Billy Mottram’s two out opposite field single down the left field line scored Paul Yanakopulos, who had tripled in the bottom of the eighth inning, to give the Chiefs a 2-1 extra inning walkoff win in Game Three of Intercity League’s best of five championship series on Friday night at Morelli Field.
With the win, the Chiefs take a 2-1 series lead over the Lexington Blue Sox with Game Four scheduled for Sunday at 7:30 PM at Morelli Field.
The Chiefs got the opportunity for the win thanks to the lights out pitching of Mitchell Clegg (pictured at right). The big lefty scattered just three hits and was virtually untouchable after Lexington got an unearned run in the top of the first inning. The Washington Nationals product retired the last eleven batters of the game in a row.
The Chiefs got off to an ominous start when Mike Barbati bobbled Jeff Vigurs grounder on the first pitch of the game for an error. Clegg struck out Ross Curley before walking his only batter of the game when he issued a free pass to Steve Gath on four pitches. The Blue Sox took advantage and a quick 1-0 lead when Dave Ahern doubled to right, scoring Vigurs and sending Gath to third. With runners at second and third and one out, the Chiefs escaped pretty cheaply when the Blue Sox ran themselves out of the inning. With the Chiefs infield playing halfway, Dan Graham was thrown out at first on a bouncer to Juan Portes at shortstop. After the putout, Ahern got hung up in a rundown between second and third before being tagged out by Portes to end the inning.
Mottram (pictured below) singled off Blue Sox starter Drew Brzozowski with one out in the bottom of the first before getting both Portes and Johnny Welch to fly out to send the game to the second.
Justin Silvestro led off the Lexington second with a single to left and Tommy Haugh moved him into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Clegg left Silvestro at second when he struck out Mike Hart and then retired Tommy McKenna on groundout to Barbati.
Brzozowki enjoyed a rocking chair six pitch 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the second.
The Blue Sox got their final runner of the night into scoring position in their half of the third. Vigurs reached on a tough chance error by Portes in the shortstop hole and Curley bunted him to second. Clegg kept it a one run deficit when he got Gath on a grounder to Welch at third and then put down the side when Ahern flew to Mike Gedman in right.
Brzozowski cruised through the bottom of the third with a strikeout and two grounders and Clegg returned the favor when he got the Lexington side in order in the top of the fourth.
The Chiefs broke into the scoring column and got the equalizer when Portes hit a one out solo homer to left-center, knotting the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the fourth.
Hart recorded Lexington’s last hit of the night when he led off the top of the fifth with a single up the middle. Lexington played small ball again when McKenna dropped a bunt that Clegg fielded but threw late to second, setting them up with two men on and nobody out. Clegg then recorded a big out when he struck out Vigurs on three pitches. The Chiefs got out of the scrape when they turned a Barbati to Portes to Copa doubleplay, off the bat of Curley, to end the inning.
Copa led off the bottom of the fifth and legged out a slow infield roller to the left side. The first baseman went down in a heap after crossing the bag and had to be helped off the field with an apparent quad injury. Mike Burgoyne came on to pinch run and he was promptly sacrificed to second on a text book bunt by Mike Andre. Brzozowski then got Barbati to pop to Haugh for the second out of the inning. Yanakopulos followed and drilled a single to left. McKenna put a charge on the ball and came up throwing and fired a perfect strike to Vigurs who applied the tag on Burgoyne to end the inning and keep it a 1-1 game.
Clegg meanwhile was assuming command on the mound. He retired Gath on a grounder to Portes, struck out Ahern, and then got Graham to foul out to Welch, in an eleven pitch top of the sixth.
Brzozowski was equally as tough in the bottom of the inning when he retired Tony Serino and Mottram on grounders, walked Portes, before Welch lined out to second.
In the top of the seventh, Clegg caught Silvestro looking at strike three, got Haugh to line out to Barbati, and then struck out Hart swinging.
The Chiefs went quietly in the bottom of the seventh. Gedman grounded to Gath and Burgoyne and Andre both flew out to send the game to extra innings.
Clegg set the Sox down in order for the third straight time in the top of the eighth on a grounder and a couple of popups that set the stage for the bottom half of the inning’s dramatics.
Barbati led off the bottom of the eighth and lined to Ahern in right for the first out. Yanakopulos followed and delivered one of the biggest hits of his Chiefs’ career when he sent a line triple to the wall in straightaway center. Serino was next, and after going to a 3-0 count, Brzozowski came up money and struck out the leadoff hitter with a high fastball for the second out. Mottram then stepped to the plate with the series lead on the line and supplied the game winner. The lefty lofted a 3-1 pitch just inside the leftfield foul line and barely out of the reach of McKenna to send the Chiefs pouring out of the dugout as Yanakopulos came across the plate with the winning run.
Clegg, who struck out seven, evened his postseason record at 1-1 and improved his overall season mark to 4-1. The southpaw threw 102 pitches of which 67 went for strikes. In addition to retiring the last 11 batters in a row, he set down 19 of final 20 Blue Sox he faced.
Brzozowski also was impressive. The former Brandeis standout, who entered the game with a 9-1 ICL postseason record dating back to 2009, allowed just six hits and struck out four in 7.2 innings.
Mottram, a Haverhill, MA product, was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 2007 out of Dowling College.
(Bruce Tillman, Bruce Hack-Stats & Boxscores-www.Pointsteak.com, Jim Valente-Photos)