Firebirds soar (Game report)

By Louie St. George III
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Sammy Solis flew into Farmington Friday just in time to watch his Phoenix Firebirds teammates put on a dizzying offensive display in the first game of the Connie Mack World Series championship round.

Good timing.

Bolstered by the confidence gained from watching his team score 23 runs in the opener, Solis was lights out in Game 2 for the Firebirds, who scored runs at a frenzied pace Friday en route to a sweep of the Trombly (Calif.) Braves and a national championship.

Phoenix beat the Braves 23-4 in Game 1 and followed with a 10-0 win in the Series clincher.

Solis pitched 4 2-3 innings on opening night in a 12-4 Phoenix win over the Farmington Rattlers before traveling to California where the left-hander competed in the Area Code Games. Solis, who came down with the flu early in the week, threw just eight pitches in an inning of work on Thursday.

He flew back into Farmington Friday evening shortly before 5 p.m.

“Everything was working ... everything was moving tonight,” said Solis, who limited Trombly to four singles, while striking out seven in a complete-game effort. “My curveball was moving and I just tried to throw strikes and get it over the plate.”

“Sammy was feeling pretty sick early in the week, but he threw the ball well,” said the Firebirds’ Seth Furmanek.
“He was rolling.”

Furmanek was in a bit of a groove himself. The left fielder won the tournament’s Comcast Big Stick award after tallying 10 RBIs, five on Friday alone. He hit a pair of solo home runs in the first game and added a two-run shot in the second to go along with two doubles.

His second-inning homer in Game 1 ignited a six-run rally as the Firebirds jumped in front 7-1 and padded the lead throughout the game by scoring at least three times in each subsequent inning. Phoenix finished with 22 hits — including four doubles and five home runs — and just missed the record for hits in a World Series game, set at 24 in 1996 by the Dallas Mustangs.

“You know, we just turned on the engine,” Furmanek said. “I don’t know what it was, if we were just seeing the ball better or what, but we definitely turned it on.”

Trombly shuffled through five pitchers in Game 1 while trying to slow the Firebirds, who batted around twice. The Braves notched nine hits of their own in the contest and got back-to-back homers from Michael Morrison and Dale Solomon in the top of the fourth, but couldn’t keep up with the opponent.

“It looked like a similar situation (to last year), but we just got beat,” said Braves coach Steve Trombly. “Those guys got hot at the right time and I just think they weren’t going to be stopped offensively.”

Indeed, last year was an accurate comparison for the Braves coach, whose team lost twice in the Finals in 2005 to the East Cobb (Ga.) Yankees. Over the past two years, the Braves compiled a 57-10-2 record and went 8-4 in two trips to Farmington.

“It’s disappointing when you get to this point,” Trombly said. “But falling short is not going to take away from what this group has done.

“I’m extremely proud of what they’ve accomplished.”

Likewise for Phoenix coach Doyle Wilson, who shrugged off the notion that his team “snuck in” to the Series after finishing second in the West Region. The Firebirds lost to the SoCal Renegades in the West title game, but earned a spot in the Series after SoCal was barred for using an ineligible player.

“First off, we didn’t feel like we snuck in,” Wilson said. “Our kids were so loose through the whole tournament, but they were also confident and they did a great job (Friday night).”

Tournament Most Valuable Player Jason Jarvis was 6-for-8 in the two games with a home run, two doubles, five runs scored and three RBIs. He finished the week with a .583 batting average and led the tournament with 11 RBIs. He tied for first with three homers.

Phoenix scored a tournament record 76 runs — one more than Cincinnati in 1992 — and outscored its opponents 76-19 in six games. They bounced back from Wednesday’s 4-3 loss to Trombly by beating the Florida Bombers on Thursday 12-3.

Overlooked against the Braves in the Finals was a stellar Firebirds defense. Phoenix turned three double plays in support of Solis, and third baseman Raoul Torrez, who won the Comcast Gold Glove award, made two outstanding plays in the second game, including a stop in the third inning when he snared a liner down the third base line and jumped to fire a bullet across the diamond for the first out of the inning.

“Our team has been that way all year,” Solis said. “This defense is amazing.”

Phoenix scored 10 runs in the second game on the strength of 10 basehits to blow open what started as a pitcher’s duel. They didn’t get on the board until the fourth with a three-run frame and scored three more in the fifth before putting the game out of reach with a four-run outburst in the bottom of the sixth.

“It took us a few innings to get going, but you saw how our kids were able to make adjustments,” Wilson said. “Making adjustments is a big part of baseball and we did a great job of that.”

Furmanek admitted that the Firebirds felt like underdogs coming into the tournament.

“We definitely did because everybody was rooting for Trombly and the Midland (Ohio) Redskins,” he said. “But when someone says we can’t do something, we try to prove them wrong.”

Mission accomplished.