Capahas run out of steam

Friday, August 10, 2007

Plaza Tire took home the seventh-place trophy after an 11-1 loss to the defending champions.

WICHITA, Kan. -- A seventh-place trophy for the National Baseball Congress World Series sat there on the bench in an almost empty dugout.

In all honesty, it had been long decided that it would go home with the Plaza Tire Capahas on Thursday night.

When the Santa Barbara (Calif.) Foresters, the NBC's defending champion, scored four runs in the first inning, the game was not decided, of course. But no one had to detail the predicament to the Capahas.

"When they get going like that," left fielder Zach Johnson said, "they're hard to stop."

Indeed, the Foresters have momentum right now, and it helped steamroll the Capahas 11-1 in a seven-inning, run-rule victory at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.

After rallying from a 15-1 loss to Havasu (Ariz.) with three straight victories, the Capahas' season is over.

"I can't be too disappointed because I'm really impressed with how we played," Plaza Tire manager Jess Bolen said. "We were down 3-1 to Nevada in the ninth, sent good teams like Moreno Valley and Beatrice home. But playing a fifth game in five days is a lot for our pitching staff."

It showed as the Capahas walked seven Foresters batters and hit three more. They were costly mistakes. A hit batter and walk by starter Asif Shah started Santa Barbara's four-run first inning. Two walks to lead off the fifth inning led to three Foresters runs.

"Even one more day of rest would have made such a difference," Bolen said. "We would have had our top three guys available. But that doesn't mean we would have beat them. Heck, at-bats are what cost us the game."

Foresters starter Anthony Capra made sure the Capahas had no reason for hope. A standout left-hander at Wichita State, Capra was pitching in front of friends and family while wanting to keep Santa Barbara on a roll.

He struck out eight in six innings, helped by his devastating curveball. The Foresters pitch chart had him throwing 15 curveballs, 13 of them for strikes.

"Once I had that, I just went curve and fastball," Capra said. "The [11-1] loss we had Sunday was not us. And we've made a point to make sure we set the tone the rest of the way. That's what we're doing."

Soon enough, the Foresters were thinking run-rule. They almost did it in the sixth, when Capahas second baseman Omar Padilla let a double-play grounder go underneath his glove. A run scored to make it 9-0 with a runner on third base.

Santa Barbara had Rebel Ridling, a top prospect from Oklahoma State, and Kyle Russell, who led the NCAA in home runs last season at Texas, coming up.

But reliever Josh Parham got Ridling to pop out and struck out Russell looking to keep the game going.

That led to the Capahas' only run. Facing reliever Kyle Thompson in the seventh, Chad Mercado doubled down the left-field line. Johnson followed that with a single to left field, scoring Mercado.

But it wasn't even enough to force another inning. In the bottom of the seventh, Parham hit Steve Susdorf with a pitch to lead off the inning and then walked Danny Grubb.

Dallas Poulk then crushed a double to right-center field, scoring both runners to end the game.

Soon, Bolen was accepting that trophy. He simply sat it on the bench, worrying more about getting each ball and helmet in a bag. Eventually, he called Dustin Pritchett down and asked, "Would you mind carrying that thing?"

"When you're playing a defending national champion or any of the teams still left in this, they just have so much pitching depth," Bolen said. "It's tough. They don't have to worry about seniors going home for jobs like we do. But we're going home with a trophy and knowing we played well here. That's what matters."

The Capahas previous best finishes were fourth in 1988 and fifth in 1995. They tied for 13th last year with a 3-2 record.

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