Monday, January 11, 2010

Iowa Takes First World Series in Classic 7-game Battle

Jersey League Season 11 World Series MVP
Spike Chase

Iowa City--Across the State of Iowa last night, the normally staid fans of the Iowa City Independence celebrated until deep into the night (nearly 11pm!) after their hometown boys won an epic 7 game series over the NL Champion Tacoma Sasquatches. Iowans then rose early this morning for the team's parade, which started at 7am (right after cow milking). The parade passed through several quiet single-family neighborhoods as well as corn fields, barns, and the co-op before reaching the climactic "Canyon of Heroes" cluster of grain silos. Fans were quiet and polite, and in deep contrast to previous championship celebrations in Las Vegas and Helena, no unruly behavior was observed and no arrests made. The county sherrif did report that after several incidents of weight issues aboard floats and one unfortunate stage collapse, parade organizers requested that no more than 4 of the local high school's cheerleaders climb aboard any parade floats or stages at one time. Players were also requested by team officials to cease throwing Twinkies off the float, after several local women stormed a float, nearly toppling it. Local merchants reported that the new "World Champs" hats sponsored by the local seed company are flying off the shelves.

Iowa, of the tough AL West, battled to make the playoffs, starting the season a cold 3-8, enduring a miserable 8-game losing streak in May, and fought back to earn a wild card. In the first round of the playoffs the New York Mutuals took Iowa to 5 games, which forced Spike Chase to return and seal the victory as the game 5 starter. In round 2, Iowa defeated the Las Vegas Dealers, to end their quest for a 4th straight AL title, largely by holding AL MVP and Rookie of the Year Quilvio Castro to only 1 extra-base hit in 5 games. After that, it was anti-climatic when Iowa City blew out Syracuse Comics in 4 games to reach their first Fall Classic.

In the NL, Tacoma also had to battle in the NL's toughest division--the West--to earn a #5 seed. In the playoffs Tacoma first swept the Santa Fe Lobos before taking the #1 seeded Tucson Hohokams down in 5 games. In the NLCS, underdog Tacoma faced the #2 seed and defending World Series champion Helena Vigilantes and co-NL MVP Sam McCallum. Tacoma won the series in just 5 games, with the clincher behind a masterful 3-hit complete game shut out by Jorge Renteria, which sent Tacoma to the World Series for the second time in three years.

As for the World Series, it all hinged on if Spike Chase was on the mound or not and if the bullpen could hold a lead when Chase headed in for his traditional early shower. The brilliant young Chase is virtually unhittable but due to a rare muscle condition stemming from a venereal disease Chase picked up in cheap hotel in the the low minors back in season 6, he typically runs out of gas at 75 or 80 pitches. In the World Series Chase started games 1, 4, and 7 and went 3-0, allowing an incredible zero runs in 17 innings and just 8 hits, while striking out 21 and walking just 3, making him a unanimous World Series MVP. Iowa won just 1 game without Chase, a crucial 5-4 win in game 2, behind a strong pitching effort by Hipolito Padilla and a HR from Ricardo Valdes. Valdes was key all post-season, with 4 HRs and a .780 OPS. For Tacoma, the key pitching performance came from Roger Washington who made his only World Series appearance in game 6, when his 8 innings of 1-run ball forced game 7. Props also go to big 1B Earl Bradley, who put up a 1.102 playoff OPS and filled the DH spot nicely in the World Series.

Congrats carlspenard and Iowa City! Everyone else--better luck next year!

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