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New Jersey Reds Win MSBL Fall Classic Championship

In November, 2006, the New Jersey Reds traveled to Clearwater, Florida and won their second Mens’ Senior Baseball League (MSBL) Fall Classic Tournament 38-and-over Central Division Championship in three years. During the regular summer season, the Reds play in the 38-and-over Mid-week league division of the United States Over Thirty Baseball League (USOTBL). The team, which is managed by Andy Vazquez, is based in and draws most of its’ players from the central New Jersey area. Regular season team members Andy Vazquez, Vinny Pankowski, Bill McClintock, Phil Forman, J.R. Carmona, Bob White, Dick Harvey, Daryl Smith, Lou Velez, Dennys Tapia and Ron Pasko were joined by Todd Stein, Mike Lieberman and Bob Klapisch from New Jersey and Joe Williams and ex-Red Joe Russo from Florida to form the Fall Classic Tournament team.

On Monday, the Reds began the round-robin portion of their tournament with an impressive 12-5 win over the Syracuse Indians. Vinny Pankowski pitched six innings of five-hit shutout ball to earn the win, striking out eight while issuing only one walk. The Reds offense got going right away, staking Pankowski to a 7-0 lead after three innings. Bill McClintock was 2-4 (two doubles, RBI), Denny Tapia 2-3 (double, run scored, three RBI), J.R. Carmona 2-4 (walk, two SB, RBI), Bob White 2-3 (double, walk, two runs, RBI), Andy Vazquez 2-4 (SB, two runs) and Pankowski and Daryl Smith each scored two runs. Tapia (two innings, two Ks) and Vazquez (one inning, two Ks) shared mound duties for the last three innings to secure the win for the Reds.

The threat of rain hung over the tournament and the Reds’ scheduled doubleheader on Tuesday. That morning, the Reds faced the Delaware County (Pa.) Angels, who had eliminated the Reds from the tournament play-offs in 2005. After falling behind 5-0 in the top of first inning, the Reds set themselves to battling their way back into the game. Starter J.R. Carmona made some adjustments and, with a good breaking pitch and an off-speed knuckleball, held the Bay Sox down through five innings and allowed the Reds to catch up. Leadoff hitter Ron Pasko (3-4, two doubles, triple, run scored, RBI), Todd Stein (2-3, triple, run scored, SB, RBI) and Dick Harvey (2-4, double, RBI) lead the way as the Reds tied the game at seven. Tapia pitched well over the final three innings, but some uncharacteristic defensive miscues by the Reds late in the game lead to two Angel runs and the Reds dropped a close 9-8 decision. The intermittent showers that had started during the later innings continued between games and into the Reds’ afternoon game against the Chesapeake Bay Sox. Several more uncharacteristic first inning errors put the Reds and starting pitcher Mike Lieberman behind 3-0 right off the bat. The Reds bounced right back to even the score at three in the bottom of the first. With two outs, Lieberman singled, stole second and scored on Pankowski’s RBI double. McClintock singled Pankowski home and later came around to score on Harvey’s RBI single. As the showers became steadier, the Reds tightened up their defense and Lieberman (six strikeouts, no walks) didn’t allow another run through five innings of work. With the game still tied at three entering the fifth inning, the rain picked up but the Reds got three outs in the now steady, wind-blown rain. After four and a half innings, the game was halted, the heavy rains continued and the remainder of the game would have to be played later in the week (Thursday morning was the only time that fit into the two teams’ schedules).

The rain had passed and historic Jack Russell Stadium was the site for the Reds’ game against the Charleston Riverdogs on Wednesday morning. Starting pitcher Bob Klapisch hurled seven innings, allowing three runs on seven hits (but no walks) while striking out four to lead the Reds to a comfortable 12-5 win. Offensively, the Reds were lead by J.R. Carmona (two walks, single, double, two runs, SB, RBI), Bill McClintock (HBP, two hits, two RBI) and Lou Velez (two walks, two hits, run scored, SB, RBI). Andy Vazquez pitched the last two innings to preserve the win for the Reds.

