JACOB NOSEWORTHY for the Grand Forks Gazette
Day six of the 2019 Grand Forks International Sunday featured the quarterfinals of the tournament’s “Money Round,” with the winners moving on to the Championship Day Monday and the losers packing their bags and headed home.
Three close, competitive games began the day at James Donaldson Park, while a blowout that invoked the tournament’s eight-run mercy rule finished off the evening.
Seattle Studs 4 at San Francisco Seals 5
Losing Pitcher: Anthony Brady | Winning Pitcher: Sunny Brandwood
The Seattle Studs’ quest for a fourth-straight GFI championship came to an end on Sunday as the San Francisco Seals moved on with a 5-4 win.
The game began as an intense pitching battle as starters David Benson and Tim Brokop went eight and seven innings, respectively, and the score was knotted at two after eight innings of play.
In the top of the ninth, the Studs hit a pair of RBI singles to opposite fields and it became apparent to the fans at James Donaldson Park that it would come down to the bottom of the inning with everything to play for.
A lead-off double down the right-field line began the inning for the Seals and a pair of hit batters loaded the bases with two outs.
With Jackson Hall at the plate with a 2-2 count against him and no margin for error, the Seals left fielder blasted a three-RBI double into deep left-centre field to give San Francisco the walk-off victory.
While the win puts the Seals through to Monday’s semifinals, getting the victory over Seattle made it even better, according to San Francisco assistant coach Jameson Nieto.
“[Beating the Studs] makes this really special, especially because they knocked us out a couple of years ago,” Nieto said. “It was really important for us to get this win and the guys battled hard. It was a great win all around.”
Alaska Goldpanners 5 at Burnaby Bulldogs 3
Winning Pitcher: Joseph Riley | Losing Pitcher: Braeden Allemann
The Alaska Goldpanners found themselves through to their second consecutive GFI semifinals on day six with a 5-3 win over the Burnaby Bulldogs in 10 innings.
Burnaby got the scoring started with a two-run bottom of the first, but the score was tied at three after five innings and remained that way after nine to force extra innings.
Going into the top of the tenth, the game remained a total toss-up until Tony Riley hit a two-RBI double to centre field to give the Goldpanners a 5-3 lead.
A lead-off single and a walk for the Bulldogs in the bottom of the inning gave the Canadian club reason for optimism, but a line-out that led to a double play and a strikeout to end the inning sent the 2014 GFI champions home.
Burnaby star pitcher Shawn Schaefer went eight innings on the mound for the Bulldogs, where he allowed only two earned run and one walk and struck out seven, but unfortunately for the BC Senior champions, his performance wasn’t enough.
Despite the sluggish start to begin the game, Goldpanners head coach Miles Kizer was happy with the victory.
“[The win] feels awesome,” Kizer said. “That was an incredible game. [It was] obviously not how we wanted to start, but we stayed with it, guys came in off the bench and picked us up huge and we got to see a little bit of a turnaround for our offence. Defensively and on the mound, we just kept staying with it and played a whole game. It was great.”
The Alaskan club went through more arms in their pitching staff in the game than was planned, but Kizer still expects the team to fight in the semifinals.
“We’ve got to go re-evaluate,” he said. “We used a lot of pitching today, but we did what we needed to move on. [The semifinals] will be fun. I hope that [the fans] can expect good energy and guys playing hard for each other and doing the right things.”
Northwest Honkers 8 at Reno Astros 9
Losing Pitcher: Austin Pasicka | Winning Pitcher: Don Wanner
With the second walk-off victory of the day, the Reno Astros rallied late in the game to earn a 9-8 win over the Northwest Honkers and book their ticket to the semifinals in their first GFI appearance in around a decade.
The Honkers had a strong start to the game as they took a four-run lead after two innings of play thanks to strong performances at the plate from up and down their batting order.
After five whole innings of play, Northwest held a 6-2 lead, but a sacrifice play, Honkers error and a two-RBI single from the Astros tied the game in the bottom of the sixth.
While Reno took their first lead of the game in the seventh inning thanks to a pair of passed balls that allowed runs to score, the Honkers struck back in the eighth with a two-RBI single to right field with the bases loaded and two outs.
A pair of walks to lead off the bottom of the ninth ultimately lead to Northwest’s demise, however, as an RBI double from Scott Underwood scored his brother Eric and sealed the victory for the Astros.
A play at the plate in the top of the second inning nearly caused a bench-clearing brawl. Consequently, Astros starting pitcher David Rider was ejected from the game after shoving Honkers’ runner Jesse Bechtold at the plate.
Although Astros head coach Matt Konopisos didn’t see the shove as he was scoring the play at the time, he explained what he was told by the home plate umpire and what started the skirmish.
“The guy who got tagged out at the plate was the guy that, in our opinion, leaned into a slider and got hit in the elbow to get on first,” Konopisos said. “He was chirping a little bit going down to first and our pitcher, our ex-pro guy, doesn’t tolerate any of that so he responded in kind on the out at home plate. Our pitcher chirped back at him and said some unfortunate things and that started all that.”
Konopisos credited strong offence for the win and explained that their offence would carry them through the final day of the tournament, even joking that he might end up pitching himself.
“We’re going to have a bunch of hitters,” he said. “You might even see me on the mound tomorrow, I don’t know. We’ve got some arms left and we’ll keep throwing them out there, but if we’re going to win, it’s going to be 9-8, 21-20, whatever it takes.”
Unión de Reyes, Cuba 0 at Everett Merchants 9
Losing Pitcher: Essiel Fuentes | Winning Pitcher: Jared Maxfield
After a day full of competitive games that went down to the final inning, the Everett Merchants flipped the script with a 9-0 win over Unión de Reyes that ended the game after six and a half innings due to the mercy rule.
A six-run third inning where the Merchants earned six hits was important for Everett’s success in the blowout.
The Merchants rallied with two outs on the board and a three-run home run by first baseman Jake Tilley to left field and a stand-up RBI triple to deep centre field by designated hitter Patrick Chung highlighted the high scoring inning.
Despite a strong offensive showing from the Everett bats, pitcher Jared Maxfield was the star of the game as he pitched a complete game allowing only four hits and one walk while striking out 12 of the Cuban batters he faced.
Merchants head coach Harold Pyatte credited Maxfield with the win and explained the importance of his performance to their tournament as a whole.
“It all started off with great pitching by Maxfield,” Pyatte said. “He kept us in the game in the first inning, he set the tone, got us back in to hit and it didn’t stop rolling after we got in. He had a phenomenal effort to get us to the semifinals tomorrow.
“[Having Maxfield pitch the whole game] is very important,” he added. “We got a complete game out of our pitcher and a shortened game where the run rule was applied, and we took advantage of it. I saved most of our staff for tomorrow. We have at least eight pitchers and only three of them have thrown, so we’ve got a whole arsenal of arms left for tomorrow.”
Despite the win, Pyatte admitted that it took some time for Everett to familiarize themselves with the Cubans style of play.
“To be very honest, we had a big adjustment to make,” Pyatte said. “They threw a lot of off-speed pitches and it took us a couple of innings to catch on. When we caught on to the off-speed, [the fans] saw what happened from there. It was a train wreck from them, really.”
Championship Day Schedule
9:00 a.m. – Game 25 – San Francisco Seals at Reno Astros
12:00 p.m. – Game 26 – Alaska Goldpanners at Everett Merchants
3:30 p.m. – Game 27 – Winner Game 25 vs Winner Game 26