Boston Makes the Title Game for the First Time in History and loses to The Thunder
Coach Weissman started off the day making sure the players really took some time to enjoy themselves. Relish in the fact the team was playing in the title game and was one of two teams left standing during the 2016 World Series. It was something to be proud of. Much like when the Red Sox won in 2004. That team won it for every other player who had ever played for the Club that went 86 years without a championship. We needed to recognize what we had accomplished since the team started playing competitively in 2002. Weissman wanted the players to take some time and enjoy the atmosphere. However, when the opening ceremonies were over, it was just another game.
The Indy Thunder brought with them an army. It’s hard to say exactly how many people they brought but they listed 45 players and volunteers in the program. Boston is one of the biggest programs in the world, but we could not afford to bring our entire staff (nor did they have the time off to spend a week in Iowa). As the Indy Thunder was announced the fans began to cheer…but somewhere around their 20th person, they stopped paying attention….and by the time the Renegades were announced, people just wanted to watch the game. There was only a smattering of applause for the Renegades as they took the line and the league struggled to pronounce many of the names in the process. The coin toss was held and this time the Renegades would lose and would be the visiting team. On the bench for the Renegades was Joe McCormick who missed the fireworks after being taken to the hospital in an ambulance the day before. Our medical staff cleared Than Hunyh to play if and only if he would allow them to tape his leg. And tape him they did. Mike Marciello made a brace out of tape that allowed Thanh to move around without a limp and he would be part of this game despite the pain he was in. On the other side of the ball, Miguel Tello was taking reps for the Thunder in pre game workouts and he would also be in the starting line-up as he was recovering from an injury that pulled him from the previous match up. Kyle Lewis was not starting for the Thunder but rumor was he was available if he was needed.
Though the Thunder was the faster team and a healthier team and had much greater depth than the Renegades. They were also less experienced in big games and had never played in front of large crowds (other than their own army). The key would be to get off to a good start and make sure the defense was playing on all cylinders. Larry Haile was going to have to play a lot of defense in this game and we were going to try and Keep Thanh Huynh on the field as much as we could but rotating a Joe in (either Quintanilla or Yee) to see who could get hot at the plate. For Indy, the key player missing in their line up was Kyle Lewis. He made a huge stop on the Renegades in deep center field and also would end up on the all-offensive all-star team. In his place was Tobey Gregory. Could Tobey step up?
Christian Thaxton led off the game with newfound confidence as he scored just one time in the previous game. In Thaxton style, he worked the count to 4 strikes with three foul balls and then hit a pop fly to the right side to start the game off. Miguel Tello had no chance and Boston was on the board. Rob Dias hammered the 2nd pitch down the left field line to the “oohs” and “aaahs” of the crowd but it was foul. He then fisted a weak pop up into the center field that Tello scampered over to put him down. Larry Haile then hit a fly ball about 115 feet into left field that Eric Rodriguez got down to early on for the Gades second run of the inning. Devenish would strike out (after hitting the pitcher) and Quintanilla would hit a pop fly that Tello would grab to end the frame. Boston felt good about its start…but had hoped for just one more run to turn the line up over.
In the bottom of the first inning, it was time to see if the Renegade defense was going to be able to pull it together. With leadoff hitter, Eric Rodriguez striking out, the Renegades felt good. Gerald Dycus hit a hard grounder up the middle. Zuccarello ran by the ball. Larry Haile dove at it and as the ball rolled by Haile’s arms Gerald, Dycus hit the base. The ball was dead and it would have to be done over. He then hit the ball much better into right center where Thaxton dove at it…but it deflected off him for the first run of the Thunders game. This brought Tobey Gregory to the plate. He did not play in their first game yesterday. Boston had scouting on Gregory and moved Thaxton from deep right center to the first base side. Like the scouting read, Gregory hit a room service ball 100 feet right at Thaxton. Christian went down and the ball landed 2 inches short of hitting him right in the gut. Thaxton could not hear it or bring it into his body in time and Gregory scored on a Christmas present. Zach Buhler then hit a ball up the right middle of the field past Guy Zuccarello into the hands of a diving Thaxton who made this play diving to his right for the 2nd out of the inning. The Thunder had tied the score. Tyler Rodriguez worked a full count then hit a fly ball to the left side which Justen Proctor charged. As he ran in on the ball, he heard it go over his head. As he put the breaks on he slipped and fell backwards. Rodriguez had given the Thunder the lead with Proctor on his ass. Rodenbeck drilled the first pitch he saw on a line to the third base side where Thanh Hunyh laid out and made a nice play to end the inning.
