Wolfpack catcher Jesse Mullen blocks the plate and tags out Northern Michigan’s Dylan Cuddahee trying to score the winning run with the game tied, 8-8, in the botton of the seventh in the winners bracket semifinals, Saturday, at Walker-Johnston Softball Compex in Urbandale. The Wolfpack cameback to win the game 10-9 in extra innings. Photo By BOB OTTO
URBANDALE, IOWA – They’re called the Long Beach Wolfpack, but a name change might be in order, such as the “Comeback Kids.” For the second consecutive game, the Wolfpack rallied to pull out a win.
This time a big one in the semifinals of the winners bracket in the 40-team NAFA A World Series, Saturday, at Walker-Johnston Softball Complex in Urbandale.
In what seemed more like a heavy weight fight than fastpitch softball, the Wolfpack pulled out a 10-9 victory over a Northern Michigan team (3-1) that scored 19 runs in its previous game.
“We haven’t seen hitting like this ever,” said Wolfpack manager and catcher Jesse Mullen. “Everybody’s crushing the ball and we have to crush it with them.”
The two clubs combined for 27 hits – the Wolfpack leading with 17. And they cleared the fences with five home runs, four by Northern Michigan’s Tom Tryban, Joe Barnette, Randy Wheelock, and Devin Milheim; and one by the Wolfpack’s Luis Perez.
Northern Michigan’s Devin Milheim is greeted by his teammates after hitting a three-run home run in the second that gave his team a 3-1 lead. Photo By BOB OTTO
After slugging it out for seven innings in which there were three ties and four lead changes, the game came down to the eighth inning tied, 8-8.
In the top of the eighth, the Wolfpack put the game in the win column by scoring twice on Joe Janicke’s RBI single that plated Dave Hess, who walked, with the go-ahead run, followed by Dave Waco’s hit up the middle that brought home Perez, who reached safely with a single.
About the Wolfpack’s clutch hitting, Mullen said, “if one guy doesn’t do the job, the next guy will. We believe in each other.”
Wolfpacks first baseman Dave Waco, front, and Northern Micigan’s Joe Barnette collide and are sent sprawling. Photo by BOB OTTO
Now leading by a pair of runs, a big question loomed: could pitcher Debby Day get three outs and seal the win? Yes, but not without some trouble.
Day got two ground ball outs to start the inning. But then Barnette blasted a homer deep over the centerfield fence to cut the lead to one. And Wheelock kept Northern Michigan’s hopes alive when he singled to left.
But Day got Dylan Cuddahee on a strikeout to end the game and send the Wolfpack into the winners bracket final against the Kansas City Outlaws (See story below).
Day, who improved to 4-0, finished by allowing nine runs (seven earned) on 10 hits, four walks and two strikeouts. Though Northern Michigan roughed her up some, Mullen was impressed with her tenacity in facing such a good hitting ball club.
Wolfpack pitcher Debby Day gets a big hug from catcher Jesse Mullen after striking out the final batter and getting the win for the Wolfpack. Photo By BOB OTTO
“She’s gritty and doesn’t give up,” he said. “If something happens, she just blows it off and goes right back at them. She’s stone-faced, you can’t tell if she gave up a home run or struck two people out in a row.”
Northern Michigan trailed 8-7 going into the bottom of the seventh. And only a huge play by Mullen at the plate denied them the win. The inning started with Wheelock reaching first on an infield throwing error.
Then Day issued walks to Cuddahee and Lee Wykcoff to load the bases for Guy Thorston. And the right-side hitter came through with a clutch single to centerfield that scored Wheelock to tie the game.
On Thorston’s hit, Cuddahee kept churning around third base trying to score the winning run. But centerfielder Aaron Breslow gunned a strong throw to Mullen blocking the plate to cut down the sliding Cuddahee and deny Northern Michigan the walk-off victory.
“It’s just been heartbreak after heartbreak for the other teams I think,” Mullen said. “These comebacks (were made) by all our guys.”
Wolfpack down Kansas City Outlaws to reach championship game
Batting cleanup, Luis Perez belted a walk-off solo home run that sailed 300 feet over the slowpitch fence in deep centerfield to give the Wolfpack a 5-4 victory over the Kansas City Outlaws in the winners bracket final on Saturday night.
Luis Perez belted a solo homer that gave the Wolfpack the walk-off victory in the winners bracket final over the Kansas City Outlaws. Photo By BOB OTTO
Perez, who went 2 for 3 with a walk and two RBIs, also hit a two-run homer in the first inning to put the Wolfpack up 2-1. The Outlaws tied the game two-all in the second on Mark Whitworth’s groundout, but Joe Janicke’s solo shot in the third put the Wolfpack back on top, 3-2.
And in the fifth, Janicke (2 for 3, double, home run) led off with a double and eventually scored on two passed balls to push the Wolfpack ahead, 4-2, a lead they carried into the seventh.
Wolfpack left-fielder Tom McDougall made the play of the game when he made a diving catch to rob the Outlaws of a hit. Photo By BOB OTTO
The Wolfpack could have won the game in the top of the seventh, but the Outlaws scored twice on a walk and two infield errors and Matt Springston’s RBI single that tied the game.
The Wolfpack’s Andrew Ysais came on in relief in the fourth to pick up the win. The right-hander pitched well, allowing two runs (none earned) on five hits, one walk and one strikeout.
Outlaws’ 18-year-old New Zealand pitcher, Ethan Johnston, went the distance allowing five runs (three earned) on eight hits (three homers), one walk, and five strikeouts.
The win puts the Wolfpack in the championship game scheduled for Sunday at 1:15 p.m. at Walker-Johnston Softball Complex. Meanwhile, the Outlaws must win an 11:30 losers bracket final for a second shot at the Wolfpack.