The Scottsdale Scorpions rolled to their first ever Arizona fall league title Saturday 3-2 over the Peoria Javelinas with a complete baseball team anchored by a strong pitching staff.
Nats prospect Sammy Solis and five others held the Javelinas to one earned run over nine innings and the defense, despite some early errors, came up with some huge plays in the end to save the game.
Another Nats prospect, pitcher Cole Kimball, notched the save with a dominating ninth frame.
"Just playing in the championship game and feeling like you were apart of the win is just indescribable," says Kimball. "The whole season we were battling for the championship. It was just 30 games, but I feel like we really put our whole effort forth. We really came to play."
"When it really came down to brass tax everybody that came up to the plate or in the field they did what they had to do. We got the job done. We got the championship. We got the ring. That is all that matters."
Most of the Nats' top prospects ended up making the game changing plays to win the title. Solis, Steve Lombardozzi (game deciding RBI double), Bryce Harper (early go ahead RBI single), Derek Norris (called Solis' game and had base hit, run scored) and Michael Burgess (8th inning PH walk) guided the Scorpions to victory.
Kimball said all the Nats' played significant roles in the deciding the contest, and he was especially impressed by the play of Harper. "You can't say enough about him, coming straight out of instructional league, that was the only professional experience he has. Bryce had limited playing time. It is tough to go up to the plate and get a hit and he came up clutch. He took a first pitch fastball up in the zone the other way for an RBI single. It was very impressive."
Kimball admired the work of Solis and Norris as they held the Javelinas at bay early on.
"Sammy Solis was lights out through four innings," says Kimball. "A couple of bad bounces didn't go his way but he didn't let it get to him. He never let them get a big inning. You could see that from the box score. He battled his butt off."
"Norris called one earned run the whole time he was back there. What more can you ask from a catcher? He battled through a couple of at-bats himself (had a base hit and scored a run, 1-for-3). We depend a lot on our catchers. This season I threw to everyone of them. They are all great backstops. I would throw to anyone of the four guys. I saw him call four of the pitchers. He did a great job."
Then, the stage was set in the ninth inning. Kimball stepped to the mound with three outs separating the Scorpions from the championship. His catcher told him to concentrate.
"My catcher Caleb Joseph walked out there and said, 'look, we want to focus all that adrenalin, so first pitch curveball,' and I said 'alright!'" says Kimball.
The idea was if Kimball comes in and is all jacked up why not throw a first pitch breaking ball.
"During the season, I would be all jacked up and excited (when called on to get the save)," says Kimball.
"I would go out there and a lot of times I would throw a first pitch fast ball and it would be up."
Kimball liked the idea that Joseph offered to mix it up.
"I walked out there and he said first pitch breaking ball," says Kimball. "I threw it for a strike. Then, splitter, splitter, and the guy was done."
Kimball was able to get the next two guys on grounders to second base and the celebration was on.
He said the difference for this team was camaraderie. The team bonded from the first workout. That would seem surprising on a team built of all-stars and top line prospects.
"I like to think that the team out here was a lot closer and a lot more friendly than a lot of other teams that were here," says Kimball. "We hung out all the time on the weekends."
A great example came two nights before the big game.
"We were lucky to have a guy like (pitcher) Dan Runzler on our team," says Kimball. "He took the whole team out for dinner. There were 25 guys out to dinner. We sat there and had a great time, just the team. We went out that night and had a great time, just as a team.
"We meshed together. All the stuff we did off the field you could see it happening on the field. No matter what happened you knew guys were showing up to play. Guys always had the other guys backs."
"We were there to win and that is all it came down to."