July 30, 2009
By Mark Giannotto
VIENNA, Va. — It had been a strange game through seven innings Wednesday night as the Vienna Senators and Carney Pirates met in a one-game playoff to decide the Clark Griffith League regular season champion when Vienna second baseman Austin Booker turned a routine play into a league title.
With the score tied at two and one out in the eighth inning, Booker connected on a single to left center. Three pitches later, Jon Schwind knocked a hard grounder off Carney pitcher Connor Mielock's glove and into centerfield. With Booker moving on the pitch, he made it all the way to third base, a perfectly executed hit-and-run play.
With men now on first and third, the following batter, infielder Nick Kuroczko, hit a fielder's choice up the middle, breaking up a double play by hustling down the line.
Two basic baseball plays – a hit and run and a player busting down the line – equaled a 3-2 win and another CGL championship for Vienna.
“When you have two teams that are evenly matched like this, it comes down to execution,” said Senators manager Chris Burr. “I give credit to (Booker) for getting on base and (Scwind) for hitting exactly where you want it to go on a hit-and-run.”
The victory gave Vienna (30-9) its fourth straight CGL championship, the 11th in the club's 15-year history. The Senators were facing Carney since the two ended the regular season with identical 29-9 records. During the regular season, Carney had defeated Vienna in five of their eight meetings.
But the Senators got on the board first Wednesday night, when Carney starter Pat Somers struggled with his control in the first inning, walking the bases loaded with one out. But a potential double play ball off the bat of Vienna's Tony Mitchell was bobbled by Carney shortstop John Ralston, allowing Booker to come home from and give Vienna a 1-0 lead.
It was the only run Somers would allow, collecting his bearings as the game wore on. The Pirates offense would answer back in the fourth inning when a single by third baseman Mike Snyder scored catcher Chad Morgan. On the play, Vienna centerfielder appeared to have gunned down Morgan at the plate, but he was able to elude the tag of Vienna catcher Chris Horning.
Carney would tack on another run off Vienna reliever Kyle Hald in the fifth inning. Two errors in the seventh inning, though, allowed Vienna to tie the game at two after an infield single by Jamie Bruno scored Kurt Lipton. From there, Booker and the basics of baseball took over.
“This meant a lot,” said Booker. “We've been battling for first place with Carney all summer, so to win the league championship is very rewarding.”
Hald (7-0) picked up the win, throwing five innings in relief of starter Ryan Camp. He is now 13-0 all-time in CGL play. Wednesday night, Hald gave up just four hits, while striking out seven batters. Perhaps his shining moment came in the seventh inning when he struck out two consecutive batters to get out of a first-and-third, one-out jam.
Mitchell was the lone Senator to finish with two hits. Both Snyder and Morgan went 3-for-4 for Carney. The victory also gave Vienna the No. 1 seed in the Jacobs Cup, the CGL's double elimination postseason tournament, which began before Monday's one-game playoff when the Nationals defeated the DC Grays in a play-in game.
Vienna will take on the Nationals at 7:30 Tuesday night at Waters Field. Carney will take on the Cardinals in first-round action at 4:00.