Entering Thursday with a 2-1 record, the Reds needed to win only one of their two contests that day to ensure themselves a spot in the division play-offs set for Friday and Saturday. In the 9:00 am continuation of Tuesday’s rain shortened game against the Chesapeake Bay Sox, Reds’ shortstop Phil Forman cracked a lead-off double in the bottom of the 5th, but the Reds could not bring him around to break the 3-3 deadlock. Unfortunately, a seventh inning error lead to an unearned Bay Sox run and the Reds could not mount any offense; the disappointed Reds found themselves on the short end of the final 4-3 score and facing a “must win” game that evening against the undefeated Montgomery County (Pa.) Yankees. The Reds sent crafty veteran Joe Williams to the mound and knew that they needed pick up their game to be able to secure the win they needed. Williams, just off from work for the day, out of his car minutes before game time and probably not yet loose, struggled early, giving up six hits and five runs in the first inning. Again the Reds set themselves to battling back and this time scored two runs in the bottom of the first. With one out, Phil Forman walked, J.R. Carmona doubled, Vinny Pankowski’s sacrifice fly drove in one run and big Bill McClintock came through with one of his many two-out RBI hits. The Reds got another run back in the second and then rallied to tie the game at five in the bottom of the third. The middle of the line-up did the work again: Carmona (3-4, double, SB, three runs scored) and Pankowski (2-3, SB, run scored, RBI) lead off with singles, McClintock (3-4, two RBI) singled a run home and Todd Stein (1-4, triple, run scored, RBI) got the tying run home with an RBI ground out. The Reds scored again in the fifth inning to take a 6-5 lead. Carmona singled again, stole second and scored on Pankowski’s single. Meanwhile, Williams had settled down and, thanks to some solid defensive support behind him, kept the Yankees off of the scoreboard through the middle innings. Second baseman Daryl Smith fielded five balls, including starting a nice 4-6-3 double play with two men on in the fifth and later diving to his right and ranging far to his left, then throwing each runner out at first to take away sure hits. The Reds held the slim 6-5 lead through the sixth and seventh innings, but the Yankees managed to score the tying run in the top of the eight on a lead-off single, a stolen base, a ground out and an unfortunate wild pitch. The Reds answered emphatically with three big runs of their own in the bottom of the eighth. McClintock started the winning rally with a one-out single and Stein drilled a triple for the go-ahead run, but the Reds were not finished. Andy Vazquez hit a sac fly, Bob White reached on an error and Joe Russo ripped a double to put runners at second and third. Lou Velez’s single scored White, but Russo was thrown out the plate in a bang-bang play. Williams gave up a lead-off double in the bottom of the ninth, but easily got the next three batters and the Reds had their hard-fought, well-earned 9-6 victory. Williams allowed only six hits and one run over the final eight innings for the win. The Reds were now playing with confidence and realized that this could be the turning point of the tournament for them.

Now in the play-offs, the Reds faced the undefeated and number one seeded Raleigh Red Sox in Friday afternoon’s quarter-final game. Lefty Vinny Pankowski took the ball to the hill and turned in a spectacular performance, throwing a complete game shutout and leading the Reds to a pressure-packed 1-0 win. He allowed 11 hits (but no walks) and struck out six, getting out of several jams along the way. The Reds’ defense was solid again, exemplified by a key play in the bottom of the third. With no score and a Red Sox runner stealing from first with two out, the batter lined a hit deep into the right-center gap. Rightfielder Joe Russo tracked the ball down and threw to shortstop Phil Forman, who made a perfect relay throw to the plate where catcher Dick Harvey applied the tag on the hard-sliding runner for the third out. With the bit of momentum gained from that play, the Reds scored the only run they would need in the top of the fourth. Lou Velez reached on an infield error and was replaced at first when Ron Pasko hit into a fielder’s choice. He promptly stole second and scored on Mike Lieberman’s clutch RBI double. The Reds had only two hits all game – the other was also by Lieberman, an earlier single. Pitching and defense took over from there. In the bottom of the fourth, Pankowski stranded a runner on third by inducing a weak come-backer with two outs. In the sixth, the Sox speedy lead-off hitter singled and stole second to start the inning. After a sac bunt and a short flyout, the Sox were desperate for the tying run. With Pankowski winding up, the runner took off from third trying a straight steal of home. Unflustered, Pankowski threw an un-hitable pitch to the plate and Harvey lunged forward to apply the tag on the runner a fraction of a second before he reached the plate. In the eighth, the Sox pushed a runner to third with one out, but the Reds escaped via a popout and a flyout. In the bottom of the ninth, with runners on first and second and two outs, centerfielder Pasko ran down another fly ball for the final out to lock up the incredible win that earned the Reds a semi-final rematch with the Montgomery Yankees that evening.

