Scott Alt­man’s sin­gle.

The Roy­als got a run in the third in­ning on a lead­off dou­ble by Ryan Mo­ran fol­lowed by two in­field ground­outs.

The Car­di­nals went up 5-3 in the bot­tom of the fifth as Pe­dro Zayas led off with a sin­gle, went to sec­ond on a ground­out and scored on a sin­gle by Juan Zayas.

The Roy­als matched that run in the top of the sixth on an RBI from Bryan Wil­helm.

PHOTO BY BILL GATES

The Car­di­nals won their first Over-40 Base­ball League ti­tle by de­feat­ing the Roy­als 7-6 and be­came the fifth straight dif­fer­ent league cham­pion.

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