BURLINGTON – Mike Evans pitched a complete game 4-3 victory for the Burlington Beers against the defending champion Burlington Padres in the first game of the Golden Horseshoe Baseball League championship series on Tuesday night.
The Padres tied the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth, but the Beers rallied in the top of the sixth to take a 1-0 lead in the series.
In a game that didn’t go according to plan for either team – only two runs came in on base hits – the Beers’ ability to come back quickly after a critical error by shortstop Cam McKnight in the fifth may have made the difference.
“You can’t really dwell on things. If you do, you’re just going to pitch poorly,” said Evans after the game. “You’ll leave it up, or something bad’s going to happen.
“Even if there’s an error and it frustrates you, you just have to pick up everybody else.”
With the score 3-2 for the Beers, Padres leadoff hitter Scott Wells – who batted .450 in the regular season – walked in the bottom of the inning and promptly stole both second and third base.
After a Will Johnstone strikeout, Adam Vella grounded it up the middle. Beers Shortstop McKnight dove for the ball, but it got through him and into the outfield, allowing the tying run to score.
It would have been an easy time to lose hope, considering how difficult it had been to get runs off of Padres starter John Mariotti, who only surrendered two earned runs in a complete game loss, but the Beers kept their composure.
“McKnight knew he misplayed the ball. I talked to him … and it just took a funny hop,” Beers Coach Jason Hogan said after the game. “After the inning, everybody came in and you wouldn’t have even known that he just got an error and they scored a run.
“We were focused.”
After two runs in the first two innings, Evans shut the Padres out for two frames after a pair of hard slides into second base to break up double plays sparked a brief confrontation in the top of the third.
While Evans kept it close, the Beers took advantage of two critical errors by Hyung Cho at third base in the top of the fifth to take the lead.
With Lord on second base and one out, Beers starter Evans hit a grounder to the third baseman. Cho threw low to first, and the ball skipped past first baseman John Ogiltree and out of play, scoring Lord and moving Evans to second.
Following a Damien Mills groundout, McKnight hit a grounder to Cho, who charged it but bobbled it on the pickup, allowing the tying run to cross the plate.
Although the defending champions came back on McKnight’s fateful error in the bottom of the frame, the Beers took the final lead of the game on a similar play.
A pair of singles with two outs by Nate Tennant and Jason Hogan was followed by Andrew Stevens who knocked a ground ball through the third base hole, barely making it past the outstretched glove of diving Padres shortstop Vella.
After that, Evans slammed the door shut. He retired the side in the sixth on six pitches, and then set the defending champions down in order again in the seventh to seal the game one victory.
The Padres will look to even the series in game two at Millcroft Park in Burlington on Thursday night. First pitch at 8 p.m.