THRILLER VS THE SLUGGERS
On July 17, the Braves first team played its last two regular season games against the Berlin Sluggers, hoping to head into the summer break on top of the standings with an 11-5 record.
In the first game, the Braves used opportunistic hitting and another dominant outing by starting pitcher and MVP candidate Julius Mannel. In the first inning, the Braves continued their strong starts by taking a 3-0 lead thanks to coach Yan St-Pierre 2nd homerun of the season, a lead that swelled to 7-0 by the 4th inning. The Sluggers would score 3 runs in the 4th inning and 1 more in the 6th to make it a close game but Mannel shut the door to earn his 5th win of the season.
THE second game will go down in Braves’ lore as one of the most exciting and weirdest ever played. As coach Yan St-Pierre put it after the game: “Everything that could go well went well. Everything that could go wrong went wrong”. A rough start by starting pitcher Fritz Leidinger dug a 6-0 hole before relief pitcher Jeff Grothe came in to the game, trying to stop the heamorraging. After the Sluggers first two at-bats, they led 10-0
As with all great come backs, it begins with small steps. Joey Elgersma’s first homerun of the season made it 10-1. Yan St-Pierre, pitching in relief, held the Sluggers scoreless before the Braves exploded for 5 runs in the bottom of the 4thinning to make it a 10-6 game.
Rookie pitcher Jaro Bruders took over the mound in the 5th inning, limiting the Sluggers to 1 run, and the Braves scored 4 more runs in the bottom of the inning to make it an 11-10 ball game. Despite good pitching, a comedy of errors saw the Sluggers score 3 times in the top of the 6th inning, and once more in the 7th with Julius Mannel now pitching in relief for the Braves. The Braves were trailing 15-10 going into their last at-bat.
The first four Braves hitters of the inning (Turrini, Mannel, Elgersma, St-Pierre) singled, scoring 2 runs. With runners on first and second base, the Sluggers got two outs but luck was on the home team’s side.
Jeff Grothe hit a small grounder to the Sluggers shortstop who preferred to throw to first base for the third out than toss the ball to second base. A costly decision as the throw was poor and resulted in a bases loaded with two outs for the Braves.
Veteran Oscar Cavaliere then hit a single that scored Joey Elgersma making it a 15-13 game. Philipp Moskopp drew a walk to make it 15-14 and Marco Turrini – the man who started it all – was hit by a pitch, bringing in the tying run. With the winning run 90 feet away, the table was set for the league’s best player and he would not disappoint. Julius Mannel hit the third pitch he saw to right field to score the winning run and give the Braves a 16-15 walk-off win.
NEXT GAME @Berlin Wizards 4.9.2016
ALL IMAGES BY PAUL WARD