In a closely contested championship game with the perennial favorite Cubs, the Knights rallied in the ninth inning to win 8-7 behind a gutty complete game by Tommy Reilly.
In the top of the ninth, the Knights were warned about the second hitter to bat in the inning. Despite extra caution, the son-of-a-bitch hit a solo shot to tie up that game that Reilly himself untied an inning earlier with his own RBI single.
After Reilly recorded the last two outs, Dan O’Shea lined a single to right on a pitch that would have hit him in the face had he not made contact. After several attempts to pick him off and recording an 0-2 count, the pitcher finally came to the plate with a waist-high fastball that #10 hitter Dave Mischo slammed to the gap in deep right center. O’Shea, tiring as he approached third, attempted to score, beating the throw with a head-first slide, ending the game and an incredible six-game series for the Knights.
The Knights arrived in town on Wednesday. Many flew, some drove, but they all had until Friday to regain their energy. Wednesday night, the Knights witnessed the Chicago White Sox get pummeled in their own house by the horrendous Tigers for 8 ½ innings. Only a few Knights stuck around for a terrific, albeit insufficient, rally by the Sox to turn a 5-0 deficit to 5-4 with runners on the corners. The third out was on a deep fly ball to the warning track. Although the White Sox came up short, something about witnessing this game lodged in the Knights’ minds, something they themselves did not wish to duplicate.
Wednesday late-nite activities followed a large range. Some opted for a peaceful evening back at the hotel, while others wanted to maximize the Chicago experience. Many bars were patronized, much beer was consumed, and some fisticuffs ensued. Not a scratch on any Knights, though.
Thursday was a full day to chill out on the town. Some tried the Taste of Chicago festival (this reporter’s opinion: Chicago don’t taste so good.) Others barbequed with old friends along Lake Michigan. Others – well, refer to the last paragraph for the general idea.
Which brings us to the first day of competition.
On Friday morning, the team met in the lobby of the hotel. Turns out our first opponent, an Arkansas team, was also staying under our roof. The manager of the other team got one look at the muscle-bound Knights and was speechless. No problem – the Knights would fill the silence later in the morning.
The offensive onslaught began immediately, with the Knights striking several times before starting pitcher Dave Mischo even took the mound. Mischo pitched a very effective three innings, striking out six before coming out to preserve his arm for Sunday.
Pat Conway set the tone for the weekend, driving in seven runs including a grand slam to push the score to 16-0. Conway was joined by Temco refugees Eric and Ryan Cox with 3-for-5s, Ryan driving in 3 runs and Eric scoring 4. With the outcome out of doubt, the scrubs got some at-bats. Manager Paxton Provitera managed to score 4 runs without getting a hit (3 walks and reached on a fielder’s choice.)
Late in the game, with the Knights on their third pitcher, they realized that they had not allowed a hit all game despite having 22 of their own. Sure enough, John Bosch finished a hitless seventh to wrap up the first-ever Knights combined no-hitter (Mischo-Jay Harmon-Bosch).
But the Knights, who won 24-1, were only getting warmed up.
Game 2 began just an hour and a half after the first ended (and just 30 minutes after the McDonald lunch reached the duodenum.) Rob Maier took the mound for the Knights against an unprepared Louisville Sluggers team that was so shorthanded they had a lefty with a first baseman’s glove patrolling the shortstop position.
Once again, the Knights rocketed to an early lead that grew and grew, thanks to 8 home runs amongst 29 hits in a 32-10 game. 32!
Bosch, who only recently emerged from a season-long funk, followed up a 2-for-5 first game with a 4-for-6 including 3 home runs and 6 RBIs. He also hit two long foul balls and flied out to deep left in his fourth at-bat.
Tommy Reilly, who played an errorless center this weekend, went 3-for-3 with two homers, 7 RBIs, 2 walks and 4 runs scored. Matt Eggert hit two homers and drove in 5, and Mischo contributed with a long home run of his own.
Maier went the distance, striking out 7 before the 3-hour game time allotment ran out after the eighth inning.
To recap this incredible Friday: the Knights scored 57 runs on 51 hits and 15 walks, and threw a combined no-hitter. Spirits were riding high.
And more spirits were consumed that night at dinner courtesy of Harry Caray’s in the city. Despite several team members losing themselves in Indiana on the way there, they eventually caught up, and the beer flowed.
