Leading up to the championship game, the teams had met twice in the tournament: Mike’s Café captured the winner’s bracket in convincing fashion (18-2 v. Draeger’s, May 30); then, after securing the loser’s bracket, Draeger’s turned in an equally impressive performance (14-5 v. Mike’s Café, June 6) to force the final game.
In the rubber match, pitchers from both sides struggled to find the strike zone and the teams were deadlocked at 5-5 after 3 innings. In the bottom of the 4th, Gunnar Jongebloed walked for Draeger’s and later scored on a double by Michael Maineiro to make it 6-5 Draeger’s. In the top of the 5th, Mike’s Café capitalized on 3 walks when Brandon Fischer hit a grand slam HR to make it 9-6 Mike’s Cafe. Draeger’s was un-phased in the bottom of the inning and answered with 4 runs of their own, including an RBI single by Jessica Koenig and a 2 run single by Ben Boggs, to take a 10-9 lead after 5.
In the top of the 6th, Cole Hagerman singled early for Mike’s Café and later found himself on 3rd base with 2 outs and down a run. With the batter swinging on a pitch in the dirt, the ball skipped by the catcher allowing Hagerman to score, tying the game at 10-10. Jack Gray took the mound for Mike’s Café in the bottom of the 6th and the defense held the score to force an extra inning.
In the top of the 7th, Gray led off with a double and moved to third on a sacrifice fly by Holden Kardos to left field. With one out, Samson Dark smashed a line drive to left scoring Gray and putting Mike’s Café up 11-10. With two on and one out, Fischer again stepped to the plate but hit a sharp grounder to shortstop Riley Haught who ended the threat by stepping on 2nd and throwing to first for a double play. While the teams prepared for the bottom of the inning, Draeger’s coach Jon Duane shook hands with the coaches in the Mike’s Café dugout (Mike Kardos and Ken Salabert) saying, “However this turns out, congratulations on a great game!”
Mason Randall, Draeger’s #2 batter, led off in the bottom of the 7th with a walk. Randall moved to second on a towering sacrifice fly by Andrew Daschbach caught by Hagerman in deep right field and then moved to third on the same play following an overthrown relay in the infield. The next batter hit a grounder up the 1st base line allowing Jackson Salabert to field the ball, tag out the runner and hold Randall at third. With two out and the count at 2-2, Gray coaxed a fly ball to shallow left-center field which was caught by Kardos to seal the win for Mike’s Café.
Haught, Daschbach and Randall each scored 2 runs for Draeger’s. Haught was 3-4 and Koenig was 2-4 with 3 RBIs and a run scored.
For Mike’s Café, Gray was the winning pitcher (no runs in 2 innings pitched) and scored 2 runs including the game winner in the 7th. Dark scored 3 runs and Fischer finished the day with 6 RBIs.
According to Mike’s Café coach Mike Kardos, “It was an incredible, exciting game with both teams battling back and forth. Many of our games this year were come-from-behind wins which earned us a reputation as the ‘Comeback Kids’. So, we knew we were capable of battling back and that same spirit showed again today. I’m very proud of all the players and the heart they showed.”
(Photo: Back row, left to right - Coach Mike Kardos, Noah Schneider, Reed Fratt, Jackson Salabert, Holden Kardos, Samson Dark, Coach Ken Salabert; Front row, left to right – Brandon Fischer, Jack Gray, Zach Novak, Austin Wilson, Rio Zelaya, Clay Prosser, Cole Hagerman)