Red Sox Optimist – 2006

2006 Season Record: 46-25-1

MVP – Chad Denunzio
Outstanding Pitcher – Joey Harris
Sportsmanship/Hustle – Kyle Stover
Defensive Player of the Year – Leon Adams

In mid-June, it looked as though the Berkshire Red Sox Quad County teams’ run of three straight trips to the championship series was in serious jeopardy.

The club was 3-5 in league play, 22-19 overall and had just dropped three games in a row in their own Rawlings Berkshire Showdown tournament, which they were looking to defend the title to.

Their pitching staff and defense, which were supposed to be their strong suits had just given up 44 runs in their last six games and things looked pretty bleak.

The team called a players only meeting and to a man determined that they would turn the season around.

They went 17-1-1 in their final 19 league games and finished one point behind the Lititz Pirates for the regular season title.

The second place finished earned them a bye in the first round of the play-offs, where they faced a familiar foe, Smitty’s Cardinals, in very unfamiliar setting.

The Sox and Cardinals had met in the League Championship Series in the previous three seasons. 2003 went to Berkshire and the Cardinals had swept the Sox in both 2004 and 2005, 3-games-to-none.

It looked to be the same old post-season story when the Sox and Cardinals met up in the best-of-five game semi-final series when the Cards jumped out to a commanding 2-games-to-0 lead with a 5-0 win in game one and an 8-4 victory in game two.

Heading to Lancaster for games three and hopefully four against a team that had owned the Sox in their last eight post-season meetings didn’t leave too many people believing that the series would return to George Field on Saturday night.

Game three didn’t show much promise when the Cardinals jumped on Sox lefty, Joe Harris for four two-out runs in the bottom of the first inning.

The Sox answered back with three runs in the top of the second and battled back and forth with the Cards all night before walking away with an 8-6 win and earning the chance to play another day.

On Friday night, the Sox jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning and then were shut down by Cardinals hurler, Dan Myers as he retired 12 of the next 13 batters he faced from the second to the fifth inning.

Smitty’s scored a run in the fifth to make it 3-1 and then tied the game in the bottom of the sixth at 3-3.

The Sox got the lead-off man on in the top of the seventh and then bunted into a double-play to kill a would be rally.

Nate Reed, the Sox game one starter entered the game to pitch in the bottom of the seventh.

Reed started the inning by walking Carlos Diaz who was then bunted over to second. The Sox intentionally walked clean-up hitter Drew Pare to set up the force.

Reed struck out Ryan Sutter for the second out of the inning. The Sox then intentionally walked Brandon Hostetter to face Sean Killian. Killian worked the count full before hitting a rocket up the middle that ricocheted off of Reed’s thigh and into Kyle Stover’s glove at third, who threw Killian out at first for the final out of the inning, sending the game into extra frames.

Stover then led off the eighth with a single, the Sox failed to bunt him over with no outs, but he advanced to second on Pete Jordan’s walk and scored on Chad Denunzio’s single to give the Sox a 4-3 lead.

Reed took the hill again in the eighth inning. He walked the lead-off man and then got a double play ball before striking out Jose Ochoa to end the game and send the series back to Reading tied at two games each.

The Sox sent Jeremy Hess to the mound in game five. Hess was pitching with a heavy heart that night as he had learned earlier in the day that one of his good friends was killed in a car accident the night before.

The Cardinals jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning and Andrew Pry was tossing a no-hitter going into the bottom of the fifth for Smitty’s.

Denunzio led off the fifth with a single to break up the no-no and the Sox exploded for five runs to go up 5-2.

Hess shut down the Cards with a 1-2-3 sixth and looked like a man on mission.

He got Brett Rhoads to line-out to start the seventh, then walked Dan Myers and hit Brandon Hostetter with an 0-2 pitch to put runners on first and second with one out.

Pare struck-out for the second out of the inning and Ryan Sutter hit a bleeder to load the bases for Carlos Diaz.

Diaz worked a 2-2 count before flying out to Aaron Bertoldi in left field to end the game and seal an improbable come back.

Clouser and Hess hugged during the celebration and Hess simply said, “He was out there with me tonight DC, he carried me.”

There was no rest for the weary as the Sox opened up the Quad County Optimist League Championship Series with the Lititz Pirates the very next night at Stumpf Field in Lancaster.

The Sox sent Kevin Walbert to the mound, who had not pitched for the majority of the season due to an arm injury.

Walbert battled all night, but the Sox offense could only muster a single run in the first inning and dropped the series opener 6-1 to fall behind in the best-of-five gane series 1 game to none.

The next night, the Sox offense seemed to be a bit more rejuvenated. Even with Lititz sending their ace, Mark Brown to the mound, the Sox scored two runs in the first inning and another four in the third inning off of a Chad Denunzio (2-for-2, 5 RBI) grand slam to take a 6-0 lead.

