Heat extinguished at NBC
By Joanna Chadwick
By Joanna Chadwick
WICHITA -- The San Diego Waves' postgame celebration Monday night was spontaneous and might have been a bit more fervent than expected after the 7-6 elimination victory over the Wellington Heat in the National Baseball Congress World Series.
Sure, there were runners on third and first when Waves pitcher Emilio Esquibel got the game's final out at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
But the emotion had more to do with the connections featured between current and former Friends University players from both teams -- and Wellington assistant Adam Neisius, who is Friends' baseball coach.
"We've got a lot of guys from Friends on the team, so it was a little bit of a personal thing," said Waves pitcher Emilio Esquibel, who threw the final 21âÑ3 innings, allowing one hit and no runs. "They really wanted us to compete with this team and show their coach, I guess. It was huge for them and huge for all of us. Considering it was an elimination game, it was big for all of us."
The Waves have three Friends players -- Bobby Orozco, Garrett Heath and Steven Fisher, who Neisius signed this summer -- while Wellington has seven.
"I used to play here freshman year, so everybody's friends with each other. So it's a big win," said Waves catcher Becker Sankey, who was 2 for 5 with a run scored and two RBIs.
"They hit in our (Friends) facility before the game today," he said of the Waves. "To me, it's not weird."
Wellington had a 4-2 lead after the third, getting RBIs from Nick Billinger, Tony Piazza, Luke Doyle and Kirk Rocha.
But a five-run fifth was Wellington's undoing. The Waves got RBIs from Sankey, Andrew McWilliam, Jordan Varga, Nolan Barraza and Michael Finocchairo.
The Waves had a three-run fifth inning in Sunday's win over the San Antonio Titans that gave them a 6-5 lead.
San Diego entered the game hitting .310.
The Waves had 12 hits, with Barraza going 3 for 4, while four others had at least two hits.
"We've been consistent with our hitting," San Diego manager Arona Taele said. "If we are able to bring it all together, we could do some damage."
Wellington had 11 hits, but the Heat left five runners in scoring position, including four on third base.
"Our Achilles' heel all summer has been our hitting," Heat manager Rick Twyman said. "Struggled all year with runners in scoring position, and it just continued into the tournament."
Esquibel's plan on the mound didn't help Wellington.
"I was told to keep the ball down, lot of off-speed," he said. "They kind of hit fastballs all day. Just come in and keep it down, keep the hits to a minimum."
Wellington had gotten within 7-6 after a run in the bottom of the seventh on a single by Billinger. Esquibel, in his first appearance in the 2014 NBC World Series, entered the game at that point and induced a groundout to end the inning.
He gave up a hit to Doyle to open the eighth, but shut down the next three hitters.
"He really pounds knees down," Sankey said. "He works knees down so he tries not to throw anything above the belt. So a team like that who's really aggressive towards the fastball really helps him in that situation."
And even while Esquibel got into trouble by hitting Paul Richmond to start the bottom of the ninth, and then walking Billinger with two outs and Richmond on third, the Waves never wavered in their confidence in him.
Esquibel got the final out on Piazza's fielder's choice grounder to short.
"I was just trying to keep it in the infield," Esquibel said. "Anything to the outfield, the game is tied. So basically it's all off-speed."