Last weekend, longtime Quad-City 76ers manager Kevin Corrigan picked up his 1,000th victory, achieving that feat in his 31st season with his semi-pro baseball club.
At the time, though, Corrigan downplayed that accomplishment. While it was a highlight of the first weekend of postseason play, he wanted an even bigger highlight to wrap up the final weekend of the Iowa Amateur Baseball Association State Tournament.
Needing two wins to earn their first state championship since 2007, the 76ers first had to rally from a five-run deficit in Sunday's opener against the Williamsburg Red Sox, taking the lead for good with a five-run sixth as they held on for a wild 8-7 victory.
Taking on the Fairfax Stars for the second time in 24 hours in the title game at Douglas Park, Quad-City carried that momentum over with a three-run first inning. After that, however, missed opportunities, fatigue and a relentless Fairfax offense combined to take their toll as the Stars prevailed 11-4.
“We emptied our tank and fought to the end,” said Corrigan, whose squad finishes at 28-10-1. “It was a great year; we won the (Black Hawk Valley Conference) and made a deep postseason run. The guys wanted to be here, and they battled back. I'm proud of them, they didn't quit.
The 76ers got the early jump on Stars' starting pitcher Cody Bell when a two-out RBI single by Nick Drobushevich and Erik Hoffman's subsequent two-run knock staked them to an early 3-0 lead.
“We came in here with high hopes,” said Hoffman, who went 2-for-4. “We played hard.”
However, the Stars quickly answered with three runs of their own in the top of the second. In the home half of the inning, Quad-City loaded the bases, but could not produce any runs. The 76ers loaded the bases again in the bottom of the fourth, but again came up empty.
“We couldn't sustain that momentum, and that was key,” Corrigan said. “We left the bases loaded twice, and you can't do that in a tournament game – in any game, for that matter.”
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The Stars took the lead for good with five runs in the top of the fourth, the key blow being a three-run homer by catcher Chico Lizarraga (four RBIs). Lizarraga, whose two-run clout topped Red Top 2-1 earlier Sunday, was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
Fairfax tacked on three more runs in the late innings, while Bell settled in after his rough start to finish with 11 strikeouts in five innings. He was aided by a combined 8-for-11 effort from the bottom third of the Stars' lineup.
“We had our chances.We were one pitch or one play away. We just couldn't execute,” Hoffman said. “We wanted this to be special for (Corrigan), but this will add some more fuel to the fire for next year.”
Quad City 8, Williamsburg 7: In the opener, the Red Sox got to 76ers starting pitcher Vince O'Meara in the first inning, sending 10 batters to the plate to score five runs and ending O'Meara's day after just a third of an inning. A two-run single by Drake Fraizer was the key blow in the inning.
However, Ian Delleman came in and was able to hold the line, keeping Williamsburg from scoring again until the sixth inning, at which point he gave the ball to veteran Ike Roush to shut the door.
“I was getting a little nervous towards the fourth and fifth innings; I cracked a bit under the pressure and couldn't get it done,” said Delleman, who finishes 4-1. “Ike, he always comes in and throws strikes; he's got that bulldog mindset for sure.”
Trailing by two entering the bottom of the seventh after QC scored in its half of the inning on an RBI single by Shamus Murphy (2-for-3, two RBIs) to go up 8-6, the Red Sox got back to within a run and had the winning run on base before Roush slammed the door shut.
“It was a big situation to come into, but I've been in this for a lot of years,” Roush said. “I've played in a lot of big games. I just had to come in and throw strikes.”
With Delleman and then Roush shining in relief, the 76ers began their comeback with runs in the third and fifth innings, then exploded for five in the top of the sixth to go up 7-5. A two-run double by Brooks Sunny (2-for-4, four RBIs) broke a 5-5 tie.