USPBL 9/11 Update: Unicorns win first-ever USPBL Championship
By Adam Rickert
Utica Unicorns 5 AT Birmingham-Bloomfield Beavers 0
UTICA — The usual suspects came through once again for the Utica Unicorns as their stars led them to a USPBL Championship victory on Sunday afternoon.
Austin Crutcher and Chris Cruz hit solo home runs in the fourth and fifth, respectively, and Donny Murray tossed five and two-thirds innings of shutout baseball to lead the Unicorns to a 5-0 win over the Birmingham-Bloomfield Beavers.
Cruz, whose solo homer in the fifth inning gave Utica a 2-0 lead, has been arguably the league’s hottest player in the past month.
Since August 7, Cruz has collected 19 hits, eight home runs in 26 RBIs in 17 games.
In that span, the Unicorns went 11-6, improving their regular season record from 12-21 to 21-27 before winning both playoff games, including the title match.
“It feels awesome,” said Cruz when asked about playing such a huge role in his team’s turnaround. “There’s an old adage that hitting is contagious, and that’s definitely been true for us this year.”
Once again, the Unicorns proved that hitting is indeed contagious. They gave themselves some more breathing room in the ninth inning thanks to a rally that began with a two-out double by Cruz.
With the bases loaded, catcher Kyle Hamner brought in two more runs with a single to extend the lead to 4-0.
Designated hitter Mike Logsdon added another insurance run one batter later, lacing a double down the left field line that brought home Tyler McVicar.
Hamner and Logsdon were also major contributors in Saturday night’s playoff game between the Unicorns and Eastside Diamond Hoppers.
In the 4-3 victory over the Hoppers, Logsdon had a two-out, two-run single while Hamner blasted a two-run homer.
In addition to timely hitting, Donny Murray turned in a splendid performance on the mound for the Unicorns.
Murray, whose only other win came on July 10th when he no-hit the Beavers, went five and two-thirds innings on Sunday. He struck out seven Beavers, gave up just five hits and walked no one.
Seth Brenner, Andrew Potter and Mitch Aker pitched the game’s final three and one-third innings. Like Murray, none of the three relievers surrendered a walk.
The victory encapsulated how baseball is a game of streaks. The Unicorns finished with the worst record of the three USPBL teams over the course of the regular season, but were the hottest of the trio when it came down to crunch time.
Because of their ability to find their stroke at the right time, the Unicorns will be remembered as champions of the USPBL in the league’s inaugural 2016 season.
“That was obviously our goal the entire year,” said Cruz. “As a team, you want to come together when it matters.
“It’s hard to find words for it right now.”