Saturday morning brought Game 3 against the other Arkansas team in the bracket. It was calculated prior to the game that the Knights were guaranteed to come out their bracket as long as one condition was satisfied: if they were to lose, it would have to be by no more than 41 runs. Wanting to save their pitchers, the Knights opted to pitch by committee, with Harmon getting his first start in over a year. It was 6-0 before he even started warming up.
Once again, the opponent was overmatched by the Knights’ potent offense. Another 26 runs were plated on 25 hits, two of which were Bosch’s 4th and 5th home runs of the tournament. Bosch drove in 5 runs and pitched an effective 4th inning. Reilly went 4-for-5, scoring 5 times to tie the Knights runs record. Another three hits apiece for Eric Cox, Conway, and Bobby Gruttadauria. And to the amusement of his teammates, Harmon himself beat out two hits for his first multi-hit Knights game. Sure, the Knights won this one, 26-3, but they also won over another opponent with their hitting ability. All three game featured ‘nice-guy’ opponents who appreciated and respected the Knights, and the Knights were happy to return the favor.
Despite having scored 82 runs, Provitera woke up the next morning fearing a letdown. All these runs meant nothing, now faced with having to play and win three games to go home with another championship. Sure, the Knights had plenty of available pitchers (lucky they were, having only brought 6 pitchers to pitch the maximum of 6 games.) They were largely healthy, right? What was there to fear? Well, consider:
1. Pitcher Dan O’Shea, slated to pitch the first game of the day, walked into his hotel room at 6:27 AM, having not slept (“I lost track of time” or something to that effect.)
2. Second baseman Ryan Cox, for reasons unknown to anyone, couldn’t not lift his arms above his shoulders.
3. Slugger Gruttadauria’s hands and wrists were hurting, and were sure to get worse.
4. The opponent (Hi-Tops), while the 8th seed, was considered one of the better teams to compete in the tournament.
And sure enough, the Knights came out sluggish and found themselves down 6-2 in the latter stages of the game. O’Shea pitched effectively, but Knights errors and timely Hi-Tops hitting produced runs. But the Knights managed to score two in the sixth and loaded the bases with one out. But a line drive was snared by the shortstop on the next at-bat, and he tossed over the second to double up a runner, and the rally was killed. Would the Knights have another rally left in the tank to defeat their haughty opponent?
Ask Dave Mischo. His answer: a two-run homer in the seventh to tie the game. New game, jubilation on the bench, and the Knights were finally awake.
Mischo himself came out to pitch the eighth and struck out the side. And then, in the bottom of the eighth, Bosch comes up with a runner and second and launches a 400-foot shot over the 360-foot left-center fence to make the game 8-6. Mischo recorded three outs to preserve the victory, and the Knights were moving on to the semifinals.
Other offensive stars included Eric Cox and Gruttadauria, each with 3 hits. Conway had two hits to bring his tournament average up to an amazing .688.
The next opponent was the 4th seed, the River Bandits. And this one got out of control a la the qualifying round games as the Knights hit another five home runs (two more from Eggert and Bosch’s seventh of the tourney.) Mischo picked up where he left off at the end of the last game by pitching the first six innings, striking out a Knights record 13 batters. Bosch and Gruttadauria each had 4 hits, and Eggert and Ryan Cox knocked in 4 men per. Harmon finished the game on the mound as the Knights clinched a trip to the final with a 20-6 victory. With the win, the Knights won $500 plus a bag load of equipment.
And the Knights, as previously explained, went on to win that final in dramatic fashion. It was a closely contested affair throughout, with the Knights leading 5-2, 6-5, and 7-6 before Cubs comebacks. Eric Cox and Conway each had three hits, while Pat, Bobby, and Dave each drove in two, but none were bigger than Dave’s second to win the game and the tournament in the bottom of the ninth, something most of us can only dream about.
With the victory, the Knights won their second trophy, plus $1,500 that will go towards their next tournament (possibly one in Orlando.)
• With 127 hits in six games, the Knights had an amazing team batting average of .477. They slugged .880, which means they averaged almost a single in each official at-bat.
• John Bosch, named the tournament MVP, finished with 7 of the 19 Knights home runs and had a 1.357 slugging percentage. Bosch graciously donated his prize to the team, saying that “this was a team effort.”
• Team leader in hits? Eric Cox, with 17. He also led with 18 runs.
• Pat Conway batted .640 for the weekend (16-for-25). His 14 RBI were second only to Bosch (17). His doubled a team-high 8 times and stole 4 bases.
• Tommy Reilly had the only Knights triple. His five walks led the team.
