Capahas reach NBC regional final with rout of Riverdogs

Sunday, July 15, 2007

A day after rallying for an extra-inning victory, Plaza Tire enacted the mercy rule.

The Plaza Tire Capahas barely survived Friday's National Baseball Congress Mid-South Regional opener, rallying past Springfield 6-5 in 10 innings.

Things were not nearly as difficult for the Capahas Saturday as they cruised into the championship round.

A 10-run third inning paved the way for a 13-3 rout of the Charleston Riverdogs in the winners bracket final of the four-team, double-elimination event.

Plaza Tire (22-5), which ended Saturday's affair in the bottom of the seventh inning by way of the 10-run mercy rule, is one victory away from its third straight regional title and an automatic NBC World Series berth.

"We're sitting where we need to be to punch our ticket for Wichita," Plaza Tire's Zach Johnson said. "But we know we've still got to take care of business {today}."

The host Capahas will play Pine Bluff at 1 p.m. today. If Plaza Tire loses, a second title contest would follow.

"We're excited, being one win away," Plaza Tire's Chad Mercado said. "But we can't take anything for granted."

Plaza Tire has advanced to the NBC World Series in Wichita, Kan., each of the past 25 years.

The Capahas' hopes of getting there through an automatic bid almost were put in danger Friday when Springfield led virtually the entire way before Plaza Tire rallied.

No heroics were necessary Saturday as the Capahas continued their domination of the Riverdogs.

Plaza Tire has won 31 of the 32 meetings with the Riverdogs, including all five this year by a combined score of 56-14.

Any notion the Riverdogs had of pulling off an upset ended in the bottom of the third inning, when the Capahas sent 16 batters to the plate.

The Capahas entered the frame trailing 1-0, thanks to Pat Slattery's second-inning homer. It was his second home run in as many tournament games.

But the Capahas erased that deficit with eight hits, two walks, two hit batters and two errors.

"It's about time we put an inning together like that," Plaza Tire manager Jess Bolen said. "We had been leaving a lot of runners on in this tournament."

Omar Padilla had a two-run double in the explosion, while Johnson delivered a two-run single.

Asif Shah had a pair of RBI singles in the frame. Levi Olson had an RBI double, while Mercado, Jordan Payne and Daryl Graham all added run-scoring singles.

"It was nice to get out in front early," Mercado said. "The third inning was big for us."

After the Capahas knocked out Riverdogs starter Kyle Griffin in the third, Brandon Stearns kept Plaza Tire fairly well in check until the seventh, when two runs ended the contest.

The Capahas banged out 13 hits, with Johnson getting a triple, a double and a single, good for three RBIs.

It was Johnson who delivered Friday's two-run, two-out single in the bottom of the ninth that pulled the Capahas into a 5-5 tie with Springfield.

"It was nice to have a game like this today," Johnson said. "Everybody hit the ball a lot better and we played good defense.

"It was an all-around good game for us."

Mercado, Shah, Payne and Graham all added two hits for the Capahas, who played errorless baseball.

Anthony Maupin (3-0) went all seven innings for the win. He allowed five hits, struck out nine, walked none and hit a batter.

"I thought Anthony pitched well," Bolen said.

Slattery also doubled for the Riverdogs as he drove in two runs.

Griffin went just 2 2/3 innings, allowing seven hits and 10 runs (six earned).

Stearns gave up six hits and three runs in 3 2/3 innings.

Bolen, who needs one more victory to reach 1,300 in his 41-year run as the Capahas' manager, will send team wins leader Jason Chavez (6-0) to the mound today.

Chavez fired a no-hitter in last year's regional as he was named the tournament's most valuable pitcher.

"We're in good position," said Bolen, who has a 1,299-338 career record. "But we can't take anything for granted. We've still got to get one more win."

Capahas 13, Riverdogs 3, 7 innings


WP -- Anthony Maupin. LP -- Kyle Griffin. HR -- Pat Slattery (R). 3B -- Zach Johnson (C). 2B -- Slattery (R), Johnson (C), Omar Padilla (C), Levi Olson (C). Multiple hits -- Riverdogs, Slattery 2-3; Capahas, Johnson 3-4, Asif Shah 2-3, Chad Mercado 2-3, Jordan Payne 2-4, Daryl Graham 2-4.

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