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Houdini's Tavern

07/29/2018, 9:45am EDT
By Rob Gray

Mills Tavern works their magic to consistently wiggle out of trouble and topple Louise & Jerry’s for their first A Division Championship!

       HOBOKEN, NJ -- As one might hope, the two best teams in our league faced off for the A Division championship.  Those teams were Louise & Jerry’s and Mills Tavern.  Louise & Jerry’s held the top seed with their impressive 7-2 regular season record and came into the game winning 6 of their last 7 contests.  Mills Tavern finished at 5-3-1, good enough for second in the division, and had won 3 of their last 4 games heading into the championship matchup.  The two teams met twice in the regular season, with Louise & Jerry’s holding a distinct advantage.  They’d sweep the season series of their division rival and outscored their opponent a combined 20-6.

            This game certainly was not short of star power.  On Louise & Jerry’s side, Jude Bracken ranked 1st in homeruns (9) and 3rd in RBI’s (22), Mike Brizzolara ranked 5th in RBI’s (16), and pitcher Anthony Romano finished tied for 2nd in wins (5), 1st in ERA (3.72), and 4th in WHIP (2.12).  On the opposing side for Mills Tavern, Alex Bially finished 2nd in the league in hits (25), Rob Lennon was tied for 4th in hits (22), tied for 2nd in homreruns (8), and ranked 1st in RBI’s (26), Jen Benesky ranked 2nd among women in batting average (.433), and pitcher Jim Pilla tied for 2nd in wins (5) and finished 3rd in WHIP (1.97).  Just how close were these teams as a whole?

Category

Louise & Jerry’s

Total (Rank)

Mills Tavern

Total (Rank)

Runs Scored

105 (3rd)

114 (1st)

Hits

155 (2nd)

152 (3rd)

Walks

30 (5th)

41 (3rd)

Homeruns

26 (2nd)

22 (3rd)

Team Batting Average

.407 (2nd)

.398 (3rd)

Runs Allowed

64 (10th)

85 (11th)

Walks Allowed

43 (16th)

11 (2nd)

Team WHIP

2.05 (4th)

2.07 (5th)

Run Differential

+41 (3rd)

+29 (4th)

 

It doesn’t get much closer than that!  This set us up for one heck of a championship battle between one perennial powerhouse in Louise & Jerry’s and another team hoping to achieve that status in Mills Tavern.

            Mills Tavern came out of the gate firing in this one.  Alex Bially led off the game with a single with Jen Benensky following suit two batters later.  Dave Wasserman was able to work an RBI walk before Dan Lyons came to the plate with two outs.  Lyons delivered and smacked a 2 RBI single to finish the scoring in the inning.  The defense held down the fort and worked a 1-2-3 first inning behind pitcher Jim Pilla.  Mills Tavern put another runner on in the second but couldn’t plate a run.  Louise & Jerry’s, as expected, began to answer back in the bottom of the second.  Jude Bracken led the inning off with a solo blast to cut the deficit to 3-1.  They’d put two more runners on base but could not capitalize.  This would become a common theme throughout the night.  Feeding off of the strong defensive play, Rob Lennon led the inning off with a walk before Wasserman delivered again.  This time, it was a 2-run homer to extend the lead to 5-1.  Louise & Jerry’s would stop the damage there and hold their opponent to another 0 runs in the fourth, but they could not gain any more ground.  They again saw two runners on base in the bottom of the third and fourth innings but could not find that big hit.  After two quick outs in the top of the fifth, Jen Benensky drew a big walk to set up guess who?  Wasserman would come to the plate and smack another long ball to bring his RBI total to 5 on the night, extending the lead to 7-1 in the process.  Things were getting a bit anxious for Louise & Jerry’s but this was a championship caliber team with one of the most potent offenses in the league and a lot of game left.