At Jack Russell Stadium for the semi-final, the Yankees were claiming that, since they had the #2 seed in the play-offs sewn up at the time, they had not played all-out in their loss the previous evening to the Reds. Well, the Reds proved they were the better team, handling the best the Yankees had to offer and coming away with a convincing 8-1 win. J.R. Carmona hurled the first six innings, allowed only four hits, two walks and a single, first inning run to earn the victory. The Reds struck for two runs in the fourth on a Pankowski double and singles by McClintock, Vazquez and Forman, then iced the game with three in the seventh, one in the eighth and two more in the top of the ninth. Ron Pasko was 3-5 with a stolen base, two runs scored and two RBI, Mike Lieberman was 2-4 with a walk and an RBI, Pankowski had a single, double and two RBI, Dick Harvey was 2-4 with a run scored and Todd Stein scored two runs to lead the Reds’ offense. Mike Lieberman retired all nine batters he faced over the final three innings to nail down the win and pick up the save.

Less than 12 hours later on Saturday morning, the Reds were back at Jack Russell Stadium for the Central Division Championship game against the Chesapeake Bay Sox. Although they had lost to the Bay Sox earlier in the week, the Reds’ knew that that were playing good ball and took the field with confidence, especially know that they had been there (in the championship game) before. The Reds set the tone for the rest of the game in the first inning. In the top half of the inning, a walk and a stolen base by Mike Lieberman, then another clutch, two-out RBI single by Bill McClintock got the Reds on the scoreboard. With planned starter Bob Klapisch stuck in traffic on the way to the game, Lieberman got the call to start and, in the bottom of the inning, got a come-backer that started a 1-6-3 double to shut the Bay Sox down. The Reds got two more runs in the third and another in the fourth to build a 4-0 lead. In the third, Lou Velez singled and stole second, then Ron Pasko walked and together they pulled off a double steal of second and third. A wild pitch scored Velez, then Lieberman knocked in Pasko with a single. In the fourth, Todd Stein singled, stole second and scored on an error. Lieberman allowed only three hits, but two of them and a run in the fifth, so Reds’ manager Andy Vazquez brought on Klapisch in the sixth. The Reds’ pitching an defense dominated again, with infielders Pankowski, Daryl Smith, Phil Forman (who played every inning of all eight games at shortstop) and Bob White handling a ton of chances and recording 21 of the 27 outs between them. Klapisch struck out three and allowed only two hits and no runs over the final four innings to seal the 5-1 win for Lieberman and the championship for the Reds!

The New Jersey Reds after winning the MSBL Fall Classic Tournament
38-and-over Central Division Championship at Jack Russell Stadium
in Clearwater Florida

Team members are (front row, left-to-right): Mike Lieberman, J.R. Carmona, Manager Any Vazquez, Phil Forman, Daryl Smith, Vinny Pankowski and Bob White, (back row, left-to-right): Todd Stein, Ron Pasko, Joe Williams, Dick Harvey, Bill McClintock, Bob Klapisch, Joe Russo and Lou Velez. Not pictured: Dennys Tapia.

New Jersey Reds MSBL Fall Classic Tournament Statistics

Lieberman 0.438 0.526 7 16 3 4 3
Pankowski 0.370 0.433 10 27 3 6 7
Pasko 0.367 0.441 11 30 4 3 7
McClintock 0.333 0.419 9 27 4 8 6
Smith 0.333 0.385 4 12 1 0 1
Carmona 0.321 0.387 9 28 3 2 8
Velez 0.300 0.417 6 20 4 4 4
Tapia 0.286 0.375 2 7 1 3 2
Stein 0.250 0.375 5 20 4 3 7
Harvey 0.250 0.318 5 20 2 4 3
Vazquez 0.238 0.304 5 21 2 3 4
Russo 0.235 0.350 4 17 3 1 1
White 0.174 0.240 4 23 2 1 4
Forman 0.143 0.182 3 21 1 2 1
TEAM TOTALS 0.290 0.372 84 290 38 44 58


Pankowski 2 0 0 15 0 0 0.00 59 14 16 1
Lieberman 1 0 0 13 4 1 0.69 48 9 7 1
Klapisch 1 0 1 11 3 1 0.82 47 7 9 1
Tapia 0 1 0 5 5 2 3.60 30 2 6 5
Carmona 1 1 0 15 10 9 5.40 66 8 16 6
Williams 1 0 0 9 6 6 6.00 42 3 12 3
Vazquez 0 0 0 3 4 2 6.00 17 3 2 5
TEAM TOTALS 6 2 1 71 32 21 2.66 309 46 68 22

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