Written by Bob on August 19th, 2013
URBANDALE, IOWA – Getting shutout doesn’t sit so well with the Long Beach, California Wolfpack. Especially after averaging nearly nine runs in reaching the championship game of the NAFA A World Series with a 5-0 record.
But then they ran into a wall. An 18-year-old wall named Ethan Johnston pitching for the Kansas City Outlaws.
The right-hander from New Zealand who turned 18 in the World Series, saddled the Wolfpack with a three-hit, 6-0 loss in Sunday’s first meeting. Now with one loss a piece in the double-knockout tournament, the two ball clubs played a second game to decide who would wear the crown of “World Series champions.”
- SECOND TIME A CHARM
This time around though, Long Beach prevailed as their bats came alive. The Wolfpack pounded out 12 hits in defeating Johnston and the Outlaws 7-3 late Sunday at Urbandale’s Walker-Johnston Softball Complex.
“I think we were pressing in the first game,” said Wolfpack manager and catcher, Jesse Mullen. “We were a little too excited and not relaxed. In the second game, we went in loose and I think we got to (Johnston’s) rise ball. He had to throw other pitches, and when he did we were able to hit the ball.”
The Wolfpack got off to a fast start by plating two runs in the top of the first. Dave Hess and Steve Parks led off by stroking back-to-back hits, and then Aaron Breslow and Dave Waco each drove in a run with a pair of singles.
The Wolfpack tacked on two more runs in the second on Parks’ RBI double and Joe Janicke’s run-scoring single.
- YSAIS RETURNS TO VICTORY
Meanwhile, Andrew Ysais went the distance for the Wolfpack, allowing 12 hits. But the Outlaws could manage only a single run in the third and two in the fifth off the right-hander, who showed good command with a mix of rise balls, drops and an occasional change-up.
For Ysais, 31, he was just happy to be back playing fastpitch. Health reasons had forced him from the game for 2 ½ years, but he was finally able to return in early spring.
“It has been a long road and four months of hard work to get back,” Ysais said, who once pitched for the USA Junior National Softball team. “When I saw the last out made, it meant a lot to me and I was super emotional.”
As were his teammates.
After the final out, they rushed the mound encircling Ysais in a group hug, high-fiving and back-slapping each other in grand celebration.
“I’ve never won a national championship,” Mullen said. “This was a relief. The Outlaws are a good young ball club and played us tough in every game.”
- PEREZ HITS GAME-WINNER
The two teams met three times in the tournament. In the winners bracket final, the Wolfpack won 5-4 on third baseman Luis Perez’s walk-off home run that rocketed 300’ feet over the slow pitch fence in dead centerfield.
For Perez, this was his second consecutive NAFA championship. He helped Liberty Fastpitch of California win a title last year, he said.
“This was a tougher battle after losing that first game,” Perez said. “This is a great feeling and hopefully we can do it again next year.”
- OUTLAWS FIGHT BACK
Down 4-0 in the third, the Outlaws got on the board on Tommy Fernandez’s run-scoring single. And they plated their final two runs in the fifth. Clay Bowen, Bobby Fisher, Steve Roach and Kyle Newhouse all singled, with Bowen scoring on an infield out, and Newhouse driving in a run with a hit to right field.
But the Outlaws could have had three more, except for the greatest defensive play of the World Series. Tyler Carlton belted a deep fly ball that appeared to be headed over the centerfield fence for a three-run homer.
- WILLIE MAYS TYPE CATCH
But centerfielder, Aaron Breslow had other ideas. Breslow raced over, leaped and caught the ball as he crashed into and over the fence, robbing Carlton of a three-run homer.
The Wolfpack finished off the Outlaws with two runs in the fourth, highlighted by Joe Janicke’s two-run homer, with Tom McDougall aboard, who laid down a perfect bunt that hugged the third base line. And in the seventh, Breslow scored the final run after getting hit by a pitch, stealing second and scoring on an error.
Though they lost, player / coach Michael Borjas was proud of his team. A team assembled with former slowpitch players who took some lumps before jelling as a legitimate NAFA A Division power.
“We started off as the worst team in Kansas last year,” he said. “Our record was 15-40 and this year we are 37-12.”
- THE WORKHORSE
Much of the credit for this dramatic turnaround goes to Johnston, who pitched all eight of the Outlaws games in finishing 6-2. For his outstanding performance, he was selected the tournament’s Co-Most Valuable Pitcher with the Wolfpack’s Debby Day.
“Ethan is a machine,” Borjas said. “If not for him, we wouldn’t be where we are.”
After the Kansas City was dropped into the losers bracket by Long Beach in the winners bracket final, they beat Northern Michigan Fastpitch, 5-2, Sunday morning for return crack at the Wolfpack.
Johnston allowed one earned run on eight hits with seven strikeouts, while Fisher, Fernandez and Mark Whitworth each drove in a run.
- MOVING’ ON UP
Because both teams finished at the top of the NAFA A Division, they are sure to be moved up to at least the A-Major Division for the 2014 World Series. But that’s OK with Borjas.
“We beat some good A-Major teams this year, so next year we will be ready to move up,” he said, adding that Johnston is expected to return, and hopefully with his older brother Clay, who also pitches, to give the Outlaws a solid, one-two Kiwi punch in the circle.
- MVP’s AND ALL-WORLDS
Both teams placed several players on the All-World team, with Johnston sharing the Most Valuable Pitcher award with the Wolfpack’s Debby Day.
Johnston finished with a 7-1 record in 56 innings, allowing 41 hits and 13 earned runs for a 1.63 ERA, while walking 13 and striking out 76 batters.
The Wolfpack’s Mullen could only tip his hat to the youngster for his World Series performance.
“He shut down (some) great hitting teams,” he said. “He’s good and he’s going places.”
Day, who took the 6-0 loss in Sunday’s first game, had a 4-1 record, pitched 30 innings, giving up 22 hits and 11 earned runs for a 2.56 ERA, while walking nine and striking out 14.
From the Wolfpack, Dave Waco, Luis Perez and Jesse Mullen were selected All-World. While the Outlaws’ Bobby Fisher, Tyler Carlton and Kyle Newhouse were chosen.
And from Northern Michigan Fastpitch who finished third, Guy Thurston, Randy Wheelock, Tom Tryban and Lee Wyckoff made the team.
Honorable mention went to Clay Bowen of the Outlaw’s, along with Tom McDougall and Dave Hess of the Wolfpack.
And the Most Valuable Player was the Wolfpack shortstop Joe Janicke.
- FINAL-FOUR FINISHERS
1. Long Beach Wolfpack, 6-1
2. Kansas City Outlaws, 6-2
3. Northern Michigan Fastpitch, 5-2
4. Illinois Stock, 5-2