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Championship Final Series: Tritons Shade Sunsets To Repeat As Champions

February 21, 2017 (Federal League Wire Service)

                The Tri-Cities Tritons captured their second consecutive league title as they edged the Sunrise Sunsets, 4-2, in the fifth and final game of the 2016-2017 Fall/Winter season Championship Final Series. 
                Tre Dingus, who missed the first four games of the series with a sprained ankle tossed a complete game six hitter for the Water Dwellers to earn the win. Dingus outdueled Sunset ace Michael Cimilluca, who overcame an oblique injury to start Game 5.
                The Tritons opened the scoring in the bottom of the third on a two out RBI single by Julian Faria. The Sons of Poseidon added another run in the fifth when Chris Marrero singled with two outs, stole second, and scored on an RBI single by Zac Miller.
                In the sixth, the Tritons increased their lead to 3-0. With two out, Orlando "The Symbol" Fallas blooped a single into short center field. Eric Silverberg followed with a sharp single to center that sent Fallas to third. Jay Warman then dropped a perfectly executed bunt down the third base line for a hit as Fallas scored.
                The Sunsets countered in the top of the seventh. Pinch hitter Jason Van Tol drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a wild pitch. With one out, Brandon Hull drew a free pass. Jimmy Schariest, the Sunsets' hottest hitter in the finals, laced a single to right center that scored Van Tol. With two out, Tommy Tritz drew a walk that loaded the bases, and then Anthony Garcilazo walked to force in a run, making it a 3-2 ballgame.
                In the seventh, the Tritons added an important insurance run. Miller led off with an opposite field double just inside the right field line. Miller advanced to third as Faria singled to right, the ball landing in almost the spot as Miller's double. After Cimilluca fanned Mike Whitaker for the first out, Adrian Roznowski lifted a fly ball to shallow center. A.J. Fidalic made the running catch, but Miller tagged up and slid in just ahead of the throw, giving the Water Dwellers a 4-2 lead. 
                The Sunsets put the tying runners on base in the top of the eighth when Demetrio Green drew a walk and Hull singled to left, but Dingus caught Schariest looking to end the threat.  
                In the ninth, the Sunsets threatened again. Fidalic led off with a solid single to center and Garcilazo drew a one out walk, but Jordan De Los Reyes rapped into a double play to end the game and the series. 
                Dingus walked 10, but struck out 16. Cimilluca allowed two earned runs on nine hits in seven innings. Cimilluca walked two, hit a batter, and struck out two. 
                Miller and Faria had two hits each to lead the Tritons. Scariest and Fidalic had two hits a piece for the Twilighters.
                After the game, the editors of South Florida Baseball Report named Triton third baseman Chris Marrero as the winner of the Playoff MVP Award. Marrero went 8-21 in the final series with four RBI, and played brilliant defense at the hot corner for the Tritons.
                Championship Final Series Game 4-Sunsets Square Series: The Championship Final Series will be settled in a fifth and deciding game as the Sunrise Sunsets slugged their way to a 15-5 win over the Tri-Cities Tritons in Game 4. The series now stands tied at two games a piece. 
                Game 1 winner Jason Van Tol got the starting assignment for the Twilighters against John Hardardt, who won Game 2 for the Water Dwellers.
                The Sunsets opened the scoring in the bottom of the first. Jimmy Schariest continued his torrid hitting with a one out single. After stealing second, Schariest scored on a two out RBI single by Anthony Garcilazo.
                In the third, the Sunsets increased their advantage, but squandered an opportunity to create some breathing room.
                Brandon Hull led off with a single, but was thrown out trying to score, with none out, on Schariest's double to left center. Schariest scored on an RBI single by A.J. Fidalic, but the Twilighters were unable to capitalize further.
                In the bottom of the fourth, Jose De Los Reyes led off with a double and Ryan Thompson followed with an RBI single, giving the 'Sets a 3-0 lead. Romulo Matamoros single, sending Thompson to second. Demetrio Green broke out of his post-season slump with an RBI double, bringing Thompson home with the Sunsets' fourth run. 
                The Sunsets scored two more runs in the frame, taking a 6-0 advantage, on RBI ground outs by Fidalic and Garcilazo.  
