Pretenders Advance to the NM Finals
Rommen, Aug 16-17th 2014
Able to steady their nerves when the tension and stakes were high, the Pretenders earned a spot in the Norgesmesterskap final series with two nerve-wracking victories on Saturday...
Game 1, vs Rangers: Leif’s Shutout Gem and Bat Prevail, 2-0
Starting pitcher Leif Petter Sandvik kept the Rangers’ dangerous offense quiet, yielding just 3 hits with solid defense behind him. Actually, Leif was the key defender this game with 6 comebacker assists, the most important a critical diving stop with two outs and two runners aboard in the 5th. Luis Lara pitched well for the Latino squad, inducing 9 ground-outs with his sinking fastball and slider. The contest remained scoreless until the top of the 5th, when 2B Anders led off with a walk and RF Martinius earned a one-out walk. Leif’s second single of the game drove in Anders to finally break the scoreless tie and chase Luis. The Rangers brought in flamethrower Amparo in relief.
After the Rangers’ leadoff walk in the bottom of the 5th, 3B Darren atoned for an earlier error by fielding a one-hopper and firing to Anders, who expertly turned the 5-4-3 double play to Matt to snuff out any potential rally and preserve the tenuous lead.
In the 6th, CF Jean Carlos worked a leadoff walk, advanced to second on catcher Kelly’s groundout, and reached third on a passed ball. Darren hit a hard grounder straight to the SS so JC could not score. With two outs, Anders lined a single that hit the chalk in right field to score the crucial insurance run for a 2-0 lead. Leif finished off his complete-game gem with the final 3 outs and the Pretenders could at last exhale.
Game 2, vs Suns: Pretenders Overcome Nerves for Comeback Win, 11-9
Facing the Suns, an initially relaxed Pretenders squad bolted out to an early lead as Leif and Glenn both drew walks, followed by first-inning RBI singles by Matt and Kelly. In the 3rd, Matt came through again with a 2-RBI single to provide a 6-2 cushion. But the P-batters then seemed to turn somewhat complacent. The Suns began chipping away at the lead – and the 6th inning turned disastrous as nerves began to affect all the P-arms. Glenn couldn’t get the close calls in a tight strike zone and uncharacteristically began yielding walks. With two outs, 3B Darren’s errant throw to first allowed two runners to score and the Suns had seized the lead. After another walk, Darren took the mound in relief but promptly issued yet another free pass. The tables had suddenly turned and the Pretenders were down 9-6. Going into the bottom of the 6th, the situation looked bleak with Suns’ stalwart Andy pitching in relief.
But the Pretenders, Norway’s most successful baseball team in history, do not surrender quietly. Darren led off by drawing a walk, followed by Anders’ and Erik J’s walks. Martinius was then hit by a pitch to drive in Darren, and Anders raced home later on a wild pitch. Leif then hit a sacrifice fly to barely score a sliding Erik with the tying run. Glenn’s grounder then knocked in speedy Martinius, who scored with a nice slide into home to take the lead, 10-9. Matt then reached on an FC and scored on Kelly’s E5 grounder, giving the Pretenders a two-run lead.
In the 7th, Darren got the #9 hitter to ground out but then walked the next batter, bringing up the Suns’ steady Japanese second baseman. Visibly battling nerves, Darren pitched a slider that was lined back up the middle but D was able to reach up and snag the ball, then throw to an eager Matt at first base for the game-ending double play. The Pretenders had secured their place in the NM finals, beginning September 13th at Rommen Field. The Suns earned the other finalist spot by defeating the Royals on Sunday after the Royals had knocked out the Rangers earlier in the day.