For the second time in three seasons, a visiting team was celebrating a championship at Waterfront Park. And no disrespect to the 2010 Thunder, but this group deserved better. Whether they overachieved as the media has portrayed them to have done or whether they were underestimated as their manager believes they were is no matter. This was truly a fantastic group of players who deserved to win a ring and went above and beyond what everyone assumed they could to go towards earning one.
But, with that said, they lost to the better team. Akron outplayed them all series — sure, not without the help of a few calls going their way — and they too got what they deserved.
The final call that went Akron’s way came early in this one. Adonis Garcia hit a leadoff triple off of Aeros starter Toru Murata in the bottom of the first inning, and headed home when David Adams hit the ball on the ground towards first baseman Jesus Aguilar. Aguilar threw home and Garcia appeared to nick the plate with his left hand, all while eluding the tag of catcher Roberto Perez, who clearly never tagged Garcia. But home plate umpire Shaun Lampe never made a call, suggesting that Garcia never touched the plate either — which pictures from two separate photographers proved he did — which led to Perez following Garcia to the Thunder dugout to tag him out.
This, of course, led to a heated argument between Lampe and Tony Franklin, but there was no ejection or helmet spiking this time around.
There were two Akron runs in the next inning, though. After Nik Turley issued a one out walk to Matt Lawson, Adam Abraham tripled him home and then scored himself after a Ryan Rohlinger sac fly. J.R. Murphy homered in the bottom of the second to cut the lead in half, but played a big role in Akron getting that two-run cushion back in the fifth.
Perez doubled to right with Rohlinger on second, and Zoilo Almonte’s throw home beat Rohlinger by several feet. But Murphy couldn’t hang on to the ball after reaching back to try to tag Perez, and Akron got up, 3-1.
Things fell completely apart in the top of the ninth, when Akron sent nine men to the plate against the duo of Ryan Pope and Lee Hyde. After inducing a groundout from Abraham, Pope allowed the next four batters to reach on alternating walks and singles. Jordan Henry drove in three with a single that left fielder Ramon Flores had trouble with, and Hyde had issues of his own when he airmailed Murphy on an intentional walk of Chun Chen, which ultimately didn’t hurt Trenton.
The game would have been far more interesting in the bottom of the ninth had it been 3-1 and not 6-1. After Preston Guilmet got the first two outs with ease, Trenton loaded the bases via an Addison Maruszak single and walks to Murphy and Kevin Mahoney. But Rob Segedin’s grondout ended the game and sealed the series for the Aeros.
“It’s tough to do. I think the call in the first inning just kind of set the tone for things to come. If it had gone the other way, I’m not sure what would have happened. It just kind of set the tone for the game, we just couldn’t get on track.”
“I’m extremely proud of this group, more than I could express. I think this group of guys were kind of underestimated as far as how far they were going to go. I certainly didn’t know in the beginning, but after the first month of the season when you start to recognize your personalities, it was very evident to me that we had a bunch of guys who were very motivated to do some good things. The additional people we got came with the same attitude and it makes for a pretty good team setting. That’s what made this team what they were.”
“I would say that because of the personalities out there (holding it together in the losing streak) was pretty big for us. We could have gone south, there’s no question about that. But I never gave up on them, I thought every game there was some positive things that came out even though we were losing night after night…I would think that’s as big as it gets. Holding it together was huge for us.”
“(Aeros celebrating audible in Thunder clubhouse) That’s what championship teams do when they win the final game of the series, and it’s not unusual. As I told them, losses hurt. This loss in this venue, in this game, they hurt a little deeper, no question about it. Simply because you put so much effort into the game and to your daily routine and the expectations are high, then you come out on the losing end. That’s tough to take, even for me. After all these years, it’s tough for me to take, and I’m going to think about this in the next few days and I’m not going to feel good about it. But I’m going to come back just like they’re going to come back and we’ll have to see if we’re better next year.”
“There’s nothing more you can say. We played aggressive, but they beat us. They outhit us, outpitched us. We didn’t get hits at the right time. They just flat out beat us today, just like we grinded it out yesterday. Unfortunately, they we had to win all the rest and they only had to win one. They just flat out beat us.”
“You can’t count this team out, especially since we led the league in home runs. We hit a home run there, and we’re one down. Walter comes up, and he’s put together great at-bats but unfortunately hasn’t got any hits, he was due for a hit. You never know what might happen, so you can never give up, especially with a team like ours where a home run is a pitch away all the time. Unfortunately the ball didn’t fall.”
“It always feels like (calls go against you) when you lose, and that’s the truth. No matter what, whenever you lose, you always tend to think about what other people did instead of what you did. That’s the biggest thing with our team, is we take accountability of what we’ve done and what we’ve done wrong to lose games. That’s throughout the whole year, not just today. It is what it is. I thought he did pretty good behind the plate, I don’t know about the call at home. We don’t have replay and stuff, but he thought he was safe.”
“(On at what point he’s able to reflect on his own season) Probably on the drive home. That’s when you go back, think about what you’ve done and what you need to work on. I’m going to be at the complex probably day three to go over statistical stuff, just like I did last year, with James Rowson, who’s not our hitting coordinator anymore, to see what I can work on in the offseason. That’s the first time I’ve went over in-depth statistics, and it helped. I know the season’s over, and it’s hard because we didn’t win, but for me the preparation for next year begins right away. There’s no other way. If no one’s going to practice, I’m going to be the first to practice then, because I want to be a step ahead of everybody.”
“I don’t think there’s a guy in here that isn’t upset or disappointed. You come into something like this, coming into a championship and you expect the best. We didn’t have things go our way in Game 2, and obviously we didn’t have things go our way tonight. It’s disappointing, that’s for sure.”
“That’s what I was hoping for (one last rally in the ninth), honestly I think four or five guys on the bench were like, ‘Seggy, you put up a big one right here and it’s over.’ But you’ve got to tip your hats to those guys, they played well all year and they had our number early in the year. They beat us, they just beat us.”
“The first inning (was when we had a chance against Murata), that was a huge momentum breaker for us. After that, it just seemed like we couldn’t get anything going. We couldn’t get guys on base, we only had three hits off the guy. It’s tough to win ballgames when you only have three hits.”
“You can never blame calls. You can look at Game 2, that first inning. If I don’t make an error, we’re out of that inning. You can point your finger at umpires and this and that, but they try to call the game the best they can, they’re human. People make mistakes, so I’m not going to point the finger at that. We just didn’t do enough to win.”
“I’m happy that I stayed healthy, that was a huge positive for me. Honestly, that was one of my only goals this year, to stay healthy. Everything after that was a bonus. For me personally, it wasn’t the best year, but I think if you asked a lot of guys that and they’d say the same thing. I think we as athletes and as competitors have high standards, and I guarantee that all the guys in here didn’t meet them.”
ADAM ABRAHAM (pictured)
“It feels good to win, and I think everyone played a different part all year long in helping this team win. All year long, it’s been somebody different, whether it was a starting pitcher or a relief guy or someone in the lineup every night was playing a different role. In this series, I happened to have a good series and was able to drive in a few key runs. I’m just glad we got a chance to win, it’s always fun to win.”
“Obviously, that’s a favorable call. Any time you can get that first run, it’s a big advantage. But we took the break and we ran with it. We were able to capitalize on it by getting two the next inning. It’s basically what we’ve done all year, capitalizing on our opportunities.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com