                The Tritons finally solved Van Tol in the top of the fifth, picking up three runs and cutting the Sunset lead in half. Adrian Roznowski and Magdiel Sanchez opened the inning with back to back walks. After Orlando Fallas flew out to center, Mike Whittaker drew a walk to load the bases. 
                With two out, Chris Marrero drilled a two run double, with Roznowski and Sanchez scoring, and Whittaker stopping at third. Eric Silverberg followed with a shot down the third base line that Tommy Tritz stopped with a back handed dive. Whittaker scored on the play before Tritz was able to tag out the on rushing Marrero to end the inning. 
                Nonplussed by the Tritons' rally, the Sunsets responded with four more runs in the bottom of the fifth to take a 10-3 lead.
                With two out, Matamoros reached on an error and then scored as Green laced an RBI double. Hull followed with a two run home run to left, and Schariest went back to back, swatting a round tripper to left center.
                The Tritons refused to quit, and struck for two runs in the top of the seventh. Sanchez, Fallas, and Whittaker opened the frame with consecutive singles to produce one run. Silverberg produced a two out RBI single that scored Fallas.
                Once again, the Sunsets answered a Triton rally. In the bottom of the seventh, Schariest drilled a two run double and Fidalic lined an RBI single to give the Twilighters a 13-5 advantage.
                Green crushed a two run bomb in the bottom of the eighth to cap the scoring.
                Schariest led the Sunsets with four hits and three RBI. Hull and Green had three hits each. Hull drove in two runs, Green knocked in four. Fidalic had two hits and three RBI. De Los Reyes, Thompson, and Matamoros contributed two hits a piece. 
                Van Tol, who pitched into the eighth, allowed five runs on six hits. The veteran righty walked three and struck out three. Hardardt took the loss after surrendering five earned runs on 13 hits in five innings of work.  
                The Tritons were without shortstop and lead off hitter Jay Warman, who was out for an undisclosed ailment. The Sunsets were missing their shortstop, Cal Menechino, who is sidelined with a quadriceps injury. 
                The fifth and final game of the series is scheduled for Tuesday night. With the title on the line, both teams are hoping to have all of their injured players return to the lineup.
                Championship Final Series Game 3-Tritons Take Series Lead: The Tri-Cities Tritons took a two games to one series lead as they handed the Sunrise Sunsets a 7-1 beating in the pivotal third game of the best of five Championship Final Series. 
                The expected pitcher's duel between Sunsets' ace Michael Cimilluca and Tritons' flame thrower Tre Dingus failed to materialize as Cimilluca was scratched due to a sore back and Dingus was not sufficiently healed after suffering a sprained ankle. Instead, the Tritons sent lefty Jose Marcano, who took the loss in Game 1, to the hill. Marcano was opposed by Ryan Thompson.
                The Water Dwellers opened the scoring in the bottom of the first. Chris Marrero drew a one out walk and Zac Miller followed with a sharp single to center. Julian Faria worked out a walk to load the bases. Marrero scored as Adrian Roznowski grounded out to second.
                The Tritons increased their lead to 2-0 in the third. Jay Warman led off with a double and then stole third. With one out, Miller grounded out to third as Warman scored.
                In the top of the fourth, the Sunsets broke up Marcano's no-hitter and shutout. With two out, Thompson reached on an error. Jimmy Schariest singled to left, representing the Twilighters' first hit. One batter later, Ted Maceda lined a single to right center that enabled Thompson to score.
                The score remained 2-1 until the sixth. In that frame, the Tritons plated two runs. Marrero led off with a high chopper to third that bounced over the head of Tommy Tritz for a single. Miller hit what might have been a double play ball, but the ball caromed off of Thompson's leg for an infield hit. A wild pitch allowed Marrero to score, and an RBI single by Faria brought Miller home.
                In the bottom of the seventh, the Sons of Poseidon added three insurance runs. Marrero's two run double down the right field line was the key blow. 
                Marcano pitched eight innings, permitting one run on four hits, to earn the win. The lightning lefty walked seven and struck out 13. Thompson took the loss after allowing five earned runs on seven hits. Thompson walked four and struck out five.  
