Published in the August 26, 2016 edition
Top Tigers and Red Sox in playoffs to win crown
MELROSE — The Indians are the Major League champions of the Churchill American League for 2016.
After a regular season which saw them compile a 13-3 record, the Indians won the playoffs in much the same way they dominated the regular season — with strong pitching, tight defense and an offense that was both impressive and timely.
The playoff journey began against the upstart Tigers, who sent ace Shea Fogerty to the mound. The Tribe countering with hurler Rowan Smith.
The Tigers struck first when Fogerty led off the game with a walk, advanced to third on two fielder’s choice plays and eventually scored on a rare Indians’ error.
The score remained 1-0 until the bottom of the second inning when Justin Camelio stepped to the plate and deposited a hard fast ball high over the right field fence to tie the ball game at one run apiece.
Defense and pitching marked much of the next few innings, as both teams settled in.
Of particular note was the defensive play of Dan O’Donnell, Ryan Dolan, Shane Murphy and Quinn McNamara of the Indians and AJ Izzi, Brady Pitcher and Liam Gage of the Tigers.
In the fourth inning the Indians finally broke through as consecutive hits by Mike Richards and Smith pushed two runs across to give the Tribe a 3-1 lead.
The Tigers did not go quietly and scratched out a run on back to back hits by Stephen Fogerty and Chris Gill in the top of the fifth.
However, reliever Dom Drago struck out four of the last five Tigers he faced and sealed the victory.
The pitching in this game was exceptional for both teams.
For the Tigers, Shea Fogerty pitched four innings and allowed only four hits, walked one batter, and struck out 11.
Reliever Drew Harrington was also effective, pitching one inning, striking out three and allowing only one run.
For the Indians, the tandem of Smith and Drago each pitched three innings and only allowed two hits between them, walking three and striking out 12.
As the result of a hard fought 12-9 victory over the White Sox, the Red Sox earned the right to face the Indians in the Churchill American Major League Championship Game.
Matt Whelan took the hill for the Sox and Drago for the Tribe.
In the first, both Richards (double) and Smith (walk) scored when the Indians drew four consecutive walks to take a 2-0 lead.
Drago kept the Red Sox bats quiet until the top of the third when hits by Chip Moro, Max Kirby and Matt Fox led to three runs and a temporary lead for the visiting squad.
But in the bottom of the third inning the Indians’ offense came alive. Hits by Richards, Drago, Camelio and O’Donnell, bracketed by walks earned by Jake Bird, Connor O’Leary, Paul Nault and Murphy, led to a big six run inning and a 8-3 lead for the Tribe.
The Red Sox were rocked but did not give up, scoring a run in the top of the fourth on a walk and a hard hit single by Zack Frederico.
Sox reliever Tony DiMare entered the game for the visitors and kept the Indians off balance for the remainder of the game, hurling an impressive two and two-thirds innings giving up only four walks, striking out four and allowing no hits and no runs.
Similarly, Smith kept the Red Sox bats quiet, entering the game in the fourth and despite allowing one run in the fifth, struck out five of the last six batters he faced, closing the door on the hopeful Sox.
The Indians won the championship by a final score of 8-5.
It was a great playoff season for all four teams. A special congratulations went out to the Indians as they were crowned the 2016 Churchill American Little League champions.