- Bruce Tilman for the Andre Chiefs
For the third year in row, and the fourth time in the last five years, the Chiefs will be playing in the Intercity League’s Championship Series.
Matt DiCato (right) and his mates assured that the franchise would be making yet another trip to the ICL Finals with 9-3 win over the Reading Bulldogs at Maplewood Park on Friday night. With the victory, the defending ICL Champs complete a three game sweep of their semi-final series and raise their overall record to 27-6 on the season. They now move on to finals with a chance to grab the nineteenth crown for the storied franchise and the sixth since the club assumed the Andre Chiefs name in 1989.
The Bulldogs came out of the corner with a flurry to take a 2-0 lead against DiCato in the top of the first inning. Billy Cataldo and Hank Oringer both singled and Zac Talis drew a walk to load the bases with nobody out. Mike Taylor gave Reading a 2-0 lead before the fans settled into their seats when he drilled a DiCato offering into right that scored Cataldo and Oringer. With Taylor at first and Talis at second and still nobody out, Peter Copa charged Dante Padovani’s sacrifice bunt attempt and threw a strike to force the sliding Talis at third for the first out of the game. That proved to be huge as DiCato then got Colin Sitarz to hit into a 5-4-3 doubleplay to get the Chiefs out of the inning relatively cheaply, trailing by two runs.
The Chiefs chipped a run off the lead in the bottom of the first inning on Paul Yanakopoulos’ single and a Copa double. For the torrid Copa, it was his seventh RBI of the series.
DiCato walked Ryan Wolfsberg to open the top of the second before settling in nicely to retire Paul Crehan, Zac Conti and Cataldo on three consecutive infield grounders.
The Chiefs went ahead for good when they picked up three big runs after two were out in the bottom of the second. Mike DiCato was hit by a Kevin Church pitch and went to third on Matt Boleski’s single to right. Church experienced some wildness and walked Tony Serino and Yanakopoulos to force in DiCato to tie the game at 2-2. Portes put the Chiefs in front when he drilled a seed single to left scoring Boleski. With Copa at the plate, Church uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Serino to score to put the Chiefs up 4-2. Church then recorded his biggest out of the night when he caught Copa looking on a low fastball to end the inning and strand two runners in scoring position.
DiCato breezed through the Reading third getting Oringer, Talis and Taylor on three straight groundouts. The Chiefs threatened again in the bottom of the inning. Nate Witkowski drew a leadoff walk and stole second. After Mike Barbati lined out, Mike Andre sent Wolfsberg to the warning track in right-center to track down his long fly for the second out. Church kept it a 4-2 game with his second straight inning ending strikeout.
The Bulldogs tried to make some noise in the top of the fourth inning. Padovani led off with a single to center but was erased when Sitarz hit into a Barbati (unassisted) to Copa doubleplay. Wolfsberg then was hit by a DiCato on a 3-2 pitch and stole second. Barbati kept Reading off the scoreboard when he tracked down Crehan’s pop up in short right to end the inning.
One out singles by Serino and Yanakopoulos appeared to put the Chiefs back in business in the bottom of the fourth. The resilient Church kept the Bulldogs in the game when he struck out Portes and got then Copa on a grounder to Conti at shortstop to send the game to the fifth inning with Chiefs in front 4-2.
DiCato needed just eight pitches to retire the Bulldogs in the fifth on two ground balls and an infield liner to Witkowski.
The Chiefs punched their ticket to the finals when they batted around and scored five times in the bottom of the fifth. Witkowski led off with an infield single and Barbati followed with a line drive to center. Andre then drove them both home with a long double to right-center that jumped the lead to 6-2. DiCato bunted Andre to third and Boleski delivered him with a laser to center. Serino followed with a long triple to left-center scoring Barbati to make it an 8-2 game. Yanakopoulos’ sacrifice fly scored Serino to make it 9-2. Portes then doubled but Witkowski, who started the inning, ended it, with an infield pop up.
Taylor drew the Bulldogs back to 9-3 when he deposited a solo homer deep over the centerfield fence with one out in the sixth before DiCato retired the next two batters.
The Chiefs had an uneventful bottom of the sixth.
In the Reading seventh, Crehan grounded to Portes and pinch-hitter Nick Conti singled before the night and the series ended when Cataldo hit into a Barbati to Portes to Copa doubleplay.
DiCato allowed six hits and raised his overall record on the season to 6-0.
The Chiefs will now enjoy the weekend off and await the winner of the Watertown-Lexington series. The Reds avoided elimination and forced a fourth game with a 2-1 win on Friday night. Game Four of that series will be played on Sunday afternoon at Bentley University at 1:30 PM. If the Blue Sox win on Sunday, the Chiefs will host them in Game One of the finals on Monday at Maplewood at 8:00 PM. If the Reds win on Sunday, Game Five would be contested in Lexington on Monday. The Chiefs would then have to wait until Tuesday to meet either the Reds or Blue Sox at Maplewood.