Heading into the second, both teams were settling into the match. Guy Zuccarello, who is one of the hardest players in team history to strike out, led off with a 4-pitch whiff to start the inning. Thaxton stepped to the plate and on the first pitch, hit a high fly up the middle of the field that was about 80 feet out, but when the ball landed, it had some spin and Eric Rodriguez was unable to make a play to catch the speed of Thaxton. Rob Dias then blasted a shot into left field that left the fans “oooo’ing” for a run. Larry Haile had a chance to keep the foot on the pedal but his swing path changed slightly and he and his battery could not connect as he whiffed on 4 straight pitches for the 2nd out of the inning. This brought, the rookie, Devenish to the plate. On the first pitch, he blasted a shot into left field that Adam Rodenbeck chased after. The ball hugged the third baseline but well after the base it rolled into foul territory making it near impossible for Rodenbeck to get. Joe Yee would ground out on a ball up the middle to Rodriguez to end a big inning for Boston and the Gades would lead 5-3.
The bottom of the second would be a tough inning for the Renegades as Christmas would come early for the Thunder. Eric Rodriguez would not be denied this time as he lofted a fly ball into right center toward Thaxton. The ball bounced in front of him but Thaxton was unable to keep it in front of him and Erod scored. Gerald Dycus then hit a bomb into right center, again toward Thaxton, who made a diving stab but the ball bounced by him to tie the game. This brought Gregory to the plate. This time he hit a grounder to Justen Proctor. Justen went down to his knees (Weissman sat on the bench with a pained expression watching this) but misread the ball as it rolled by him. Joe Yee was slow to the ground (and in his mind, he had better of heard Weissman yelling “where is the Jabba”) and it rolled under him and Gregory had two Christmas presents on the day. This should have been the first out of the inning. Zach Buhler then hit a ground ball up the middle. Proctor never laid out for the ball. Zuccarello slid to his right and dove on the ball. When Guy could get his hands on the ball, Buhler was at the base. Another gift from Boston. At this time, Bryan Grillo had enough and called a time out for the defense. This may have been Grillo’s 2nd time-out he had ever called. He wanted to make sure everyone was all right. The score was 7-5 Indy with no outs…but Boston had gift-wrapped the last two balls and this is something you can’t do with a team like the Thunder at the plate. Tyler Rodriguez was next and he hit a high fly down the third baseline. Proctor hustled over and touched the ball when it was in foul territory killing the play. He made a great effort and actually picked it up before the speedy Tyler reached the base, but nonetheless, it was foul. Rodriguez would then strike out. Adam Rodenbeck stepped into the box. The Renegades slid Thaxton over to protect the line and right on queue, Rodenbeck hit it down the line and it looked like an out. However, Thaxton was unaware of how far he was from the line. He laid out too early and the ball squirted by him for a run to turn the lineup over to the top again. Rodriguez stepped to the plate and fouled it off down each line. He then hit a nice line drive to the third baseman, Joe Yee. Yee was late to the ground and it slid by him out to Larry Haile. Haile looked awkward trying to go to the ground Haile almost looked like a chicken who had been shot and was running away and Rodriguez had his 2nd run of the inning. The game was getting away from the Renegades. To this point, Indy had struck out twice, scored 9 times and Boston had only made 2 defensive stops. Just when it looked like it could go on forever, Dycus hit a weak grounder to the right side. Dias scrambled in and picked it up as Dycus missed the base, then Dycus dropped to give push ups. He was likely out despite the missed base. Tobey Gregory, then hit a grounder to the left side. Proctor laid out but hit the ground to early and the ball rolled by his feet. This time Joe Yee picked it up for the out. After two innings Boston was now down 9-5. Sadly, the two gifts to Gregory and Buhler led to 4 runs for Indy, which was the difference in this game.
