Friday, December 15th, 2006 @ 7:30pm / Arcadia High School
Lancaster Reds @ Belted USA


Belted USA - 2006 Toys for Tots Champions (Singel A Division)


Belted USA's Wasserman Baffles Red's Offense
By Scot Sweet / PCBL Staff Writer

One year and one week ago, I sat in the very same seat behind home plate for the 2005 Toys for Tots Championship. I remember it well because it was so frigidly cold that I was counting the seconds before the last pitch finally crossed the plate to end the game. It was in the mid-40's and it was completely unbearable.
This year, we were fortunate enough to have much warmer conditions, comparatively anyway. It was a beautiful Friday evening in the San Gabriel Valley with temperatures around 60 degrees for this year's Single A Toys for Tots Championship between the visiting Lancaster Reds and the home team Belted USA.
The first inning and a half of this contest would go scoreless, bringing Belted USA up in the bottom of the 2nd inning with cleanup hitter Mike Valdez leading things off. He strikes out, but the third strike gets away from the catcher as Valdez reaches first base on the error. The next batter is Dave Lopez who holds up on the 1-1 pitch as Mike Valdez steals second. He then lines the next pitch between first and second for a base hit, scoring Valdez for the first run of the ballgame. Belted USA would settle for the single run and would lead the Reds 1-0 through two complete innings of play.
The game would remain 1-0 through the top of the 4th inning, as Belted USA would come up in the bottom of the 4th to attempt to add to their slim 1-run lead. The first batter would ground out, bringing up Mike Valdez who reached by error in the 2nd inning and was the first and only run across so far in this championship. Valdez responds by hitting a 1-2 pitch over the wall in left centerfield for a solo homer. Belted USA settles for one run in the inning, courtesy of Mike Valdez; and extend their lead to 2-0 through four complete innings of play.
The Reds would come up in the top of the 5th inning down 2-0, primarily because they had yet to figure out Belted's starting pitcher Jay Wasserman who had been masterful so far; pitching a 1-hit shut out and striking out five through the first four innings. He would continue his dominance in the 5th inning as he would shut down the Reds offense once again.
Belted USA sends up Josh Grady to start off the bottom of the 5th inning. He drives a 1-2 pitch deep over the center fielder's head and to the wall for a leadoff double. The next batter is Robert Cortini who is hit by a pitch; bringing up Brandon Loomis with runners on first and second with nobody out. Loomis sacrifices the runners up 90 feet; sending up the top of the order, Raul Barron, with one out and runners at second and third. Barron hits a sacrifice fly to deep center field to move the runners up, scoring Josh Grady from third. Belted USA ends up with one run in the inning and now lead the Reds by a score of 3-0 through five complete innings.
The 6th and 7th innings would go scoreless for both teams, as both starting pitchers (Belted's Jay Wasserman and the Red's Mike Ferrara) continue to put on a championship-caliber pitcher's duel. Mike Ferrara's pitching performance of three runs on five hits through seven innings of play would normally be the headline in any game. Unfortunately, the only performance thus far that would be more noteworthy would be that of the other starting pitcher, Jay Wasserman. Through seven innings of play, Wasserman was still holding on to a 1-hit shutout and had tallied seven strikeouts.
This was a great pitching matchup, to say the least. Interesting to note that when you have stellar pitching in a game like this, games seem to fly. Such was the case in this contest; as the first seven innings of play would be completed in a blazing one hour and twenty six minutes!
The Reds would come up in the top of the 8th inning down 3-0; and would desperately need to start generating some offense. Rod Gracia would lead things off for the Reds. He lines a shot past a diving shortstop into left center field for a much-needed base hit; only the second hit off Jay Wasserman in the contest. The next batter for the Reds is Zack Valdespino. He responds big by hitting the first pitch deep to left field for a 2-run homer! And it couldn't have come at a better time as Valdespino and the Reds immediately turn this into a 1-run game, now down 3-2.
Jay Wasserman is pulled immediately following the homerun, but his final numbers are staggering! Seven complete innings; allowing two runs on three hits, zero walks, while striking out seven. A truly magnificent performance! He is relieved by Raul Barron with nobody out and bases empty in the top of the 8th inning. The next three batters for the Reds would go down in order; so Barron would do his job in relief and the Reds would settle for two runs; trailing 3-2 through 7 1/2 innings of play.
Belted USA would come up in the bottom of the 8th inning with the understanding that this game could easily slip away from them now, following the 2-run blast which quickly cut into their lead. The Reds pull their starting pitcher Mike Ferrera; who ends up going seven complete innings, allowing three runs on five hits, with only two walks. A solid pitching performance by Mike Ferrera. Kyle Gregory comes on in relief as Belted USA sends up their virtual lock for game MVP - Jay Wasserman, to start the bottom of the 8th inning. Wasserman helps his own cause with a base hit to right field to start things off. Brandon Loomis is the next batter; and he sacrifices Wasserman over to 2nd base for the first out. The next batter is leadoff hitter and relief pitcher Raul Barron. Also getting a chance to help his own cause, Barron responds big with a line drive over the head of the center fielder and to the wall for an RBI triple. Belted Manager Stan Spancer follows with an RBI single of his own; extending their lead to a 5-2 advantage. Spancer would then steal second and reach third base on a sacrifice by Anthony Chevrier. The next batter would be Mike Valdez with two outs and Stan Spancer on third. The 0-2 pitch to Valdez gets past the catcher as Spancer scores from third. Mike Valdez would end up taking the count full and then singling for his second hit of the game (his first was the solo homer in the 4th), but he would end up left on base, as Belted USA would end up with three runs on four hits in the inning and now lead the Lancaster Reds by a score of 6-2 going into the top of the ninth and final inning.
Raul Barron would cap his relief performance by logging a pair of strikeouts in the top of the 9th inning; putting the Reds down in order to register the save and seal the victory for Belted USA; who win this tight and competative championship in grand fashion by getting the late insurance runs they needed to seal the victory and claim the title as 2006 Toys for Tots Champions! I spoke with manager Stan Spancer following their victory and his excitement over this win was obvious. "We came up short last year, this year we came out and scored some runs ... Jay came out and pitched the perfect game. Then we had Raul come in and pitch great relief. Our shortstop made some great defensive plays in the hole. Brandon Loomis .... scrappy as ever, sacrificing and moving guys over for us ..... we just try to play small ball ... move guys over.... we're scrappy, you know?"
Congratulations to both the Lancaster Reds and Belted USA for such a well-played, competative championship game! It was a pleasure to watch and an even better one to write about!
Game MVP: Undoubtedly, this year's championship game MVP goes to Jay Wasserman for such a solid pitching performance. I spoke with Jay after the game; and when asked how he felt about his solid performance, his reply was: " I'm just happy to win a championship. My team had a great defensive effort to keep me in the game and we shut it down in the end. I felt so good tonight that I could have gone a second game."
Final numbers for Wasserman:
7 Complete Innings: 2 runs on 3 hits, no walks and 7 strikeouts

Game Time: 7:35pm - 9:28pm (1 hour, 53 minutes)
(Plate) Mike Van Vleet
               (Bases) Walter Brown