The surreal ending of this year’s Federation League season wasn’t limited to the weather.
Yes, for sure, most of the game dodged a radar bullet as downtown Brookville was just south of Tuesday night’s storm track … until the seventh inning when it became very likely that McKinley Field was going to get some rain.
But with two outs, they played on and the Grays got their title, the first since 2009.
What’s also surreal is that the Grays were the last-place team in the Federation League with a 6-14 record during the regular season. They went 10-3 during the postseason and finished one game under .500 overall at 16-17.
With a title.
But with good pitching in a wood bat league and all of your players showing up, it can be a different story. But still, a very unlikely finish for manager Bobby McCullough’s team.
“It was about guys showing up,” said Tanner LaBenne, a Brookville graduate this spring. “If we had all of our legion guys here, it would’ve been a better season. But we were able to come after legion and we had a deeper lineup and play better defense.”
“I came to as many games I could, but honestly when the playoffs come around it’s a new ballgame,” pitcher Thomas Plummer said. “Anybody can do anything. We had trouble guys getting to come to games, but in the playoffs, everybody knows it’s win or go home and we put it all on the line.”
Nathan Bonfardine, coming off his first year as the Raiders baseball coach and getting married this spring, finally got into the swing of things as well as the season wore on.
“It was off and on and hear and there and I played six or seven games I think, but once the playoffs started, it was time to get real with it,” he said. “This was not our best well-rounded team as in previous years. We’ve had a better caliber of ball clubs, but this year we clicked at the right times and that’s what baseball is all about, being able to do the small things whenever it matters.
“It’s pretty sweet. It was a long time coming for that guy.”
That guy is the 82-year-old McCullough, who at my estimate has been involved with the team at whatever level, from bat boy to manager and everything in between for nearly 1,000 wins. He was a bat boy on the first team way back in 1946. The Grays are probably over 1,300 wins in 74 seasons.
“To be honest, I think as a team what brought everybody together was Bobby,” said Plummer who came back to add his thoughts on McCullough after we talked once. “He was the centerpiece and doing it for Bobby was our team mantra. To get him this trophy is something everybody is proud of to accomplish.”
Lopez echoed those thoughts.
“Words can’t even describe it,” he said. “That’s why we’re all out here and diving around and hustling balls out. He’s an inspiration to all of us. He loves the game, he loves the Grays and for everything he does for us, to have a chance to come out and play the game we love, it’s so special to reward him with this win.”
McCullough was beaming afterward with his trophy.
“It’s a great feeling,” he said. “I never thought this would ever happen again.”
And answered the annual question of if there’s another season coming for him.
“You have to defend your title,” he smiled.
MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL UPDATE — Clarion’s Jon Kemmer is batting .241 with five home runs and 11 runs batted in over 26 games for Oklahoma City, the Class AAA affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Pacific Coast League.
Kemmer has been steady of late, hitting .273 over his past 10 games going into Tuesday night. He was 1-for-5 in Monday’s 10-9 loss at Las Vegas. Overall, Kemmer is hitting .323 this year counting his .355 average he compiled over 58 games and 220 at-bats for Durango in the Mexican League before being signed by the Dodgers to play for Oklahoma City.
Johnsonburg’s Cole Peterson was named the Class A Florida State League’s Player of the Week last week. He’s batting .375 (15-for-40) over his last 10 games for Lakeland, a Detroit Tigers affiliate. In Sunday’s 8-7 win at home against Fort Myers, Peterson hit his first professional homer, going 4-for-5 with three runs scored.
Peterson, the Tigers’ 13th-round pick in the 2017 draft as a shortstop, went into Tuesday night hitting .289 for the season with Lakeland over 74 games. In a 27-game stint with Class AA Erie in the Eastern League, Peterson hit .253.
Ridgway’s Josh Mitchell made his first start of the year, a spot start that went four innings for Class A Wilmington in last Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Wilmington. Mitchell’s numbers were good as he allowed four hits and struck out three in four scoreless innings.
For the season, Mitchell owns a 3.47 earned run average over 22 games with a 3-0 record in 36 1/3 innings. He’s struck out 41 and walked just 10 without allowing a home run. The 24-year-old 22nd-round draft pick of the Kansas City Royals in 2017 is in his third season in the minors.
ALL-STAR TALK — South Williamsport, the Pennsylvania and Eastern Regional Little League softball champion, opened the World Series in Portland, Ore., on Wednesday with an opening-round pool play game against the Asia-Pacific champion from Bacload City, Phillippines. Other teams in the pool include USA Central champion Polk City, Iowa; Latin American champion Mexico City; and USA West champion Honolulu, Ha.
In the other pool are Victoria, British Columbia; Milano, Italy; Portland, Ore.; Salisbury, N.C.; and River Ridge, La.
St. Marys had its’ under-10 softball season end on a winning note as it beat New Jersey, 7-2, Monday to capture the Eastern Regional title in Jenkins Township near Philadelphia.
For the all-star summer, St. Marys wound up compiling a 16-2 record,
Rich Rhoades is the sports editor for the Jeffersonian Democrat and the Leader-Vindicator in New Bethlehem. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @TheSkinny1969.