THREE-PEAT FOR TRAPPERS
(The Trappers pose with their playoff trophies after Monday night's 15-10 win over the Hogs. Yes, that's Kieran Kennedy, who helped the Traps early in the season before his trade to the Hustlers, photo-bombing in the background.) Missing from the photo was William Huang.
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The Trappers made it three playoff championships in a row on Monday night, using some outstanding defence to knock off the Hogs 15-10 in the final on a breezy night at Goulding Park.
The post-season played out exactly as it did last year with the Hogs — the regular-season champs for the second year in a row — defeating the Hustlers in the early semifinal, only to come up short against the Trappers, who have now won eight consecutive playoff games since 2016.
Offensively, it was a true team effort up and down the order for the Trappers, who were playing with 12 players for a one of the few times this season. Ten different Trappers drove in runs with Ernie Mossetti leading the way with three.
The Hogs got the start they wanted with five runs in the top of the first inning, three of those coming when Alex Moyano golfed an ankle-high pitch for a long home run to straightaway centre. But Trappers starter Dave Bussoli would yield only five more runs over the final six innings, aided by terrific defensive plays by shortstop Rich Polonsky and outfielders Matt Papakyriakou, Brian Houston and Mike Bailey.
The Trappers, meanwhile, were held scoreless in the second, fourth and sixth nnnings but put up five in the third off Peter Bernotas and five more against Bucky Jiwa to take a 15-8 lead heading into the seventh with the bottom of the Hogs order coming up.
But then things got interesting. Jason Brumm singled to lead off and Joe Lauria launched yet another home run to right-centre that actually went through the meshing, but counted all the same. It was Lauria’s third career home run — all coming in these playoffs.
With the score now 15-10, Bernotas hit a comebacker to the pitcher but with the top of the order coming up and one out, the potential for a nail-biter was real. Then came maybe the play of the game, Hogs leadoff star Shaffin Datoo, who had singled opposite field his first three times up, pulled a line-drive gapper to left centre. Left-fielder Brian Houston, however, got on his horse and made a fully extended running grab.
Hakim Moledina, with a slicing opposite-field shot to right, and Brett Larkin then got on base but Mac Bell hit a hard grounder up the middle that Traps shortstop snared and flipped to Dave Bevacqua at second to end it, leaving the ever-dangerous Moyano in the on-deck circle.
The Hogs won the semi-final 24-20 over the Hustlers, with both Moyano and Lauria homering. They led 24-14 heading into the seventh, but the Hustlers made it close with six runs before leadoff man Matt Savage was retired to finally end it.
LOOKS FAMILIAR, DOESN'T IT?
It was deja vu all over again this past Monday as the opening two rounds of the GPSL unfolded exactly as they did a year ago. Postponed a week because of rain from the remnants of Hurricane Florence, it was like a mid-summer night with muggy conditions at Goulding Park and temps approaching 30C near game time at 7:30.
We have to mention the time because the umpires weren’t aware of the early start and didn’t show up until the second inning on the North Diamond and the fourth inning on the South.
As for the competition, the first-place Hogs got a scare from the fourth-place Hustlers in their first-round game, before prevailing 14-10 on the strength of four home runs, no doubt aided by a breeze blowing out. Meanwhile, the Trappers blew a big early lead, but ultimately hung on to edge the Hosers 14-12 in the other first-rounder. The two teams wound up the season splitting their eight games with three wins apiece and two ties.
In the do-or-die game of first-round defeateds, it was the Hustlers, again, hanging on to eliminate the Hosers with a 20-18 win. For the second year in a row, they'll meet the Hogs, who were thumped 22-8 by the Trappers, who once again gain a bye into next Monday’s final. The Hustlers will be looking to do something about an 0-8 record this season against the regular-season champs.
Of course, the annual trophy presentations and ‘banquet’ capped off the evening, moved to the picnic area between the two diamonds with the lights out under the overhang.
Shaffin Datoo and Dave Bussoli were repeat winners in the Runs Scored and RBI categories, respectively. Shaffin edged out Ben Papakyriakou by one run for his third consecutive Runs award while Big Dave was blissfully unaware he had won the ribbies trophy again until told during the first game that at least they spelled his name correctly this year.
D.J. Gregor captured the Home Run award with a dozen, three more than Carl Simon and Alex Moyano. It was the lefty’s second such award, having previously won it in 2013.
The OBA award went to Shaffin as well, making it quite a haul for the Hogs leadoff guy who played the entire season with a finger he couldn’t quite bend completely after breaking it over the winter.
The Comeback Award went to Jay Steinberg, whose .708 OBA, while not a career-high, was his best in nine years. Brian Houston was runnerup in the voting.
The big trophy of the night — the Brant Snow Memorial Commitment Award — went to Kieran Kennedy, the one with the alien eyes in the photo. Besides missing just one game and taking an active role in trying to improve the GPSL, Kieran literally took one for the league in agreeing to an early season trade that moved him from the first-place Trappers to the last-place Hustlers. Believe it or not, it’s the first individual award for the slick-fielding shortstop who has finished as the runner-up in OBA the past two seasons. Of note: The Hustlers’ upset of the Hosers on Monday means Kieran’s streak of winning the championship every year that he's been in the league is still alive. He was on the Hustlers for their titles in 2014 and 2015, then on the Trappers when they won it all in 2016 and 2017.
Leo Ferreira was finally presented with a ‘Good Guy Award’ for also agreeing to that trade, though going from last place to first with a couple of clicks of the mouse might have been reward enough.
Don’t look now, though, but it’s the Hustlers who could have the last laugh. If they can somehow get past the Hogs in the semi-final, they’d bring a winning record this season (4-3-0) against the Trappers into the final.