Express Train Derailed In Travel Championship
The Express stormed their way through the NY Travel Baseball - Cub National playoffs, sweeping all three games in the round robin portion, but ran into a hot pitcher in the championship game last Tuesday where they lost to the Brooklyn Bandits 8-1.
The Express made it that far by beating the Joe Torre Bulldogs 12-5 and the Bandits 8-1 on Saturday and then outscoring the Brooklyn Blazers 8-5 on Sunday.
All games took place at Fort Tilden.
In the first playoff game, the Bulldogs jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead on Express starter Ian Byrne as a hit batter, a ground ball bad-hop single and a line double to left-center resulted in 2 runs and a runner on third with no outs.
The Express defense and pitching then settled down to their usual steady form. Shortstop Daniel Green saved a hit with a stop of a hard ground ball up the middle for the first out as another run scored. Byrne then flashed off the mound to get a slow roller down the third base line for the second out. A strike out ended the inning.
The Express showed their aggressive base running style by scoring three runs without a hit to tie the game in their half of the inning. Byrne, Green and Billy Reyes led off with walks and all three scored. Byrne dashed for home when a passed ball rolled away from the catcher and when the throw to third to try and catch Green advancing on the play wasn’t handled cleanly, Green came home as well. Reyes scored from third on James Agoglia’s ground out to the pitcher.
Byrne and his defense got stingy after that. He struck out the side in the second and retired the side in order in the third. The Express scored 5 times in the bottom of the second to take an 8-3 lead. Walks to Jake Mackoff, Byrne and Green with the bases loaded resulted in 3 runs and then Reyes smashed a tworun single to center.
The Bulldogs struck for 2 runs on 3 base hits in the top of the fourth but Byrne ended the rally by striking out the final 2 batters. The Express scored twice in the fourth and fifth to take a commanding 12-5 lead with the big hit being Byrne’s line drive double to rightcenter. The game ended with third baseman James Tuohey doing his best Brooks Robinson imitation by charging a slow roller and firing across his body to Matt McDonagh at first for the final out.
Byrne got the complete game victory striking out 9. He also scored twice and drove in one run. Reyes went 2-2 with 2 RBIs, Joe Tammaro and Joe Featherston scored twice.
After a few minutes rest, the Express took the field again against the very tough Brooklyn Bandits, who had beaten the Brooklyn Blazers 10-0 in the other early playoff game. Green led off the game with a walk and scored the first run on James Tuohey’s opposite field double. Tuohey aggressively took advantage of a botched pick off attempt and wild pitch to score. Mike McManus scored the third run when he walked, stole his way to third and came home on Jake Mackoff’s hard hit grounder.
That turned out to be the entire offensive support starting pitcher Green needed. He allowed one run on two hits while striking out 8 and walking only one on his way to an 8-1 victory. The defense was superb behind him with the highlight being Jake Mackoff’s alert backup in left field of a pickoff attempt at third in the third inning and his one bounce strike to catcher James Agoglia who blocked the plate, caught the throw and applied the tag on one motion.
With a runner on at second base, and no one out in the sixth, the Express turned a 4-3-5 double play as second baseman McManus threw out the batter at first and McDonagh then fired to Tuohey at third to nail the runner trying to advance. Green and Byrne scored twice for the Express while Tuohey went 3-3 with 2 RBIs.
The Express entered Sunday’s morning game against the Brooklyn Blazers having already clinched a spot in the championship but determined to continue their winning ways. Starter Billy Reyes got the first two batters but a two-out ground ball error opened the door for the Blazers to score 3 runs in the first. The Express answered right back with four runs in the bottom of the inning as Joe Tammaro led off with a walk that was followed by base hits by McDonagh, Tuohey and Reyes and a run-scoring ground out by Agoglia.
The Blazers retook the lead 5-4 with two runs in the top of the second. The score remained that way until the bottom of the third when McManus’ leadoff walk was followed by base hits from Tammaro, Tuohey, Reyes and Agoglia giving the Express an 8-5 advantage.
McManus came in to pitch the final three innings. In the top of the sixth, Byrne jumped out from his catcher’s position to field a bunt and throw out the batter helped by a nice stretch across the basepath from first baseman Reyes. Second baseman Terence Marten snared a hard hit grounder, threw to first for the final out and the Express moved on to the championship having swept the round robins.
Both the Express and the Bandits came into the championship game with their aces fired up and ready to go. The Bandits went with Lenny Santana who had beaten the Joe Torre Bulldogs 3-2 on Sunday and the Express went with Daniel Green who held the Bandits to one run in their contest on Saturday.
The Bandits jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Santana reached base with two outs and then scored as a throwing error on his steal of third allowed him to reach home. They scored another unearned run in the second when a one out single was followed by two errant pickoff attempts and a wild pitch. The Express escaped further damage in the third.
While Santana was mowing down the Express, Green was struggling with his control and things fell apart in the third as the Bandits pushed across four more runs for a 6-0 lead. McManus came in to pitch the final three innings for the Express and held the Bandits in check but the Express were not able to mount a comeback. Santana gave up only one hit and struck out 15 while walking only one during his complete game victory.
Despite the disappointing loss, the Express finished the summer season with an excellent 16-2 record. They now look forward to playing in the Tri-State Championship tournament at Baseball Heaven in Yaphank from September 21-22, where they’ll compete against teams from Long Island, Connecticut and Canada.