Boston never quits. leading off the third was Zuccarello. He lofted a fly ball up the left side that was about 95 feet and made it past the short man. Tyler Rodriguez slid over to pick up the ball but it kicked off his shins just as Guy was taking a bad line to third. That bad line cost a run (he was already wearing the pink blindfold for a missed base on the previous day). Thaxton, then hit a weak grounder down the third baseline that rolled about 90 feet, it was a foot race between him and Rodriguez. Thaxton won. It was now 9-6. Rob Dias then lifted a lazy fly ball up the middle. Miguel Tello raced to the middle of the field, taking an angle backwards and on two hops picked up the ball, right before Dias reached the base for a great defensive play. Larry Haile then laced a hard grounder down the right side. At about 110 feet, Tobey Gregory laid out and the ball hit him right in the box for another splendid defensive play and the Boston comeback was squandered. Indy’s defense was looking much better on this day. After three, Boston needed a quick defensive inning.
The Christmas gifts of the first and second innings that led to 5 runs for Indy were the difference. The Indy defense was playing much better than the Renegades. This was the main difference. Woodard was getting extra time and was finding a groove. The third inning had a different feel all together. Zach Buhler led off with a fly ball up the middle. Zuccarello went back on the ball, circled it and got in front of it. Just as he got to the ball, Buhler scored on a bang-bang play. It would have nabbed many hitters but Buhler is fast and tough to get when the ball is in the air out at 115 feet. Tyler Rodriguez hit a fly ball to left. Thanh Hunyh over ran the ball, but Larry Haile was backing him up. Haile hit the ground and as he was getting his mitts on the ball, the speedy Rodriguez slapped the base for another Thunder run on a bang-bang play. This brought up Rodenbeck who hit another hard grounder to Thaxton. Christian went down too early and the ball went by him. Thunder 12 and Boston 6 with no outs. Eric Rodriguez then lofted a fly ball to Proctor. A foot race ensued and just before Proctor got the ball off the ground, Eric was in. The third Indy run on a split second play due to the speed of the Thunder. The speedy Dycus then hit a fly ball to right center. Thaxton had one chance on it, but when he dove, he laid out on his stomach and the ball rolled over his legs. A nice play to get there but a lack of fundamentals here made it impossible to get Dycus. Tobey Gregory then hit a grounder up the middle. Zuccarello over ran it but Haile was there to back him up. Again, as Haile gets his hands on the ball, Gregory scores on another bang-bang play. Boston was showing no quit, but the Thunder were blazing the lines this inning as they were like sharks smelling blood. Buhler came to the plate for the 2nd time in the inning after the Thunder had scored 6 straight runs. He hit a hard grounder to the left side. Proctor was late to the ground, But Thanh Hunyh was there to make the bleeding stop for Boston. When the play was made, it was found Thanh made the out on a broken ball that had no beep. The second time Boston made a play on a dead ball this week. Tyler Rodriguez then hit a high fly ball to the center of the field. Dias and Proctor converged and Dias was able to pick it up on two bounces for the second straight stop. Adam Rodenbeck was next and on the first pitch hit a line drive to left center toward Larry Haile, but Haile over ran it for the 7th run of the Indy inning. Rodriguez then hit his 2nd pitch on the ground to the left side which Thanh Hunyh dove to his right for and as he dove to the ground his momentum took him onto his back and the ball hit him near his hip for the out. Boston escaped the inning and after three it was 16-6. Boston did not give up but this inning was the inning of the bang-bang play and the speed of the Thunder was making it very hard for Boston.
Boston was down 10 and staring at a possible 12 run rule. They needed a few runs from the bottom half of the order which was just 1-6 on the day. Shawn Devenish would lead off. He had that only run. For Indy, they started the inning by bringing Ed Brown in on defense to replace Tyler Rodriguez. Devenish hit the first pitch he saw off the bottom of his bat up the left center side of the field, which was where Tyler had been playing. This time rookie Zach Buhler was there. It did not matter, Tyler’s brother Eric made a nice play angling back on the ball to stop it. Joe Quintanilla came back in to pinch hit for Thanh. Quintanilla hit a line drive up the middle of the field, but the ball did not travel far and Eric had time to run back and easily get in front of it as he made the play around 80 feet. This brought Zuccarello up for the last chance for the bottom half of the order to try and score a run. First pitch swinging, he and Cochran hit a weak grounder to the right. Miguel Tello was there in a split second to pick up the ball and Boston threw up a donut for the first time and Boston was now done 16-6 after three innings. All Indy needed to do was score two runs in the bottom of the inning, they could force the 12 run rule. This is the beep baseball equivalent to a mercy rule.