Brown completed the inning and made way for Matt Gale, Aaron Bertoldi quickly greeted Gale with an inside the park home run in the fourth and the Sox added another four runs in the fifth inning to go up 11-0.

Lititz spoiled Kevin Lengyel’s shut-out with a run in the bottom of the seventh, but the Sox knotted the series at a game a piece heading home to George Field for games three and four.

Lefty Joe Harris took the hill for the Sox and struggled a bit early again, yielding three runs in the first two innings.

The Sox offense looked sluggish as Bobby Thompson baffled them for four innings, yielding only two hits. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Thompson began to tire and the Sox strung together four singles, but could only plate one run to close the gap to 3-1.

Harris stayed in his groove, by tossing another shut-out inning in the sixth and keeping the Pirates lead at 3-1.

With a full moon rising up over the Pagoda in the distance at George field, Lititz brought in closer Jarred Ellis (1-0, 3 saves, 1.29 ERA), who had been lights out all season long to face the heart of the Berkshire order.

Ellis had some uncharacteristic control problems as Pete Jordan and Chad Denunzio each led off the inning with walks. That made way for Zac Schneider, who sacrificed both into scoring position and Rob Lozenski’s (2-for-2, 2 RBI) single tied the game at three.

The Sox couldn’t take the lead and hoped Harris could continue to cruise and keep the game tied.

Lititz had a different idea and scored a run in the top of the seventh to take a 4-3 lead.

With Ellis still on the mound for Lititz, Berkshire’s Kyle Stover led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk and Leon Adams reached on an error to put runners on second and third with no outs and Berkshire’s clean-up hitter, Pete Jordan coming to the plate.

Jordan battled Ellis before finally striking-out on an eight pitch at-bat. Lititz then intentionally walked Chad Denunzio to load the bases.

Zac Schneider struck-out for the second out of the inning, making pinch-hitter Kevin Lengyel the final hope for the Red Sox.

Lengyel fell behind in the count 1-2 before hitting a single between second and third that scored both Stover and Adams to win the game and take a 2-games-to-1 series lead.

The Sox who had been using the championship season of 2003 as their rally cry since falling behind 2-games-to-none in the semi-finals against Smitty’s had become quite superstitious during their play-off run. They felt that August 9, 2006 would bring the same magic to them as August 6, 2003 had.

August 6, 2003 was the date of game 4 of the 2003 Quad County LCS, a game that was also played on a Wednesday night a George Field.

The night in 2003, the Red Sox had worn their pinstripe pants and blue jersey’s, they would do the same on this night. That night in 2003, the Sox sent Nick Evangelista, who was then attending the University of Pittsburgh and is now in the Philadelphia Phillies minor league system, to the mound. This night they would send Nate Reed, who is now attending the University of Pittsburgh and was being courted by the Philadelphia Phillies earlier in the summer, to the mound.

The baseball gods were smiling and everything seemed to be right as the Sox were determined to not go back to Lancaster for game five.

The Sox scored two runs in the bottom of the first to jump out to a 2-0 lead.

Reed struggled early, throwing 40 pitches in the first two innings but in spite of sending 10 hitters to the plate, the Pirates could only scratch out one run.

The Sox added three runs in the third inning and another two in the fourth to take a commanding 7-1 lead.

Reed (6 IP, 1 H, 10 K, 4 BB) had settled in, retiring 12 of the next thirteen batters that he faced from the third to the sixth inning.

Matt Zaorski, Nick Zerbe and Kevin Morganti combined to throw a scoreless seventh inning and secure the Berkshire Red Sox third title in franchise history and their first since 2003.

An incredible three day celebration was kicked off that night, which included fireworks in the outfield and champagne in the locker room.

The Sox were bridesmaids no more, they rode on the shoulders of their grizzled veteran, Chad Denunzio (8-for-20, 2 HR, 12 RBI in the play-offs) who told the guys that he wanted to go out as a champion. Although after his post-season performance, he may not retiring after all.

“2003 was great, it was the first league championship team that I had ever managed, so that’s always going to be a special group.” Said Dan Clouser, Sox manager.

“But, these guys, well, they were something else, I mean we were 3-5 in the league at one point, we were down two games-to-none to Smitty’s and the core of these kids were on the teams that came up short the past two seasons. That really shows some resilience, the rookies rose to the occasion and the veterans led the way, as far as chemistry goes, this group had something special. I think we’re all going to remember this season for a long time to come.”

The 2006 Red Sox made history, winning the title and finishing 46-25-1 overall. The 2007 Sox are hoping to do the same by being the first squad in the franchises history to repeat.

©2017 Berkshire Baseball & Softball Club / BIG Vision Foundation

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