Caps' collapse in region may end streak of World Series invitat

Sunday, July 21, 2002

The National Baseball Congress Mid-South Regional offensive funk for the Craftsman Union Capahas continued Saturday.

As a result, the Capahas failed to defend their tournament championship and risk seeing their string of consecutive NBC World Series appearances end at 16.

The Springfield (Mo.) Slashers kept the Capahas off the scoreboard for eight innings and then withstood a late rally to defeat the hosts 3-2 at Capaha Field.

Springfield (18-9), which went 4-0 in the tournament, earns an automatic berth in the NBC World Series that begins next weekend in Wichita, Kan.

The Capahas (25-8), who went 2-2 in the tournament and would have needed to beat the Slashers twice Saturday to win the title, may still receive an at-large bid to the World Series, although Craftsman Union manager Jess Bolen is doubtful.

"I don't think we'll be going because there aren't as many at-large bids as there used to be," Bolen said. "We'll call the NBC office in Wichita Monday, tell them the result of our tournament and see what they say about us going."

If the Capahas can't hit the baseball better than they did in the regional, Bolen said, there's no reason to make the trek to Kansas anyway. They had just 24 hits in their four tournament games. Of the Capahas' nine hits Saturday, the majority were not struck very solidly. And the Caps wasted several prime scoring chances by standing 11 runners.

"We just didn't hit the ball in this tournament," Bolen said. "Just because you're using wood bats doesn't mean you can't hit."

Springfield starter Jason Herman, the tournament's most valuable pitcher, didn't throw much more than fastballs at the Capahas. But the right-hander evidently had enough to work eight shutout innings before the Caps finally got to him some in the ninth.

Herman allowed nine hits and was charged with both runs, one earned. He struck out 11 and walked two.

"Early on I didn't think my stuff was working," Herman said. "Later on it started working better."

Said Bolen, "Their pitcher was OK, but when you throw one fastball after another down the gut, you shouldn't be getting people out that easily."

Trailing 3-0 entering the bottom of the ninth, the Capahas finally gave their fans something to cheer about as they had a golden opportunity to at least tie the contest and force extra innings.

Josh Eftink led off with a single, Tom Cigno reached on an error and Chris Sledge singled to load the bases and end the day for Herman, who was relieved by Springfield player-manager Scott Wright.

"I was out of gas," Herman said. "It was hot out there."

Zach Borowiak's routine ground ball to second was booted for an error as Eftink scored and the bases remained loaded with nobody out.

Steve Kress plated Cigno with a fly ball to center field and Sledge alertly tagged up as well, putting the tying run at third base with just one out.

But cleanup man Tristen McDonald struck out and then pinch-hitter Denver Stuckey -- who did not start after suffering a foot injury during a batting practice mishap on Friday -- flew out to left.

"We should have scored more runs," Kress said. "We should have at least tied it in the ninth."

Capahas starter Richie Phillips (5-1) suffered his first loss of the season despite a strong performance. In 7 1/3 innings, the right-hander allowed two runs and seven hits while fanning eight and walking none. Mark Frazier gave up one run and one hit in 1 2/3 innings.

Springfield's Pat Whitt, the tournament MVP, went 3-for-4 with a home run and two doubles. Clay Wheeler added two hits for the Slashers while Kyle Rapinchuck homered.

Borowiak went 3-for-5 with a triple to lead the Capahas. Sledge and Brian Hopkins both had two hits.

The Slashers broke on top with a first-inning run. Whitt led off with a double, Wheeler got in infield single and Whitt scored as Colby Hughes hit into a double play.

Whitt's two-out homer in the sixth made it 2-0 and Rapinchuck's leadoff homer in the ninth made it 3-0, setting the stage for the Capahas' late rally that fell short.

(573) 335-6611, extension 132

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