Indy would send up their 2-3-4 hitters. Gerald Dycus led off the inning crushing a 130-foot fly ball down the first baseline but it was just foul. In the end it was a long strike. His next pitch was a ball off the bottom of his bat and Dias lined it up easily for the first out and three of the last four hitters had been stopped by the Boston defense. Tobey Gregory was next and was 3-4 on the day with two gift-wrapped runs. He fouled a few balls off to the right side. He then lifted a high fly ball to the center of the field at about 55 feet. Dias backed up on it and Proctor waited for Dias. Neither could get it in time and Gregory scored another run on a ball that could have been an out. Zach Buhler then lifted a high fly ball to about 115 feet of the middle of the field. Zuccarello made a dive at it…but the ball went over him and Buhler scored easily to force the 12 run rule. Since Indy was the home team, they would finish the inning. Ed Brown in his first at bat lifted a short pop fly to the center of the field and on a hop, Justen Proctor finally made his first stop of the game for the 2nd out. Rodenbeck would then hit the second pitch of his at-bat on the ground up the middle. Guy Zuccarello was on it and it rolled right into his chest.
For Boston, they would need to score 12 runs to force Indy to have to come to the plate. Boston had just 6 outs remaining in its season. Leading off for the Renegades was Christian Thaxton. In a nice move by Indy, they inserted Clint Woodard into the game. Clint had played in 5 title games but had never won. Thaxton crushed the first pitch to left field that looked like it could be close to a home run but when the play was over, the ball was dead. Thaxton knocked the beep out of the ball. By rule, Thaxton would have to do it again. He then hit a hard grounder to Eric Rodriguez, which bounced off him, but he was able to pick it up for the out. In essence Thaxton was punished for hitting the first ball too well. Rob Dias was 1-2 on the day hit the 2nd pitch down the left side. Rodriguez angled back toward the line and got in front of it for the 2nd out of the 5th. Larry Haile then hit a 43 footer and Eric Rodriguez easily beat Larry and made the out before Larry could get half way down the line. Three more outs would remain for the Renegades.
In the 6th, the bottom half of the renegade line-up would remain. Devenish hit a hard grounder up the middle. Eric Rodriguez angled to his left and made a diving stop of the ball that hit him in the armpit. Rodriguez had made 4 stops in a row. Off the bench for Boston, would come Tim Syphers. Syphers lifted a fly ball foul down the third base line on the 2nd pitch. He then hit an 80-foot grounder up the middle where Rodriguez and Tello converged as Tello picked it up easily. To this point Eric Rodriguez would have 7 stops and Tello 5. Hot Tub Thayer would be the last Renegade up and he would go down swinging to end the game and the dream for Boston. The Thunder were the better team on this day. Though the Boston defense gave away too many runs, which led to longer innings, the power and speed of the Thunder was too tough. Boston was unable to get enough of it hits by the two front men of Indy. The Thunder celebrated their first ever championship. As they danced on the field, Weissman pulled his team off the bench and asked them to listen to Indy celebrate and implored them to keep their heads up and use the moment to fuel their off season work outs. Boston did not have enough on this day but had its best ever season in team history finishing second in the league with a 13-2 record and their only two losses falling to the champion. It was an amazing season. We walked off the field with our heads held high and our sights set on returning to this game in the future
If you would like to watch the game, it is available on-line. The crew did an amazing job with play-by-play, color commentary, graphics and post production quality edits. Even if you saw some of the game live that day, the quality of this video has been enhanced and includes the time when the live feed came off-line. That video can be seen here: https://vimeo.com/179394573
Also…If you want to read the game summaries from the previous days at the World Series, see them below