Bulls clinch spot in championship series
After a pair of deflating losses in Games 3 and 4 of their Blue Mountain League semifinals matchup against Northampton, Limeport co-manager Mike Cudwadie knew two things: The Bulls needed a quick start and their bats needed to come alive in Game 5.
Limeport scored 15 runs in Games 1 and 2 of that series to take a quick 2-0 lead. But the bats seemed to disappear after Northampton evened the series up at two games apiece and held the Bulls to just one run.
In the decisive Game 5 last Thursday night at Limeport Stadium, the Bulls answered Cudwadie's calling. Combined with Adam Maini's solid outting on the moundcomplete game with three unearned runs allowedthe Bulls used a steady offensive barrage to advance back to the championship series with a 5-3 victory over the Giants last Wednesday night.
"Our goal was to have a shutdown inning in the top of the first," Cudwadie said. "Adam Maini delivered with that. And then our goal was to get on the board.
"The thing that I'm proud about is our guys kept adding. Sometimes we have a tendency to get two or three runs and think that Maini is unhittable, which most of the time he is. But you know what, this team is a good team too that we're playing."
For Limeport, they're back in the championship series after seeing last season end in that round. Beating Northampton, the team that swept the Giants in the championship a year ago, made it even sweeter.
The best-of-five championship series started the next day, Thursday, against the Northern Yankees. The Yankees currently holding a 2-1 advantage with Game 4 on Tuesday night at Coplay's Sam Balliet Stadium.
"This definitely feels good to beat these guys," Cudwadie said. "They eliminated us last year, so it's always nice to get revenge. But I think the way our whole team is thinking is honestly we have three more wins to get. We won't be satisfied unless we get those three because that's the ending goal for everything."
Preston Amato (2-for-4 with two runs) got the Bulls' momentum going with a single to start the game and scoring later in the inning on Dan Hemberger's sacrifice bunt. The Bulls pushed that lead to 3-0 in the top of the third after Amato scored on a Northampton error, and Cudwadie crossed home on Matt Godusky's sacrifice fly.
"The past two games, we really haven't been able to get much going with the bats," Amato said. "We knew from the start that we needed to get something goingbunt, whatever you had to do to get on [and] steal some bases. That's what happened today."
The Giants got a run back in the bottom half of the third, but Limeport added one more in each of the fourth and fifth frames to hold a comfortable 5-1 lead.
Three Limeport errors in the final two innings played a big part in helping the Giants make things interesting down the stretch with two more runs. But Maini never let the Bulls' uncharacteristic defensive lapses hurt his focus.
"We feel very comfortable when he [Maini] is on the mound," Cudwadie said. "Unfortunately, we didn't play great defense behind him today. We did make some mistakes; we're hoping to clean that up by tomorrow. We know if we get five runs like we did tonight, 95 percent of the time we're going to win the game for Adam."
Tyler Tocci went 2-for-3 for Northampton with two runs scored, and Damin Muth recorded two singles and a run in the win for Limeport.
Entering their matchup with the Yankees, Cudwadie expected both team's pitching staffs would be on full display. Judging for much of the first three games, he was right.
The Yankees' pitchers were the difference-maker in shutout victories of Games 1 (1-0) and 3 (3-0), while the Bulls' offense did enough in their 6-4 victory in Game 2.
"They're from the Tri-County League like us, so it's going to be an absolute battle," Cudwadie said. "We play close, low-scoring games that are well-pitched with good defense.
"One mistake here or there, or one good bunt, those are the type of things that swing these types of games against them. We know them very well and they know us very well, so I expect it to be a very tight series."