            Chris “Cutty” Lyons led off the bottom of the fifth with a single and would later score on a two out RBI single off the bat of Rob Delfino.  They finally got a much needed hit with a runner in scoring position and Jude Bracken followed with a single to set the offense up again.  However, the two baserunners would be stranded again and the deficit was 7-2.  Louise & Jerry’s would work a scoreless top of the sixth and gave themselves a chance to get back into this game.  A leadoff single from Ted Serro (reaching second on a fielding error) and another reach on error set up the offense with runners at the corners and no outs.  Surely this was the start of the big inning they had been waiting for.  Pilla and the Mills Tavern defense would have something to say about this.  They’d work their magic and Houdini their way out of this one as well.  Pilla showed off the cat-like reflexes and made a great catch on a comeback liner off the bat of Mike Martinez.  That one was ticketed for centerfield and an RBI.  The next at bat resulted in an around the horn 5-4-3 double play that left Louise & Jerry’s stunned.  Smelling blood in the water, Mills Tavern struck again in the top of the seventh.  A one out single by Bially was followed by a two-run blast off the bat of Lennon.  The lead was 9-2.  Mike Brizzolara of Louise & Jerry’s stepped up to the plate and belted a pinch hit homer to start off the bottom of the seventh.  However, Pilla would induce a pair of fly outs in the heart of the order to escape further trouble.  No one on either side would score in the eighth and this was a 9-3 game heading into the final frame.

            Mills Tavern felt the championship in hand but knew there was still work to be done.  They’d work walks for 3 of the first 5 batters in the inning to bring that man up again with bases loaded and two outs.  Consider it a victory for Louise & Jerry’s that Wasserman would “only” hit an RBI single before they’d escape the inning.  It was now a 10-3 game and their backs were completely against the wall, but the reigning champs weren’t going to go down without a fight.  A leadoff single was exactly what Louise & Jerry’s needed but they would follow with a fly out and a fielder’s choice to leave themselves to their final out.  Erika Lesher would keep the ball rolling with her single and Delfino came through with another clutch RBI single.  This set up a 3-run homerun by Bracken, his second of the game, to make this one interesting.  The lead was 10-7 and Louise & Jerry’s just needed baserunners.  They would not get them.  Pilla and the Mills Tavern defense stopped the bleeding and shut the door, clinching their first A Division championship!

            Mills Tavern won the game with some excellent offensive performances and an incredible defensive effort.  Louise & Jerry’s put two runners on base in 5 of the first 6 innings.  The Mills Tavern defense stranded every single one of those runners.  It would not be until the bottom of the ninth, when this one was well in hand, that Louise & Jerry’s would be able to come through and capitalize in this type of situation.  Mills Tavern also saw great production out of the top half of their lineup.  Their first four batters (Alex Bially, Rob Lennon, Jen Benensky, and Dave Wasserman) combined for 8 of 15 from the plate with 5 walks, 3 homeruns, and 8 RBI’s.  Dan Lyons was no slouch in the six spot either, with his huge hit in the first inning and a 2 for 4 effort overall.  He also made a number of excellent plays in the field at third base, gutting it out after an injury sidelined him a few weeks prior to the start of the playoffs.  However, player of the game honors has to go to Wasserman, who was dealing with his own injury and went 4 for 4 at the plate including 2 homeruns, a walk, 3 runs, and a game high 6 RBI’s.  He also played a great game at shortstop to solidify the defense.  Don't get this one twisted though; it was a complete effort from top to bottom.  Even those that may have struggle at the plate contributed in a big way in the field, including Jim Pilla's feat on the mound and Alicia Mattiello, who played an excellent game at second base.  The loss came despite the efforts of 3-4 hitters Rob Delfino and Jude Bracken, who combined for 6 of 10 with 3 runs, 6 RBI’s, and 2 homeruns for Louise & Jerry’s.

            Congratulations to two excellent teams on two incredible seasons and hard fought battle for the crown.  Unfortunately, there could only be one winner among these two very deserving teams.  That honor would go to Mills Tavern!  Congratulations to the 2018 Spring Graig Nettles Division Champions!!!  Anyone else sensing a rivalry brewing?  See you both next season!


Congratulations to the 2018 Spring Graig Nettles Division Champs - Mills Tavern!!!

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