Mehring Monday: Minutes to Memories

Can you find the baseball from the final out of Game Four in this celebration? (Brad Hand)

By Chris Mehring / Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | September 24, 2012 7:10 AM ET

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Days turn to minutes and minutes to memories
Life sweeps away the dreams we have planned
You are young and you are the future
Suck it up and tough it out, be the best you can

It has been a week since the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers returned home from Fort Wayne, Indiana after winning the 2012 Midwest League pennant.  There were plenty of memories that stand out from the playoff run - I will probably be milking them for all they are worth during the offseason - and I thought that I would get a few of them down in a column before they started to fade.

Back-to-Back:  The story will be told by a Timber Rattlers team historian in 30 years and it may not be believed.  The Rattlers lost the first game of their first round 2012 playoff series 4-0 in Burlington.  They return home and get a complete-game, three-hit shutout from Chad Pierce in Game Two to even the series.  Then, David Goforth pitches a complete-game, four-hit shutout with nine strikeouts in Game Three to move the Rattlers on in the playoffs.  I have seen a lot of great pitching performances in my time with the Timber Rattlers, but consecutive complete game shutouts by the Rattlers?  I have not seen the like.

Different back-to-back:  Game Three against Burlington was scoreless until Ben McMahan and Nick Ramirez hit consecutive homers off Drew Granier in the fourth inning.  In Game One of the Western Division Finals at Clinton, the Rattlers were down 1-0 in the fourth inning and Yadiel Rivera hit a three-run home run.  Mike Garza was next and hit another homer for back-to-back home runs in back-to-back games.  consecutive home runs are a bit rare, but they do happen.  It should have shocked no one that a team with over 100 home runs during the regular season did something like this.

Rafael Neda, base runner: The Rattlers catcher is not a fast runner.  But, he is a smart base runner.  The Rattlers have a 3-2 lead in Game Two of the Western Division Finals.  Neda singles and moves to second on a sacrifice bunt.  Brandon Macias singles to shallow right and Neda was the only person in the stadium that didn't see the stop sign Matt Erickson had up in the third base coaching box.   He surprised everyone in the ballpark and just kept running to score an important insurance run.  I kidded him a bit the next day asking if he believed in stop signs.  He said that he didn't see it and knew that he was going to score.  In Game One of the Championship Series, Neda was on third with the bases loaded and two outs in the tenth inning with the game tied 2-2.  It should have surprised no one that he raced for home on a wild pitch to score the run that put the Rattlers up in the series.

Adrian Williams, RBI man: Williams had seven RBI for the Timber Rattlers during the regular season.  But, he had two very important RBI in two of the games he played during the playoffs.  The first came in Game Two of the Western Division Finals.  It's the fourth inning and the game is tied 2-2.  Williams is up with two outs and two on base.  Clinton pitching coach Andrew Lorraine had just gone out to talk things over with pitcher Seon-Gi Kim.  Williams cracks the first pitch back through the middle to drive in the go ahead run. He wasn't done.  Wisconsin trailed Fort Wayne 3-2 in the fourth inning of Game Three of the Championship Series.  There are two outs with Neda at second and Lance Roenicke at first base.  Williams singled into left and Neda scored to tie the game.

Nick Ramirez & the accidental home run:  I mentioned this one on the blog, but it's worth a mention here, too.  Ramirez was hitting some tape-measure home runs to right field during batting practice before Game Three of the Championship Series.  Someone said, "Opposite field home runs are okay, too."  Ramirez responded with, "Opposite field home runs are accidents."  Of course, the left-handed Ramirez would hit an opposite field home run that night to get the Rattlers to within 3-2 in the fourth inning.  And why wouldn't he?  He had four home runs in the postseason, including two in the Finals.  One was bound to be an accident.

Brandon Macias crushes: Adrian Williams had just tied Game Three of the Championship Series with his RBI single in the fourth inning.  Fort Wayne brought in a new pitcher and Macias, who had last homered on August 6, railed a 3-2 pitch out of the park for a three-run home run and a 6-3 lead on the way to the 10-8 win.  That homer, plus a pair of big doubles that led to runs in Game Four, put a big exclamation point at the end of a breakout season for a non-drafted free agent out of the University of Kansas.

The appearance of the president:  I happened to look down at the seats next to the tunnel by the Fort Wayne dugout in during the top of the ninth inning.  League president George Spelius had just walked out to a seat near the entrance to the field.  It was at that point - with the Rattlers up 4-2 and only three more outs to go - that my thoughts went from "This Championship might happen" to "This Championship will happen". 

Suter knows what to do...then, doesn't know what to do:  If you watch the final three outs video you will see Brent Suter dropping in curves for strikes and peppering the zone against the three batters he retired in that inning. He was like that over all three of his frames in Game five as he set down all nine TinCaps batters he faced.  And Suter did that with an economy of pitches.  Eleven pitches in a perfect seventh, eleven pitches in a perfect eighth, and fourteen pitches in a perfect ninth.  Now, watch the video shot by the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette.  After the final strike was called and the Rattlers won the pennant, Suter drops his glove starts hopping around while pulling at his cap as if he was deciding whether he had time to toss it in the air before his teammates got to him for the celebration.  Then, as Neda was approaching, Suter looks as if he either wants to jump and be caught by Neda or wants to catch the Rattlers catcher who looks like he wants to jump.  The spontaneity of the celebration was one of those moments of joy in sports that keeps people coming back for more.

"You've got to be kidding me":  The team celebrated in the hotel bar on Sunday night and had a ride home on Monday morning that would put them in the Time Warner Cable Field at Fox Cities Stadium parking lot around 4:30pm.  The weather as the bus started on the way home was sunny and warm, but as the team bus reached Milwaukee the rain started falling.  The word was that the weather was even worse.  The last thing the players were expecting was a reception committee.  The bus turned into the driveway and saw between 50 and 100 fans waiting in the cold drizzle for the return of the champions.  That's when someone from the back of the bus said, "You've got to be kidding me."  They couldn't wait inside because of the construction already underway at the stadium, but their welcome was much appreciated.

Rafael Neda preserves history:  I have mentioned Rafael Neda quite a bit in this column.  Truth be told, the starting pitchers mentioned him a lot more during the playoffs and gave him plenty of credit for their performances.  So, I'll save this last memory for something that happened in the weight room as the players were in line to get sized for their rings.  I was on the way back in to the clubhouse from where the media interviews were being held on the concourse.  Neda stopped me, pulled out a baseball, and said, "Here's the ball from the last out."  Somehow, he got the ball into the back pocket of his pants on his way to the mound after the final strike and held on to it for the next two days.  He planned on doing something with the team for the ball.  I'll need to ask him about it when we restart The Interrogation Room for the offseason.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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