                Warman, Marrero, and Miller led the Tritons with two hits each. Marrero also made four brilliant defensive plays at the hot corner. Schariest had two hits to pace the 'Sets. 
                The Tritons can wrap up their second consecutive league championship, while the Twilighters will seek to send the series to a fifth and final game, when the action continues with Game 4, scheduled for Saturday.
                Championship Final Series Game 2-Tritons Tie Series: After falling in a tight pitcher's duel in Game, the Tri-Cities Tritons flexed their collective muscle and pounded the Sunrise Sunsets, 19-5, in Game 2, sqauring the series at one win a piece. 
                Tritons' ace John Hardardt, bypassed in Game 1 on Thursday, got the assignment for the Water Dwellers and did not disappoint. Hardardt pitched into the eighth, allowing three earned runs on nine hits to earn the win. Hardardt walked five, hit a batter, and struck out four. Jordan De Los Reyes started for the arm weary Sunsets and took the loss.
                Jay Warman, Orlando Fallas, and Zac Miller led a 19 hit assault by the Sons of Poseidon.
                Warman had four hits, including a two run home run, three RBI, and two runs scored. Fallas had three hits and an RBI, and Miller two hits, including a solo round tripper, and three runs scored. Adrian Roznowski also contributed three hits.
                Brandon Hull and Ryan Thompson had three hits each for the Twilighters.
                The Tritons opened the scoring in the top of the third. Fallas led off with a double for the Water Dwellers' first hit, and, with two out, Warman launched a two run homer to left center.
                In the bottom of the third, the Sunsets cut the lead in half as Hull singled and scored on a two out triple by Anthony Garcilazo. 
                The Tritons essentially put the game out of reach in the fifth with a six run outburst. Julian Faria and Fallas had RBI singles in the frame, and Magdiel Sanchez drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. 
                After building a 12-4 advantage through eight innings, the Tritons added insult to injury with a seven run rally in the top of the ninth. 
                The pivotal third game is scheduled for Thursday night. Tre Dingus is expected to start for the Tritons, while Michael Cimilluca is the Sunsets' projected starter.
                Championship Final Series Game 1-Surprising Sunsets Slam Tritons: The 2016-2017 Fall/Winter season Championship Final Series opened on Thursday night and the Sunrise Sunsets defeated the defending champion Tri-Cities Tritons, 6-3. 
                Both teams sent unexpected starters to the mound, and both pitchers, Jason Van Tol for the Twilighters and relief ace Jose Marcano for the Water Dwellers, responded with complete game efforts. 
                It was assumed that the Tritons would start their ace, and leading winner, John Hardardt to the hill, but manager Mike Whittaker tabbed Marcano for the assignment in an effort to neutralize the Sunsets' left handed power.
                Van Tol was an even more confounding choice as a Game 1 starter, having pitched only one inning all season. Van Tol injured his hamstring early in January and was thought to be lost for the season.
                The Tritons were without third baseman Tre Dingus, who was on crutches after spraining his ankle.
                The game, and the series, began with Sunsets' leadoff hitter Brandon Hull drawing a walk. With one out, Hull stole second and then scored as Anthony Garcilazo doubled to center.
                A 1-0 Sunset lead swelled to a 5-0 advantage in the top of the second. 
                With two out, Ted Maceda bunted for a single, and Demetrio Green walked. Hull walked again to load the bases, and, on a full count pitch, Jordan De Los Reyes crushed a grand slam to left center. 
                Trailing by five, the Tritons finally lit the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth. Chris Marrero led off and was hit by a pitch, but erased when he was caught attempting to steal second. Zac Miller drew a walk and scored on a double by Julian Faria. It was the first hit of the game for the Sons of Poseidon. 
                In the bottom of the sixth, Jay Warman drew a lead off walk, moved to second when Marrero beat out an infield hit, and scored on an RBI single by Miller, making it a 5-2 ballgame. Van Tol escaped further damage by striking out the side with runners on second and third and none out.
                Both pitchers remained in control until the ninth.
                In the top of the ninth, Tommy Tritz drew a lead off walk and scored on a two out RBI single by Ronnie Rocca.
