(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
CHAFFEE -- Any time the Chaffee Red Devils needed a big play in Wednesday's championship game of the Class 1, District 2 championship game against Bernie, they got it.
Whether it was double plays, strikeouts or big hits, Chaffee came through, upsetting top seeded Bernie 2-1 for their first district title since 2001.
"We played as a team, that was the number one thing," said Chaffee shortstop Alex Crowe. "We never gave up. Coach always says to 'play to win, not to lose.'"
Maybe the biggest play for Chaffee came in the bottom of the fifth inning when with one out and the game tied 1-1, Bernie's leadoff hitter Jesse Shelton singled after Cameron Shipman drew a walk, putting runners on first and third. Chaffee coach Brian Horrell then chose to intentionally walk Bernie's Jake Welch to load the bases for the Mules' third hitter, Jake Owens.
The move payed off as Owens hit a screaming line drive to Crowe, who snared the ball and doubled off Shelton at second to end the threat.
"(Owens) hit the ball as hard as you could hit it," Horrell said. "We stayed back up the middle with one out and the corners were in and coming home. We thought we could protect a little more area up the middle and lucky for us we did stay back because we got a line drive to the shortstop and got a double play."
Chaffee caught another break in the bottom of the sixth inning when Bernie's Quinton Stevens led off with a walk, stole second and advanced to third on a sacrifice by Will Barnett. However, Bernie attempted a suicide squeeze and missed the bunt, allowing Chaffee to tag out Stevens heading back to third.
"We just didn't execute on the squeeze and that happens," said Bernie coach Jason Long.
With momentum clearly with the Red Devils, Chaffee's Jason Cicardi led off the top of the seventh with a bunt. Cicardi flew down the line and the ball was bobbled allowing Cicardi to reach first. Cicardi then advanced to third after a wild pitch and passed ball and scored when Crowe lined a single up the middle, giving Chaffee a 2-1 lead.
"I just thought "please God help me,'" Crowe said of his at bat. "I just choked up and hit the baseball."
However, the game was far from over as Bernie's Blake Trover led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk. Shipman then sacrificed Trover to second, bringing up the top of the Mules order with one out.
Chaffee hurler Andrew Dooley then got Shelton to ground out to Crowe, bringing up Welch. Horrell once again decided to intentionally walk Welch and pitch to Owens and the move paid off once more as Owens grounded out to Crowe to end the game.
"We have great respect for the Welch kid and great respect for the Bernie program," Horrell said. "They've been a great program the last two seasons. Out of respect for him we felt we had to intentionally walk him and it played out in our favor."
"Well (teams) are going to do that, but what people don't know is I'll take Jake Owens up there at the plate in that situation any day," Long said. "He has over 50 RBI this spring. When Cameron was able to bunt Blake over to second, I felt real good because I felt like when they got to Welch they were going to walk him and that was great with me having Jake Owens up there at the plate in that situation."
Horrell said the decision was made before the game to not let Welch beat them.
"By walking him, it wasn't going to force anybody up, there was a base open," Horrell said. "It was a pretty easy decision when a base was open."
While walks played a big part in the game it was a pitcher's duel for the most part between Stevens and Chaffee's Daniel Dooley.
Bernie got to Daniel Dooley in the first, when Shelton led off with a walk and scored on a Stevens single, but the Mules were unable to score again off the sophomore.
"Daniel Dooley is a kid we are going to be fortunate to have in our program for the next two seasons," Horrell said. "He has struggled a little bit throughout the season. Some days he looks great, other days he struggles with his control. We just had to hope he was right today."
Daniel Dooley pitched five innings allowing one run on three hits and four walks while striking out two. He was then relieved by his older brother, Andrew Dooley, who pitched the final two innings earning the win. The elder Dooley did not allow a run or hit while walking three and striking out one.
"(Daniel) was on the borderline a few times because in a game like this you can't go very long," Horrell said. "I tried to stay with him as long as I could and he kept getting out of it and finally I just thought the time was right to go with his brother, the horse that got us here."
Down 1-0, Chaffee tied the game in the third when Cicardi walked and stole second. He then used his speed to score on a Jared Walker single.
Cicardi said his speed is one of his biggest attributes.
"I can't really hit that well so I'm just trying to get on base and help my team," said Cicardi who scored both runs for Chaffee.
Stevens took the loss for Bernie, pitching all seven innings. The senior gave up three hits and walked six while striking out 11.
"I thought that Quinton pitched really, really well," Long said. "He pitched through some adversity there and I'm real proud of him. He did a good job of keeping his composure and he kept us in the game. We had a chance to win at the end and that's all you can ask for."
Chaffee (14-8) will host Cooter in a Class 1 Sectional on Monday at 4 p.m.
Chaffee 001 000 1 -- 2 3 3
Bernie 100 000 0 -- 1 3 2
WP -- Andrew Dooley. LP -- Quinton Stevens. 2B -- (C) Dooley.