The comeback Dubois County Bombers had an extra passenger on their final bus ride last night.
On their last night together, the squad captured the Championship Trophy for the inaugural Bluegrass World Series by defeating a team of former major leaguers 6-4 at Louisville Slugger Field.
Playing as the Louisville Stars, the former major leaguers had cruised to three victories in the early rounds of the tourney. Meanwhile, the Bombers had gone 2-1, defeating college summer teams from Colorado and Texas before falling to the Jasper Reds on Friday night. By virtue of tie-breakers, the Bombers ticket into the tourney championship game was punched, earning them the right to square off with the likes of Nick Swisher, Jayson Werth, and J.D. Drew.
It was a game reminiscent of a bygone day when baseball’s elite spent the off-season barnstorming the country, taking on the best team a region could muster and then moving on to the next burg. Baseball fans of the age would tell and retell the stories for years to follow about the day that Satchel or Dizzy came to town.
In a certain way, it was the same last night. The players, families, and fans of the Dubois County Bombers spent an evening cheering on our own against legends of the game.
Bombers Head Coach Andy Lasher balanced playing to win and providing opportunities for all. Every position player was on the field for at least half the game and would get at least two at-bats. Every available pitcher would get to throw an inning. No one would be lost on the bench for this game. Kevin Davis was the only player not to appear, having been the starting pitcher the night before.
The Bombers outhit the Stars 12-8, but gave up seven walks while only receiving one. The difference on this night was in the field. Dubois County played an errorless game, punctuated by several gold star plays. The Stars had the makings of a big inning several different times. On each occasion, one Bomber fielder or another would make the play to quell the threat as the Stars stranded eleven runners on the basepaths.
The Bombers won the game and the tourney, but if they had lost the stories would still be there. That was the real hardware on this night – the stories that will go with these players forever.
· Ask John McDonald which he thinks he’ll remember longest – the double he hit off Jason Marquis to give the Bombers an early 1-0 lead or the one he hit in his next at-bat off of Aaron Harang, or maybe it was one of the singles off of Heath Bell or Brett Tomko?
· Ask Evan Kahre what it feels like to steal a base off of a major league catcher or make a sliding catch in center field to retire the side.
· Ask Ben Wilcoxson and Cooper Trinkle about turning double plays to shut down three different Stars rallies.
· Ask Payton Mattingly how he felt on the shot hit at him in the first inning when the Stars had the bases loaded.
· Ask Evan Aders how far he ran to reel in a ball in foul territory hit by Mark Teahen.
· Ask Tobe Whitten what a major leaguer says to you at first base. Tobe legged out a pair of singles.
· Ask Nolan Ramsey what he is going to do with his MVP award.
· Ask Ryan Luckett or Jaxson Blair about retiring their inning of big leaguers 1-2-3.
· Ask Luke Fitton about striking out a major leaguer. He was the only Bomber to do so, but then these guys have hit off of the likes of Kershaw, Bumgarner, and Aroldis.
· Ask Reece Kleinhelter what he threw to John Buck to coax the double play when the Stars were rallying.
· Ask Sam Mudd about his single, Jake Lewis about his double, or Gavin Napier about his sacrifice fly.
· Ask Caleb Wagner what it feels like to have your teammates rush you for a mound celebration after the final out of a game like this.
Above all, ask Andy Lasher what it feels like when you make it a priority for everyone to get a memory, and for them to give you such an incredible one in return.
By William Wells