                In the home half of the frame, Orlando Fallas led off with a base hit. Hardardt went in to pinch run, but was erased when Mike Whittaker bounced into a force play. Agner "Management" Martinez pinch ran for Whittaker and advanced to second when Warman worked out a two out walk. An RBI single by Marrero plated Martinez, making the score 6-3, and bring Zac Miller to the plate as the tying run. 
                Van Tol quickly got ahead of Miller, one ball and two strikes, before retiring the Tritons' slugger on a fly ball to left.
                Van Tol permitted two earned runs on seven hits. He walked four, hit two, and struck out seven. Marcano took the loss after allowing six runs on six hits. The big lefty walked six and fanned 13.
                The Sunsets, particularly Rocca at the hot corner, played sharp defense throughout the contest.
                Game 2 of the best of five series is scheduled for Saturday. Hardardt is expected to make the start for the Tritons. The Sunsets have yet to name a starter, but whoever takes the hill will certainly be less of a surprise than Van Tol was tonight.
                Championship Final Series Notebook-Preview: In many ways the 2016-2017 Fall/Winter season Championship Final Series between the defending champion Tri-Cities Tritons and the surprising Sunrise Sunsets has more than a few things in common with a celebrated series from the past, and it is not the series that these these same two teams were engaged in two seasons previous. Rather, this series is reminiscent of the 1988 World Series between the heavily favored Oakland A's and the much less regarded Los Angeles Dodgers. 
                Back in 1988, the A's came into the World Series with a powerful and productive offense backing up a talented and deep pitching staff, a roster full of all-stars. The Dodgers, on the other hand, limped into the series with their best position player injured and a roster full of less than household names. The parallels to the Tritons and Sunsets are obvious. 
                The Dodgers prevailed in that series, winning four games to one, mostly due to the heroics of Kirk Gibson, who hit a walk off, two run, pinch hit, home run in the bottom of the ninth to win Game 1 in his only series appearance, and Orel Hershiser, who pitched two complete game victories, in addition to collecting more hits in the series (three) than Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire combined.
                The Tritons boast a lineup that includes MVP candidates shortstop Jay Warman and catcher Julian Faria, a pitching staff that has two of the league's best starters in John Hardardt and Tre Dingus, and the loop's top bullpen with righty Orlando Fallas and lefty Jose Marcano. These top players are augmented all-stars candidates such as slugging outfielder Zac Miller and speedy second baseman Chris Marrero.
                The Sunsets, by way of comparison, lost, arguably, their best player shortstop Nick Arata to injury in late November, and have seen several of the healthier players suffering through difficult campaigns.
                Staff ace Michael Cimilluca, the would be Orel Hershiser of the Twilighters, while still one of the league's best pitchers, has not been able to pitch consistently due to a variety of issues. Ryan Thompson has filled in admirably as the Twilighters' nominal ace, but is better served fulfilling a supporting role.
                During the regular season, the Tritons led the league in team batting average, runs scored, and stolen bases. The Sunsets finished next to last in team batting average and scored 33 fewer runs than did the Water Dwellers. 
                The Tritons' pitching staff led the league in team ERA, wins, strikeouts, fewest runs allowed and fewest hits allowed. The Sunset staff was a distant fourth in team ERA. 
                So, on the surface, it would appear that the Sunsets, much like the 1988 Dodgers, are out manned and outgunned. 
                However, the Sunsets do have some intangibles working in their favor.
                To begin with, the Sunsets have the recent memory of their three game sweep of the Tritons when the the two teams met in the 2015-2016 Fall/Winter season Championship Final Series.
                The Twilighters also have hot hitting lefties Anthony Garcilazo and A.J. Fidalic and clutch hitting Jordan De Los Reyes. All of whom tormented the Delray Beach Mudcats in the Original Division playoffs.
                If not already worn down by the rigors of the long season, and an even longer seeming post-season, the pitching staff of Cimilluca, Thompson, and Tommy Tritz have the playoff experience to carry the Sunsets over top. 
                Both teams have more than capable player/managers, with Brandon Hull of the Sunsets and Mike Whittaker of the Tritons carrying championship credentials.
                In the end, however, the Tritons' offensive prowess, combined their advantages in pitching depth make it hard to forecast a Sunset victory.
                Unless an unsung hero emerges for the Twilighters, the expectation is that the Tritons will win their second straight crown.


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