WAPPINGERS FALLS (Thursday, September 13):
The Hudson Valley Renegades capped the best season in club history with an 8-3 victory over the Tri-City ValleyCats to win the New York-Penn League Championship, earning victory in front of 3,660 fans Thursday night at Dutchess Stadium.
The Renegades battled back from a 1-0 deficit for the second consecutive best-of-three series, overcoming a Game 1 loss to defeat Tri-City in Games 2 and 3 to secure the championship. It's the first time that the Renegades have been NYPL champions since the 1999 season that featured Josh Hamilton on the team. The rubber match was a wild affair that featured 14 pitchers between the two clubs, although the Renegades never trailed in the ballgame.
Hudson Valley opened the scoring in a big way in the bottom of the first. Center fielder Joey Rickard drew a leadoff walk from ValleyCats starter Joe Bircher. Second baseman Tommy Coyle hit a bouncer back to the mound that Bircher fielded, spinning to throw to second, but his throw was wide and rolled away, allowing Rickard to make it safely to second and landing Coyle at first. Third baseman Richie Shaffer flew out to deep center, and both runners advanced a base on the play, moving to second and third. Designated hitter Luke Maile drew a walk to load the bases with one away for first baseman Ryan Dunn, who slashed a single to center. Rickard and Coyle scored on the play, and Maile advanced to second. Shortstop Leonardo Reginatto dropped a single into right field, scoring Maile and moving Dunn to third.
That would be all for Bircher, as Tri-City manager Stubby Clapp pulled him for righty Brady Rodgers. Renegades catcher Jake DePew rudely welcomed Rodgers to the game with a line-drive single to left, plating Dunn for the fourth run of the inning. Rodgers struck out left fielder Marty Gantt and right fielder Joel Caminero to end the inning, but the damage was done; Hudson Valley led 4-0 after the first inning. In an odd bit of serendipity, the 'Gades had also scored four runs in the first inning of their title-clinching game in 1999.
Tri-City got on the board in the top of the second. Tyler Heineman hit a one-out single off Hudson Valley starter Matthew Spann, and moved to second when Rickard bobbled the ball in center. Preston Tucker drew a walk, as did Jarrod McKinney behind him to load the bases with one. Spann fired a wild pitch, allowing Heineman to score and advancing the other runners. After that, Spann worked out of the jam by whiffing Emilio King and getting Neiko Johnson to ground out to Coyle at second, leaving the score 4-1.
The ValleyCats drew a little closer in the top of the third. Joe Sclafani drew a leadoff walk, and Austin Elkins singled him to second. Jesse Wierzbicki slammed a ground-rule double to right field, plating Sclafani and moving Elkins to third. Spann whiffed M.P. Cokinos for the first out before giving way to reliever Brandon Henderson. The lefty reliever got Heineman to fly out to shallow right, and struck out Tucker to end the inning with a 4-2 Hudson Valley lead.
The Renegades poured on some more offense in the bottom of the sixth. Maile led off with a double up the left field line, Dunn was hit by a pitch from reliever Lance Day, and Reginatto singled to load the bases with no outs. DePew struck out swinging for the first out before Clapp called in a new pitcher in Jeremiah Meiners. Gantt lofted a sacrifice fly to right field to score Maile, and the other runners moved up 90 feet, as Tucker's throw home was off-target for an error. Caminero hit a bouncer to third that Johnson misplayed for another error; Dunn scored on the play to make it 6-2 Hudson Valley.
Tri-City wouldn't go away in the top of the seventh. McKinney drew a leadoff walk from new reliever Jose Molina, moving to second on a sacrifice bunt by King. After Johnson flew out to left, Sclafani lined a single to right that scored Johnson and cut the Hudson Valley lead to 6-3.
The Renegades answered in the bottom of the eighth. With one out, Reginatto drew a walk from Blake Ford, whom Clapp then replaced with Travis Ballew. DePew flew out to left for the second out, but Ballew dealt a wild pitch to Gantt that allowed Reginatto to move up to second base. Gantt then lined a single to right that scored Reginatto. Caminero hammered a hard grounder that Johnson couldn't handle at third; the single moved Gantt to third when the ball trickled into left field. Rickard was hit by a pitch, loading up the bases. Clapp brought in another reliever in lefty specialist Scott Zuloaga to face the left-handed Coyle. Zuloaga blew the situation, though, dealing a wild pitch that allowed Gantt to race home and make it an 8-3 ballgame.
Tri-City gave the Renegades a scare in the top of the ninth. McKinney drew a leadoff walk from Hudson Valley lefty Jordan Harrison. After King struck out swinging, Johnson worked his own base on balls to put runners on first and second with one away. Ryan Garton came on for the Renegades, but walked Sclafani to load the bases. Elkins crushed a deep drive to right that had home-run distance but tailed foul instead, and Garton made the most of his opportunity, inducing a bouncer back to the mound; he threw out McKinney at home for the second out with the bases still loaded. Wierzbicki came to the plate, but grounded softly to Shaffer at third; Shaffer's throw to first was accurate and in time for the third out, touching off the celebration.
Spann threw 2.1 innings, allowing two runs on three hits and three walks against three strikeouts; he threw one wild pitch. Brandon Henderson took the win with two scoreless innings, allowing one walk and whiffing four. Marcus Jensen tossed 1.2 perfect frames of relief. Molina allowed a run on one hit and one walk in his lone inning of work. Alex Moshier gave up a hit and recorded two outs without allowing a run. Harrison walked two and fanned one among his two outs. Garton walked one but didn't allow anything else, slamming the door.
Bircher coughed up four runs (three earned) on two hits and two walks, recording just one out. Rodgers went 3.2 innings with only one hit allowed against six strikeouts; he allowed one inherited runner to score. Day gave up two runs (one earned) on two hits in 1.1 innings, striking out two. Meiners didn't allow any hits or walks in his one inning, but two inherited runners scored against him. Ford gave up a run on a walk in one inning, striking out two. Ballew allowed a run on two hits and a wild pitch, recording only one out. Zuloaga let an inherited runner score on his wild pitch, but got one out otherwise.
The Renegades are already selling season tickets for the 2013 season, when they'll defend their NYPL Championship! Get yours by calling 845-838-0094! You can also get Renegades NYPL Championship T-Shirts by visiting the team store at Dutchess Stadium!
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.