Aug. 15, 2008
It's been a long road to a Cape Cod Baseball League championship for the Harwich Mariners, who have finally broken their 21-year drought with a 2-1 win over the Cotuit Kettleers Thursday night before 6,133 fans at Whitehouse Field. Bronco catcher Tommy Medica and pitcher Steve Kalush were on the winning team, with Bronco teammate and pitcher Nate Garcia finishing as the runner-up on Cotuit's team.
Medica, the starting catcher for the Mariners, was 2 of 4 in the championship game. Kalush and Garcia did not pitch in the final game.
"It was awesome, the final game there was over six thousand people there. It is always fun to play in front of a big crowd," said Medica. "There is nothing more exciting than winning the championship at home in front of the hometown crowd. It is Harwich's first title in 21 years so it's awesome.
"It was great to be here all summer," continued Medica. "There was unbelievable competition. Every pitcher we faced was legit. It was just all around a great experience meeting all these players as well and playing against all this talent. I am so glad I had this experience!"
"It's a great day to be a Bronco," said Santa Clara head coach Mark O'Brien. "We are proud of all three of them for their efforts this summer. I know they had a good time, worked hard and grew up some in the process. We look forward to building on their success next season."
"It's been 21 long years," said Commissioner Paul Galop as he presented the Arnold Mycock Trophy to Harwich manager Steve Englert. "Here's a little token of appreciation. It's all yours, Harwich."
Mark Fleury (North Carolina) came in as a pinch hitter for Alex Hilliard (Vanderbilt) in the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded and popped a fly ball into right center field that escaped the glove of Cotuit's Brett Jackson (Cal-Berkeley), bringing home the tying and winning runs.
"Coach (manager Englert) told me the inning before to get ready, get loose," Fleury said. "I told him I was ready. The guy (Cotuit closer Drew Storen) was throwing hard, I was just trying to get the bat on the ball up in the air somewhere ... it worked out."
Joseph Sanders (Auburn) had opened the ninth for Harwich with a triple to right field that eluded the glove of a diving Evan Crawford (Indiana). At that point, Cotuit manager Mike Roberts decided to pull his starter, southpaw Nick Hernandez (Tennessee), in favor of his closer, Storen (Stanford). But Storen hit Brian Kemp (St. John's) then walked Chase Leavitt (Arkansas) on a 3-2 count to load the bases and set the stage for Fleury's heroics.
"From start to finish, it was unbelievable," said Harwich assistant coach Marc Thibeault. "These kids never quit. A lot of guys just come up here to showcase their talents, and our kids did that, but they went the extra yard. They bought into the team concept, and about staying the entire summer. They wanted it as much as the coaches."
Robert Stock (Southern California) hit a sacrifice fly in the seventh that scored Dallas Poulk (North Carolina State), giving the Kettleers a 1-0 lead that they carried into the last inning. Stock had hit a two-run homer against Harwich Wednesday, so he personally accounted for every Cotuit run in the championship series.
Fleury and Jason Stidham (Florida State) were named co-winners of the PA SportsTicker Star of Stars Playoff MVP award. Stidham had seven RBI in Wednesday's 11-2 Harwich victory.
Cotuit's Hernandez threw 115 pitches as he worked eight solid innings, scattering eight hits, striking out six and walking nobody before being relieved by Storen.
Harwich's starter, Chris Manno (Duke), pitched seven innings and allowed one run. He was relieved by Willie Kempf (Baylor) who finished the game and got the win.
"They ground it out all summer long," said Englert. "I feel really happy for the team."
"Englert's the best guy in the world," said Fleury. "He's one of the best coaches I've ever had. He deserved to win more than anyone else."
"I think it was a great season," said Commissioner Galop. "Harwich ... very fitting. In their last at-bat, they dramatically win the whole thing."