By Bruce Tillman, Courtesy Photo,- Pointstreak.com
Time to exhale!!!
For the second time in three seasons, and the 19th time since 1961, the Chiefs are League Champions!!!!
This championship came on Tuesday night at Morelli Field in a 4-0 win over the Lexington Blue Sox in a winner take all Game Five before a large crowd at the Melrose ball yard.
The Chiefs took a familiar path to the ICL crown, riding the right arm of ace Jared Freni, who took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before settling for a three-hit shutout.
For Freni, it was his straight third win in the 2014 postseason.
Mike Barbati and Mike Gedman set the defensive tone for the evening on Freni’s first pitch of the game. Barbati went far to his right to glove Jeff Vigurs’ hard hit grounder and fired to Gedman, who made an outstanding pickup, for the first out. Freni then struck out Ross Curley on a 2-2 breaking ball in the dirt but catcher Paul Yanakopulos’ throw was wide of first. With Curley standing at first on the throwing error, Gedman teamed up with third baseman Johnny Welch as the Chiefs continued to throw the leather on the next play. Steve Gath hit a liner at Welch, who made the catch, and fired to first with Gedman making his second strong pick-up of the inning as Curley was doubled up.
The Chiefs threatened but could not score against Lexington starter and loser Matt Karis in the bottom of the first. Tony Serino drilled Karis’ first pitch of the night into centerfield for a single. Billy Mottram was next and he flew to Dave Ahearn in right for the first out. Juan Portes then hit a fielder’s choice with Serino being forced at second. Welch followed with a single to center before Gedman bounced back to Karis to end the inning.
Freni walked Ahearn to begin the top of the second before retiring the next three hitters in succession.
The Chiefs got what proved to be the game winner, without getting the ball out of the infield, in the bottom of the second. Yanakopulos got things started with a perfect bunt single. Mike Andre then dropped a sacrifice bunt that moved Yanakopulos to second. Barbati followed and reached on a dribbler-single down the third base line to put runners on the corners with one out. Mike Burgoyne then hit an RBI chopper to Tommy Haugh at first with Yanakopulos coming across the plate for a 1-0 lead. Karis got Serino on a comebacker to mound to end the inning and strand Barbati at second.
It was three up and three down for the Blue Sox in the top of the third and the Chiefs extended their lead to 2-0 in the home half of the inning. Mottram led off with a bloop single to left. Portes then lined a 0-2 Karis pitch to Ahearn in left-center for the first out. With the count 2-1 on Welch, Mottram attempted to steal second but was gunned out by Vigurs for the second out. Welch then hit Karis’ next pitch over the 385’ sign in left-center, for 2-0 lead. For the Chiefs’ cleanup man, it was his first homer of the playoffs and his ninth of season. Karis got Gedman to groundout to Curley at third to end the inning.
Curley bounced out to Welch to begin the Lexington fourth before Freni struck out both Gath and Ahearn ending the inning.
Yanakopulos opened the bottom of the fourth with a single but the Chiefs couldn’t add to their lead after Andre grounded into a doubleplay and Barbati grounded out to Haugh.
Freni kept the no-hitter going and added two more strikeouts to complete a 1-2-3 top of the fifth.
In the Chiefs’ fifth, after Burgoyne grounded to Gath for the first out, back to back doubles from Serino and Mottram jumped the lead to 3-0. Portes then grounded out for the second out with Mottram taking third. With Welch at the plate, Vigurs picked Mottram off of third base to end the inning.
Lexington mounted their biggest threat of the game after two were out in the top of the sixth. Freni struck out Mike Hart and then retired Tommy McKenna on grounder for the first two outs of the inning. Vigurs drew a walk before Curley broke up the no-hit bid with a single to left, just out of the reach of the leaping Portes at shortstop. Gath then came to the plate suddenly representing the tying run. After running the count to 2-2, including a couple of foul balls back to the screen, Freni put the Chiefs three outs away from the championship when he struck out the veteran on a low breaking ball.
Gedman gave the Chiefs a little more breathing room, with one away in the bottom of the sixth, when he hit a 2-0 Karis pitch over the centerfield wall to increase the lead to 4-0.
Ahearn grounded out to Welch for the first out of the seventh. Graham singled to center before Justin Silvestro grounded out to Gedman, who threw to Portes to force Graham, for the second out. Haugh was next and he dropped a single into right, just out of the reach of Gedman, to put two runners aboard. John Puttress pinch hit for Hart and after going down in the count 0-2, grounded to Gedman, who flipped to Freni to end the game and secure the championship.
Freni struck out nine and needed 97 pitches in his complete game effort.
Karis allowed ten hits and didn’t strike out or walk a batter.