October 31 - Supplied with five runs in the first inning and four dominant innings from Justin Johnson, the Metro Senators held on for a 6-2 victory over the MVP Royals National to seal the Premier Showcase League (PSL) championship last night at South County Middle School.
On a shivery, cold night, the relief pitching for both clubs had their way with the opposing offense. After Senators’ starting pitcher Brian Hennessey ran into trouble in the third, allowing two runs after three consecutive walks, Johnson came on and did not allow a hit in the final four innings of the game, walking two and striking out three.
“Johnson was throwing strikes and his last few appearances his velocity has been up,” Senators’ coach Mike Cassidy said. “He was spectacular tonight.”
Johnson utilized a deep repertoire of pitches, including a cutter, curveball and changeup. Facing a heavy, left-handed lineup, it was Johnson’s changeup that shut down the Royals.
“Every pitch was working, cutter on the outside corner and the curveball and changeup were pitches I was throwing to get strikes,” Johnson said. “They had a lot of lefties in their lineup and I just threw it soft and away and they couldn’t hit it.”
“He really neutralized their lineup full of lefties with that changeup. That was huge for him tonight,” Cassidy said.
Royals’ left-hander Chris Dudley, who entered the game in the second inning, was also sharp in his relief outing. Dudley allowed just one run on three hits while striking out seven in 4.2 innings, as he was pulled with two outs in the sixth for lefty Matt Howat, who struck out the only batter he faced to end the inning.
“Dudley has had a season to remember,” Royals’ coach Bill Wilkinson said. “I have coached Chris since he was eight years old and to watch him do this, it’s awesome. He gave us a shot if we got a couple more runs.”
Momentum quickly shifted for the Royals in the first inning after a run was taken off the board following an appeal of the runner, who evidently missed third base after Ethan Lipp hit a triple to right field.
The Senators then jumped on Royals’ starting pitcher Josh Gjormand for five runs in the bottom of the inning after John Moses and Cameron Price each drove in a run on triples deep to right-center field. Max Henry also drove in a run in the inning as Moses and Henry each had two hits and combined for two runs and two RBI to pace the Senators.
“When that run is taken off the board, our enthusiasm got pulled out from under us,” Wilkinson said. “It was just a rocky start and not hitting hurt us.”
The Royals would chip away at the Senators lead with two runs in the third after Dudley and Lipp recorded RBI after drawing walks with the bases loaded. That would be the last opportunity to get back in the game for the Royals as Johnson would not allow a man to reach second base the rest of the game.
“I tip my cap to them,” Wilkinson said. “Their pitchers kept our guys off-balanced. We have some really good hitters and we never got comfortable in the box.”
The Senators added an insurance run off Dudley in the fifth on a double steal with runners at first and third base, a play they ran once before to get a run in the first inning. Aggressive base running has been the staple for this team all fall and last night was no different.
“Whenever we can, we run. That’s how we dictate tempo,” Cassidy said. “I think of base running like special teams in football. It’s the forgotten thing but it's just as important as offense and defense.”
The Royals fall season is now complete, wrapping up the season winning four of their last five games. The Senators will now head into their final weekend of the fall season as PSL champions and on a three-game win streak.
Photo by Josh Belanger