Capahas survive to earn spot in elite eight

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Plaza Tire will send Shahto the mound tonight against the defending tournament champions.

The Plaza Tire Capahas cruised into the last inning of Wednesday's National Baseball Congress World Series game against the Beatrice (Neb.) Bruins with an eight-run lead.

By the end, the Capahas were thankful to have survived, and the Bruins were hopping mad over a called third strike.

Josh Parham struck out Joe Evans on a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded to preserve the Capahas' 12-9 victory on Wednesday morning at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in Wichita, Kan.

"It got a little scary at the end," Capahas manager Jess Bolen said. "It had rolled around to the top of their order. If the umpire had called ball four, then it'd 12-10 with the bases loaed and their No. 3 hitter coming up. That would be sticky, wouldn't it?"

The win advanced the Capahas (4-1 at the World Series, 32-7 overall) to the final eight of the tournament. They will play 10 p.m. today against the Santa Barbara (Calif.) Foresters.

Santa Barbara won 12-2 in five innings against the Park City (Kan.) Rangers on Wednesday evening. The Foresters won the NBC World Series last year and finished second in 2005 and 2003.

The Caps, who finished in a tie for 13th last year as one of tournament's final 16 teams, have finished as high as fourth (1988) and fifth (1995).

Plaza Tire looked to be in good shape Wednesday with Phillip Riley on the mound.

After pitching the Caps past the Junction City (Kan.) Generals 3-1 in the opener with a complete-game effort, Riley on Wednesday scattered 10 hits for four runs over seven innings. He struck out four and walked four to improve to 2-0 at the tourney and 7-1 overall.

"His velocity wasn't anything near where it was last week," Bolen said. "He was on six days of rest, but that takes so much out of you, what he did last week.

"He pitched a real good ballgame. He did a great job keeping the score down and keeping us in the game."

The Capahas hitters, meanwhile, put up two runs in the second inning, three in the third and four in the fourth for a 9-2 lead. They led 10-3 after five and 12-4 after eight.

But reliever Andrew Graham ran into trouble in the ninth, allowing four runs on four walks and no hits. Adam Patterson also struggled, failing to retire a batter, before Parham came on.

Beatrice scored its five runs with one hit, six walks and a hit batsman. A sacrifice fly and a stolen base also contributed to Beatrice's rally.

The Capahas finished with 20 hits to Beatrice's 11.

Zach Blemker, Jordan Payne, Daryl Graham and Jerry Hodges each had three hits; while Omar Padilla, Asif Shah and Chad Mercado each had two. Hodges finished with three RBIs.

"At this stage of the tournament, with these good teams left, you wouldn't expect to be pounding out 20 hits," Bolen said.

Plaza Tire overtook with Beatrice with a two-run second. Hodges had a two-out walk and Mercado singled him to third. Mercado took second on the throw. A wild pitch brought in Hodges. Mercado went to third and scored when the throw back to pitcher Charlie Shirek covering home scooted away from Shirek.

"Mercado never broke stride, and it was a bang-bang play at home," Bolen said. "That set the tone and kind of ignited the whole team."

In the third, Graham had an RBI single, Pritchett drove in a run when he was hit by a pitch, and Hodges drove in a run on a fielder's choice.

Shah had a two-run double in the fourth inning, while Hodges and Payne also had RBI singles in the inning.

Hodges had an RBI triple in the eighth and came in to score on Mercado's double.

The Beatrice team featured a number of players from Texas and Texas A&M.

"We've sent some pretty good teams home," Bolen said.

One team the Capahas beat, the Junction City Generals advanced to the final eight with a 6-4 win against the Maxim Yankees. The Yankees had pinned an 11-1 loss on Santa Barbara,

The winners bracket semifinals were being played later Wednesday, with two teams to drop into the elimination bracket.

Bolen, a little thin on pitching for the middle of the week as some players have work commitments, expects to start Shah tonight. The lefty was a pitcher and outfielder for Southeast this past season, tonight.

"If Asif is right, he's a good pitcher," Bolen said. "He pitched a good game [a 1-0 two-hitter] against Eastern Kentucky. My concern is that he hasn't pitched in about three weeks. I wonder about his control.

"If we hit like we did today, it wouldn't matter."

Bolen said it will be all hands on deck for pitching, though his staff would be in better shape Friday with Anthony Maupin expected to start and Chad Bogenpohl back in town. Jason Chavez, who pitched the second game, would be back in Wichita and available Saturday.

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