Power, Haymakers Surge; Top Seeds Advance to Semi-Finals
By Kirsten Karbach
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — The top-ranked Toronto Rush and Manitoba North Stars each earned victories in quarterfinal action on Friday, while the Midwest Haymakers and Palm Springs Power stayed hot in advancing to the California Winter League semifinals.
Toronto has won five straight contests dating back to the regular season, during which the Rush finished with a 10-4 record. The CWL’s No. 1 seed battled past the No. 13 seed British Columbia Bombers in a pitcher’s duel, emerging with a 3-1 victory at Palm Springs Stadium.
Starters Alan Rombkowski and Alex Brosnan took turns tossing zeros until the Bombers broke the shutout in the fifth. John Williams got it going with a triple off Brosnan, who had not allowed a hit prior to Williams’ drive. Collin Bennett followed with a sacrifice fly to put the Bombers ahead, 1-0.
The Rush rallied back in the bottom half. With Josh Wenger and Richard Riccardi aboard on singles, Charles Dailey’s grounder to short was misplayed for an error, allowing Wenger to score from third with the tying run. Joe Davis walked to load the bases, and Kevin Wirth bounced a fielder’s choice grounder to short to push home Riccardi with the go-ahead run.
Second-seeded Manitoba toppled the Bay Area Bootleggers, 10-2, in the day’s opening game at the main field. The North Stars jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second inning, and continued to tack on with runs in each of the next four innings.
Kizuku Scott led the offense from the top of the order, smacking three hits and swiping two bases for the North Stars. Victor Barron tripled twice, while Buddy Elgin and Nick Murphy each finished with two runs batted in.
Colin Moberly delivered a dominant performance in the start, holding the Bootleggers to just one hit through his first five innings. The right-hander would finish having allowed two runs – one earned – on four hits through six innings in the victory.
David Kimbrough’s sacrifice fly broke up the shutout in the fifth, and Gary Aho singled home a run an inning later to account for the Bay Area offense.
On the Auxiliary Field, the No. 8 seed Midwest Haymakers continued their recent surge, knocking off the No. 10 seed Washington Blue Sox by an 8-1 final.
With the teams knotted up at one apiece in the fourth, Will Soto singled home Brian McKenna with two outs to push the Haymakers ahead, 2-1. Midwest tacked on some cushion an inning later, highlighted by Beau Riportella’s RBI triple.
Kenny Frosch, who entered the game with a one-run lead in the fifth, pitched the final 2.2 innings and struck out five while permitting just one hit to earn the save. Alex Williams picked up the win after surrendering an unearned run on three hits in four innings.
No. 11 seed Palm Springs Power upset the third-seeded Canada A’s to wrap up the season’s action on the Auxiliary Field, shutting out the A’s 2-0. Nick Grim turned in five scoreless frames for the win, while Nick Arnoni and Andrew Lowe combined to allow just one hit through the final two.
The games’ only runs came across in the opening inning. With two down, Ian Hagenmiller came through with a double to plate Nick Marigny. Cameron Johnson’s single brought Hagenmiller home to make it 2-0 Power.
Brady Muller went the distance in the loss for Canada, collecting six strikeouts.
Saturday will showcase semi-final action at Palm Springs Stadium on Dollar Beer Day, with one dollar drafts for Budweiser and Bud Light.
The Midwest Haymakers will battle the Manitoba North Stars at 10 a.m., followed by the Palm Springs Power and the Toronto Rush at 12:30 p.m. The winners will advance to the California Winter League championship game, which will be played on Sunday at 12 p.m.