Upsets Rule Day One of the California Winter League Playoffs
By: Julius Bzozowski
Tight games, momentum swings, and upsets were a recurring theme on the first day of the California Winter League playoffs. Four of the six underdogs (in terms of seeding) defeated their opponents.
In the first game of the day at the Auxiliary Field, the eighth-seeded Midwest Haymakers defeated the ninth-seeded Palm Desert Coyotes by a score of 7-3.
The story of the game was Haymakers starting pitcher Kawagashi Haruki, who struck out eight batters in five innings of work while walking just one.
Palm Desert ace Andrew Welwerts was battered for seven runs on seven hits in five innings and took the loss.
Offensively for the Haymakers, they received balanced production throughout the lineup. Eight different starters had exactly one hit, but the biggest run producer of the day was shortstop Kazuki Nezu, who went 1-for-3 with one run scored and two runs batted in.
In the first game of the day at Palm Springs Stadium, the 12th-seeded Bay Area Bootleggers shocked the 5th-seeded Palm Springs Chill by a score of 5-4.
Bay Area built up a 5-2 lead heading into the seventh and final inning, but had to hang on as the Chill mounted an impressive comeback.
Chill third baseman Josh Eatherly went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored, and Chill first baseman Brandon Kiser also had a solid day as he went 2-for-2 with an RBI and a walk.
Bootleggers starting pitcher Josh Wright threw a complete game, striking out four in the process. The lefty was sensational in the middle five innings, but allowed two runs in both the first and seventh innings.
In another thrilling upset, the 11th-seeded Palm Springs Power defeated the sixth-seeded Alberta Grizzly by a score of 4-2 on the Auxiliary Field.
Palm Springs built a 4-0 lead and had to withstand a late Alberta Grizzly rally to secure the win.
Power starting pitcher Julian Esquibel threw a gem, as he pitched six innings and struck out seven. Kyle Pisano came on in the seventh to nail down the save.
Alberta Grizzly infielder Brendan Reid singled home two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning, and Alberta would go on to load the bases before Brian Fay grounded out to end the game.
Palm Springs Power shortstop Nicholas Marigny had himself a day at the plate, as he went 2-for-3 with two runs scored to spark the lineup from the second spot.
In game two at Palm Springs Stadium, the 14th-seeded Coachella Valley Snowbirds raced out to a 4-0 lead on the third-seeded Canada A’s before falling by a final score of 8-5.
Canada came into this game as heavy favorites, and they showed why as they exploded for a six-run fifth inning.
After being baffled by Snowbirds starting pitcher Chikara Igami through four innings, the A’s racked up five hits and six runs in the bottom of the fifth to take a 6-4 lead. Second baseman Brody Miller doubled in the frame, and Chris Kalousdian hit a two-RBI triple to give Canada the lead. Kalousdian would come around to score for the sixth run of the inning.
Canada would tack on two more runs in the bottom of the sixth and hang on to win by a score of 8-5 despite a late Snowbirds rally.
A’s starting pitcher Ricky Schafer earned the win, as he struck out six, walked none, and allowed five runs (three earned) in 6.1 innings.
For the Snowbirds, third baseman Masahiro Miyadera went 3-for-4 with one RBI and one run scored in the loss.
In yet another Auxiliary Field upset, the 10th-seeded Washington Blue Sox shutout the seventh-seeded Oregon Lumberjacks by a score of 6-0.
Blue Sox pitchers Kenny Knudsen, Brandon Boyle, and Luke Barker combined to strike out 12 batters in the team shutout. The triplets only allowed two hits and walked just one Oregon batter. Every batter in the Oregon starting lineup struck out at least once.
Washington Blue Sox designated hitter Aaron Wirsch led the way offensively, as he went 2-for-4 with two RBI.
Lumberjacks outfielder Dakota Burke went 1-for-2 in the loss.
In perhaps the biggest upset of the day, the 13th-seeded British Columbia Bombers defeated the fourth-seeded New York Colonials by a score of 4-2 in the final game of the day at Palm Springs Stadium.
In a game dominated by pitching and defense, the teams were tied at 2-2 heading into the seventh inning after British Columbia received a huge break in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Colonials catcher Mason Morioka hit a ground-rule double to right field with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, and that forced baserunner Nicholas Willoughby (previously on first) to only move up two bases instead of easily scoring the go-ahead run.
Following that momentum swing, Bombers outfielder Pete Leonello reached on a throwing error with two outs in the seventh inning and the final two British Columbia runs came around on that play.
Bombers starting pitcher Garrett York kept New York off balance all day, as he struck out four over 5.2 innings and allowed only one run to a dangerous Colonials lineup.
Colonials starting pitcher Michael Tamburino worked 6.2 innings and struck out eight while taking the loss.
It’s quarterfinals time, and Friday is also Canada Day at Palm Springs Stadium! Anybody with a Canadian identification card can get in for the stadium doubleheader for just two dollars.
There are four more playoff games on Friday: two at the Auxiliary Field and two at Palm Springs Stadium.
At the Auxiliary Field, the Washington Blue Sox will do battle with the Midwest Haymakers at 9am. The second game of the day at “the AUX” will feature the Palm Springs Power and the Canada A’s at 11:30am.
Tomorrow will be the first games for both the top-seeded Toronto Rush and the second-seeded Manitoba North Stars, as they are coming off of byes. Manitoba will host the Bay Area Bootleggers at 10am at Palm Springs Stadium, and Toronto will host the British Columbia Bombers at 12:30pm.