Tic Tac NO, Liners turn nail biter into a route with 7 run sixth
Riding high following their comeback walk-off win from a day earlier, the Stateliners of Phillipsburg looked to complete their season sweep of the Cougars from Montgomery on a very hot day at the PAC. The Righty Chris Sale, aka Machado, took the mound for the Liners and labored through the first inning but escaped unscathed. On another day that was very hitter friendly, Montgomery struck for two runs in the top of the second. Pburg responded with a run of their own in the second inning by manufacturing a run without the benefit of a hit. Farmer Ray walked to lead off the inning and then stole second. He was almost thrown out as the ball beat him to the bag but the second basemen couldn't see him so he missed the tag. True story. A classic Diefen-slap moved Farmer Ray to third with one out. Lil Mac then stroked a ground ball to the shortstop for an RBI groundout. The top of the third inning produced the matchup all the fans were waiting to see. Machado v Machado. The real Machado won the battle with a walk but the fake Machado would retire the other three runners of the inning. Pburg took command of the game in the bottom of the 3rd inning with a Stanskid walk, Nice Guy Nick Helman single, and an El Morro RBI single. With one run in and runners now at second and third, the Big Bad Big Head Billy strolled to the batters box. While most in the crowd were anticipating a Billy Bomb, Billy Billy had other ideas. Enraged that teammate Nice Guy Nick Helman took the HBP lead a day earlier, Billy leaned into one to tie Helman at 6 HBPs on the year. Oh yeah, the bases were also loaded for Farmer Ray. Ray Ray smashed a double down the line for a bases clearing 3 RBI double and the Liners were up 5-2. The sweltering heat of the day started to go away as a refreshing breeze took over the PAC. However, accompanying the breeze were ominous skies as a storm was on the horizon. With the impending storm both teams knew that the next two innings could very well be the last. Montgomery needed to score some runs and Pburg needed to get outs, and fast. A one out walk by Montgomery standout Ryan McKenna followed by a ground out left the speedy Montgomery outfielder at second with two outs. Not his normally sharp self, Webb-gem was battling trying to keep the Liners ahead. Denlinger, the Cougar 3 hitter knocked in a run with a two out single and the Lamanator would be summoned from the bullpen to try to preserve the lead. With reports of a storm already present in the Lehigh Valley you could feel the tension in the ballpark as it had a late game feel despite only being in the top of the fourth. T-Ball walked the first batter he faced to put the tying run at first before Lamanating the Montgomery 5 hitter to end the inning and the Pburg faithful breathed a sigh of relief. A quick bottom of the 4th put Laman right back on the mound. After checking DJ Tape Job's weather app, it was almost a certainty the game would be called short. Pburg was desperately trying to get 3 outs to make the game official. A lead off single was not what the doctor ordered for the Liners but such is the life. The real Machado (Montgomery's) hit a short pop in foul territory but a spectacular play by Diefen-dive got the first out of the inning as he laid out, full extension, to grab the ball for the first out. A flyout to center and all the Lamanator needed to do was get the third out, the game would be official and we could let it rain! But no, that would be too easy and this Pburg team loves drama filled games. Facing the 9 hitter with two outs and one one was a particularly stressful situation as the William and Mary bound McKenna was looming large on deck. A four pitch walk to the 9 hitter brought up the dangerous Montgomery leadoff hitter. He promptly smoked a ball to right to bring the cougars within one and the tying run on third. With raindrops already falling the fate of the game could be decided with the next at bat. TL-12 blew away the batter to preserve the 5-4 lead. Nice Guy Nick would leadoff the bottom of the 5th with a single. After being forced out at second on a fielder's choice, Billy Billy came up to the plate. Unfortunately for Billy, the pitcher didn't hit him. Instead Billy bombed a ball into a stiff wind for an RBI triple to give Pburg a little cushion. The rain finally arrived and both teams were sent to their respective dugouts. In an intense drama filled game infused with many twists and turns, the single most defining moment of the game would occur during the rain delay. Being their typical friendly, fun loving selves, the Stateliners tried to play a game of Tic Tac Toe with Montgomery by throwing a ball with a board on the ball (editor's note: this is not uncommon for teams to do during rain delays-- dance offs are also popular). As the ball rolled towards the visiting dugout, a fiesty, very irrationally angry young man who shall remain nameless picked up the ball, crow hopped, and launched the ball into the woods with rage. The cause of rage is still unknown. The effect of the rage though, that's known. Pburg wasn't going to let them get away with that. You don't disrespect an opponent like that. YOU DON'T DISRESPECT THE GAME OF TIC TAC TOE LIKE THAT. The leaders of the Pburg team pulled their teammates in close and came up with a plan. They all knew what they had to do to defend the honor of one of the greatest games this world has ever seen. When play resumed, Billy Billy was at third and Big Mike was up. A Salmon RBI ground out put the Liners up 7-4 and now Pburg was eager for more. Unfortunately the Cougars had other plans. A couple base hits and couple miscues put two more runs on the board and Pburg was clinging to a 7-6 lead. What's worse was that the tying run was on third. The go ahead run was on second. Montgomery's 9 hitter was up. That meant the big bad, daddy hack taking Montgomery star McKenna was on deck. It was high drama at the corner of Belvidere Road and Stateliner Avenue. Could the Lamanator do it one more time? Twice in the previous 3 innings TL-12 Lamanated the final batter to stop a scoring threat. T-Ball came through again, deciding that strikeouts are fascist and opted for a flyout to center for the third out (shout-out to any player that immediately recognizes that reference). Pburg had enough and it was time to drop the hammer. First to hit in the bottom of the sixth was Jake Donofry, also first in his class. He promptly got mom'd and Staggy Bear followed with a walk. A wild pitch put courtesy runner Sunshine at 3rd and Staggy at 2nd. Money Martin reached via error and brought in a run, Protein Boy followed with a sac fly and then the Landshark put the game away with a 2 RBI single to put Pburg up 5. El Torro, not to be confused with El Morro then got his first varsity plate appearance and he worked a walk to load the bases and then the walks kept coming. In the inning, Pburg had 6 walks and an HBP to score 7 runs and have a comfy 14-6 lead. Buffalo (who had been warming up while the game was still close) would then come on for his varsity pitching debut. After the Tic Tac Toe hater smashed a single off El Torro (brave effort trying to body up that laser beam), Buffalo would retire the next three hitters with ease and Pburg won again to improve to 9-6. The Lamanator picked up his team leading 3rd win to pair with his 1.50 ERA. The Liners have a few days off before the 6 games in 6 days stretch that starts Monday.