2016 GLSCL Champs Hamilton Joes
Joes Top Locos in Decisive Game Five, Named 2016 GLSCL Champions
It wasn’t a “Game Seven”, but Wednesday night’s matchup between the visiting Hamilton Joes and host Lima Locos was the next best thing. In the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League the Championship Series is a best of five series, and five games are exactly what we all got. The Joes, coming in with their high powered offense and flashy play style, were pitted against the phenomenal pitching staff of the perennial powerhouse Lima Locos. The Locos, having home field advantage and being the reigning GLSCL Champions, looked to be the upper hand, but were eventually outmatched by the Joes. In a series that saw huge offensive outputs and lopsided victories both ways, it was only fitting the Hamilton Joes would take down the defending Champion Lima Locos, by a score of 2-1.
Wednesday night was a scorcher, but it was the pitchers who were on fire in the final game, not the bats. Taking the mound for the Locos was the Lou Laslo Pitcher of the Year and Tony Lucadella Top Pitcher Prospect Award winner in Connor Curlis. Although the Locos may have had an award winning pitcher on the mound, the Joes countered with a few award winners of their own in Ben Spitznagel and Dane Tofteland. Ben Spitznagel was recently named the Gary Henschen Player of the Year, having the highest batting average in the league seemingly from start to finish. Tofteland was awarded the Ron Miller Top Player Prospect honor for his offensive abilities as well. Although Game Five featured many award winners and stars, the game was influenced mostly by a few timely plays from role players that would swing the game drastically.
The start of the game flew by as two of the league’s best pitchers in Connor Curlis and Ben Havel took the mound. Ben Havel may have been overshadowed by his opposition in Curlis, but he came in with a 5-0 record and an ERA hovering right at 1.00 of his own. Curlis knocked down the Joes batters 1-2-3 in both of the first two innings, and Havel only allowed one baserunner in that span that did no damage as well.
The third inning started off with a bang, literally. The Joes’ A.J. Compton crushed the second pitch he had seen against Curlis for a no-doubt-about-it solo shot to put the game’s first run on the board. In a game of such little offensive production, that solo shot would turn out to be incredibly important.
In the bottom of the fourth inning the Locos responded with a run of their own to knot the score at 1-1. The inning started off with Jared Nixon reaching base with an infield single, then taking second by way of a passed ball. After Havel took down the next two batters, Jason Sullivan came to the plate. Sullivan ripped a ball to Jackson Boyce at third base, but Boyce misplayed the ball, earning him an error and allowing Nixon to score from second base.
Ben Havel and Connor Curlis shined through the fifth and sixth innings, not allowing any real scoring chances to take shape. Going into the seventh inning with the score still knotted up at 1-1 the game had a “next run wins” sort of feel. After going dormant, the Joes’ offense came alive to put up another run, which turned out to be the deciding factor. Offensive workhorse Ben Spitznagel led off with a single to center field. Following Spitznagel, Bryson Shelton reached base by way of a walk. With two men on base Tyler Thamann hit a single of his own to load the bases with no outs. Curlis recorded the first out getting a force at home plate that left the bases loaded. Curlis was then relieved of his pitching duties by Andrew Reeves. Already scoring the Joes’ only run of the game with his solo home run, A.J. Compton came to the plate poised to put the Joes ahead once again. Compton smacked a deep sacrifice fly to center field that would score Bryson Shelton from third base to put the Joes ahead 2-1. Reeves did well to limit the damage to just one run after getting Mason Deanna to pop out to end the top of the seventh.
Trailing 2-1, the Locos offense was in desperate need of some scoring chances. Ben Havel was having none of that as he continued to shine late. Havel allowed one hit in the bottom of the seventh that did no damage and then knocked the Locos’ batters down in order in the eighth to put the pressure on in the ninth inning. Not getting any offensive production of their own, the Hamilton Joes clung to a slim 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the ninth with starting pitcher Ben Havel looking to go the distance. Kevin Woodall Jr. led off the bottom of the ninth with a single to give the Locos faithful hope of a comeback. Havel got the next batter in Colin Stolly to ground out for the first out of the inning. With Jason Sullivan at the plate, Woodall stole second base to have the tying run in scoring position. Sullivan grounded out for the second out, putting pressure on Dayfran Ortiz to deliver a base hit to keep the game alive. With Woodall at second base any base hit into the outfield could bring him home, or make a play at the plate at the very least. After fouling off the first pitch, Ortiz smacked a well-hit ball toward the shortstop, forcing Tyler Friis to make a play to end the game. Had the ball gotten past Friis, Woodall would have had a chance to score, but Friis made the play, recording the last out of the 2016 Great Lakes Summer Collegiate Season and solidifying the Hamilton Joes as Champions.
In a series that saw blow out games for the most part, it was fitting to have to come down to the last batter, in the bottom of the ninth inning, in a decisive game five. Both teams were loaded with All-Stars and award winners and pitted the best against one another. One bad bounce or one pitch called differently and who knows how the game would have gone, but on Wednesday night the Hamilton Joes weathered the storm and prevailed in one of the league’s best games of the season to become the 2016 Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League Champions.