NLA Game 36, Oct. 02, 99

Challengers 10208100012130
Flyers 30402002011140
W: Räber L: Allenspach S: Landis

Challengers take trophy with dramatic 12-11 win

The Challengers were finally able to celebrate their second consecutive Swiss Champion title as they beat the Therwil Flyers 12-11 in a dramatic Game 5.

Benny Räber mastered the Flyers over five innings, and allowed just four earned runs on five hits, walking none and striking out five.
After winning games 1 & 2, the Challengers lost momentum and were beaten by the Flyers in the next two games that led to Saturday's showdown in front of a big crowd in Therwil.

The home team took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the first inning on catcher Ivano Piaia's three-run homer off starter Thomas Landis. It was Piaia's fifth homer in the Finals series. Four of them came off Landis.

The two teams played an excellent game from beginning on, with both defenses playing an errorless game.

The Challengers finally got to starter Philipp Kleiber in the top of the third inning, and tied the game on rookie Tobias Siegrist's RBI-double and Chris Palatinus' sac fly off reliever Roy Allenspach that scored Jose Valdez from third base.

Rookie Tobias Siegrist had two big extra-base hits, and also made the crucial out at third base in the bottom of the eighth inning as he threw out Ivano Piaia.
The Flyers answered the Challengers' production with four runs of their own. Piaia hit an RBI-single, Stefan Koller added a bases-loaded RBI-single, Bärtschi followed with a run-scoring ground out, and a balk call against Landis enabled Alain Kurz to score from third for a 7-3 Flyers lead after three frames.

Benny Räber then relieved Landis at the start of the fourth inning, and he retired the first two batters before hitting the next two with a pitch. In game 4, Flyer pitcher Allenspach was thrown out of the game for the same action by plate umpire Chuck Vail, but Sandro Giambonini didn't react this time and left Räber continue to pitch.

Ivano Piaia of the Flyers did the most damage as he hit his fifth homer of the series and collected a game-high four RBI's.
His offense made the most out of it and provided him with a big cushion in the top of the fifth inning by sending 12 batters to the plate, and taking an 11-7 lead.

But Räber was a big part of that rally, as was Joe Cox and Siegrist.

Valdez started the rally with one out by lining a single up the middle. He advanced to second on Allenspach's balk, and Landis plated him with his second RBI-double of the game, his 26th two-bagger of the season.

Rookie Siegrist followed with a two-run homer. It was his third homer of the season, and he hit all of them in Therwil, two of them against Allenspach.

Palatinus popped out to third for the second of the inning, but then the real barrage began.

Jose Valdez again remained homerless, but nevertheless finished the season with a record 25 homers and 73 RBI's.
Bryan Shemley hit a screamer all the way back to the fence for a double, and Räber followed with a ground-rule RBI-double off Allenspach to opposite field for his first NLA-hit in eight at-bats this season.

He advanced to third on yet another balk by Allenspach. Shortstop Cox followed with just his fifth double of the season that scored Räber with the go-ahead run.

Anubis Benitez then laid down a single to center field, and Cox went racing around third after center fielder Karim Traore already made his throw home. Catcher Piaia caught the ball, and Cox still needed about five steps to the plate. He made the only right decision and slammed into Piaia, knocking the ball out of Piaia's glove for another Challenger run.

Thomas Landis started and finished the game, getting his first save of the season, and his second of his career by striking out the final two batters he faced.
Nick Lehmann topped all those performances by hitting a two-run homer over the center field fence for an 11-7 lead after 4 1/2 innings. It was just his third homer of the season.

The Flyers regrouped and managed to get two runs back in their half of the inning on Djibril Traore's run-scoring ground out and Fernando Abril's RBI-single to cut the Challengers' lead to 11-9.

In the top of the sixth, the Challengers added one more run as Palatinus hit his third homer of the Finals for a 12-9 lead. It was a crucial hit in the end as the final 11 Challenger batters were retired in order by reliever Alain Kurz.

In the bottom of the eighth, the Challengers still hung on to their slim 12-9 lead, and the Flyers made it even more exciting as Räber started to wear down and gave up a two-run homer to Allenspach that trimmed the Challengers' lead to 12-11.

Piaia then was hit by a pitch from Räber, and advanced to second two pitches later as Räber balked. But the Flyers killed their own rally as they gave Piaia the steal sign. He was easily thrown out at third by Siegrist for the second out, and Räber escaped the inning by getting Karim Traore to foul out to third.

Landis took over the mound to start the ninth inning, and he was greeted by Alain Kurz with a single. And the Flyers helped the Challengers a second time by giving Kurz the green light to steal second. Siegrist made the throw to second by the time Kurz was half way to second. He turned around and was easily caught in a rundown for the first out.

Landis finished the game by striking out the final two batters for his team-leading 89th and 90th K of the season.

The 1999 Swiss Champions Challengers.

Game Notes: The Challengers set offensive team-records in batting average (.394), slugging percentage (.725), on-base percentage (.477), homers (shattering the old mark of 47 by hitting 94 this year), doubles (131), RBI's (398), hits (492), runs (467) and at-bats (1249). Pitchingwise, records were set in wins (25), saves (4), losses (11), games started (36), complete games (11), innings pitched (260), strikeouts (266), hit by pitches (36) and balks (29). ...Landis led all Challengers pitchers in strikeouts for the seventh consecutive season, striking out 90 and one more than Räber. He also set a new mark for doubles in a single season, shattering the old mark of 17 by Anubis Benitez from 1998 by hitting 26 two-bagger, and for at-bats with 141. ...Valdez set a new record for homers in a single season with 25, and also broke records with his 75 RBI's and 68 hits. ...Benitez broke the old record of 49 runs scored in a season by crossing home plate 69 times this year. He barely missed the record for most stolen bases, the oldest record in the franchise's history, by getting 34 steals, just three shy of the 37 steals by Kurt Vogt in 1985. ...Palatinus set a new record with 31 strikeouts, breaking Fabian Monn's record of 29 whiffs in 72 at-bats. Palatinus had 114 at-bats this season.