• Bobby Gruttadauria batted .538 and drove in 10 from the cleanup spot, despite sore hands and a terrible left wrist that may require medical attention.
• Of the ten regular Knights batters, eight batted at least a .435, and all batted at least .296.
• Rob Maier had a hit in his only at-bat, driving in his second Knights run.
• Rich Cave had three doubles amongst his 8 hits, and caught three games. He gunned down a potential base stealer during a pivotal point in the tourney.
• Jay Harmon, who had forsaken baseball for stickball and volunteered to play while drunk one week before, and who was 3-for-19 in his Knights career, hustled out a 4-for-5 for the weekend and pitched two innings in each of three games, picking up a win in Game 1.
• And Paxton Provitera, who organized the personnel for the entire weekend, found time to pick up his first Knights pitching victory in Game 3 with three effective innings. And at the plate, he continued his uncanny walking trend by picking up three, allowing him to score a total of five times for the weekend.
Linescore: (Chicago Tournament Game 1)
WP - Jay Harmon (1-0)|
LP - Brian Schuck
SB: Tommy Reilly 2 (2); Bobby Gruttadauria (1); Ryan Cox (1);
2B: Pat Conway (1); Matt Eggert (1);
HR: Pat Conway (1);
RBI: Pat Conway 7 (7); John Bosch (1); Ryan Cox 3 (3); Matt Eggert 2 (2); Dave Mischo 2 (2); Jay Harmon (1); Rob Maier (1);
Linescore: (Chicago Tournament Game 2)
WP - Rob Maier (1-0)|
LP - Mike Simon
SB: Eric Cox (1); Pat Conway 4 (4); Ryan Cox (2); Matt Eggert (1);
2B: Eric Cox (1); Pat Conway (2); John Bosch (1); Matt Eggert (2); Rich Cave 3 (3); Dan O'Shea (1); Dave Mischo (1);
HR: Tommy Reilly 2 (2); John Bosch 3 (3); Matt Eggert 2 (2); Dave Mischo (1);
RBI: Pat Conway (8); Tommy Reilly 7 (7); Bobby Gruttadauria (1); John Bosch 6 (7); Ryan Cox (4); Matt Eggert 5 (7); Rich Cave 2 (2); Dan O'Shea (1); Dave Mischo 4 (6);
Linescore: (Chicago Tournament Game 3)
WP - Paxton Provitera (1-0)|
LP - Jason Laatz
2B: Eric Cox (2); Pat Conway 2 (4); Tommy Reilly 2 (2); Bobby Gruttadauria (1); John Bosch (2); Jay Harmon (1);
HR: John Bosch 2 (5);
RBI: Pat Conway 2 (10); Tommy Reilly 3 (10); Bobby Gruttadauria 2 (3); John Bosch 6 (13); Ryan Cox 3 (7); Matt Eggert (8); Rich Cave (3); Dan O'Shea (2); Paxton Provitera (1);
Linescore: (Chicago Tournament Quarterfinal Game)
WP - Dave Mischo (1-0)|
LP - Sal Childers
SB: Dan O'Shea (1);
2B: Bobby Gruttadauria 2 (3);
HR: John Bosch (6); Ryan Cox (1); Dave Mischo (2);
RBI: Tommy Reilly (11); Bobby Gruttadauria 2 (5); John Bosch 2 (15); Ryan Cox (8); Dave Mischo 2 (8);
Linescore: (Chicago Tournament Semifinal Game)
|Chicago River Bandits||0||0||1||0||1||0||2||2||0||6||11||1|
WP - Dave Mischo (2-0)|
LP - Fanelli
SB: Eric Cox 2 (3);
2B: Pat Conway 2 (6); Bobby Gruttadauria (4); John Bosch (3); Ryan Cox (1);
3B: Tommy Reilly (1);
HR: Bobby Gruttadauria (1); John Bosch (7); Ryan Cox (2); Matt Eggert 2 (4);
RBI: Pat Conway 2 (12); Tommy Reilly (12); Bobby Gruttadauria 3 (8); John Bosch 2 (17); Ryan Cox 4 (12); Matt Eggert 4 (12);
Linescore: (Chicago Tournament Championship Game)
WP - Tommy Reilly (1-0)|
SB: Ryan Cox (3);
2B: Pat Conway 2 (8);
RBI: Eric Cox (1); Pat Conway 2 (14); Tommy Reilly (13); Bobby Gruttadauria 2 (10); Dave Mischo 2 (10);