NLA Game 25, Sep. 20, 03

Challengers 003010001584
Cardinals 52010110x1093
W: Fries L: Landis, Th.

Challengers' season ends with 10-5 defeat against Cards in Game 5

Severin Fries and his Bern Cardinals again made it to the Finals by beating the Challengers in a winner-takes-it-all game.

<a href="" title="See Player Profile for Thomas Landis">Thomas Landis</a> failed in his bid to lead his team to a second consecutive Finals appearance.
Thomas Landis failed in his bid to lead his team to a second consecutive Finals appearance.
And just like in 2001, the Cards relied on their remarkable pitching, solid defense and patient hitting, allowing their opponents only five runs throughout the game.

They used a big first inning to build a comfortable five-run cushion and then relying on Fries to shut down the Challengers' bats.

The Challengers scored in only three innings while the Cards used starter Thomas Landis' wildness and always remained patient at the plate, rarely swinging at the first strike.

Landis worked 6 2-3 innings, giving up 10 runs - half of them unearned - on nine hits, four walks and a career-high six hit-by-pitches, while also striking out four, ending his season with a still respectable 8-3 record.

The Challengers started well as Harry Bregy led off thanks to an error by right fielder Vitus Huber, and Chris Palatinus followed with a single.

But Landis struck out and Benitez' ground out back to the mound turned into an inning-ending double play as Bregy got caught in a rundown between home and third.

Three of the Cards' first five hits were little bloopers just out of the reach of the infield, as Landis worked the zone inside, jamming most of the Cardinal hitters.

But second baseman Palatinus' error on Marco Haas' grounder set up Fries' RBI-double and further prolonged the inning.

Ron Zimmermann struck out for the second out, but the next four batters reached on a base-on-balls, a hit-by-pitch and two singles, giving the Cards a huge 5-0 lead.

The Challengers went down in order in the second inning, while the Cards remained patient, drawing a walk and two hit-by-pitches.

Catcher Tobias Siegrist's failed pickoff attempt at third base and Zimmermann's run-scoring ground out pushed the score to 7-0 after just two frames.

The Challengers finally got on the board in the third inning on Bregy's RBI-single and Landis' RBI-triple two batters later.

He eventually scored as shortstop Raphael Hänzi tried to nail him at third base, but the throw was off line and sailed out off play, giving the Challengers their third run.

After two scoreless half-innings, the Cards scored another unearned run as Haas was hit by a pitch for the second time, and Palatinus was unable to handle Zimmermann's short dribbler with two outs.

Huber plated Haas with a single.

Palatinus made up for his error in the next inning, launching a solo homer off Fries with two outs.

But the Cards went on scoring in the sixth and seventh innings.

Zimmermann collected another RBI with his single to left field, and Angelo Rodriguez hit a sac fly in the seventh inning to give his team a 10-4 lead.

Tobias Siegrist had just one hit in four at-bats.
Tobias Siegrist had just one hit in four at-bats.
After another hit-by-pitch - his sixth of the game - and a walk, Landis was relieved by rookie Oliver Labhart.

He promptly got Fries to pop out to end the inning.

After a scoreless eighth inning, in which Labhart retired the Cardinals 1-2-3, the Challengers were left to their final three outs.

They made the best out of it as Nick Lehmann led off with his second homer of the season.

Labhart and Thomas Blank went down, but Patrick Zöllig and Bregy reached on consecutive walks.

But Fries regrouped and got Palatinus to hit into a season-ending ground out to shortstop Hänzi.

The Cards will face the Therwil Flyers, who swept the Zürich Barracudas 3-0, in the best-of-5 Finals, starting in Therwil on September 27.

On the other hand, the Challengers' season prematurely ended for only the second time in the last six seasons.

With that loss, the Challengers also missed the qualification for the European Cup for the first time since 1996.

Game and season notes

Lehmann's homer came in his 500th at-bat in the NLA. ...Bregy tied his career high by scoring 44 runs. ...Landis' 21 doubles are the third highest total ever in Challengers history. Only he and Anubis Benitez had more with 26 in 1999 and 2000, respectively. Landis also had the longest hitting streak as he had at least one hit in each of the last 19 games. ...Palatinus stole his 83rd career base in the first inning, moving him into eighth place on the Challengers' all-time list. ...Manny Marchant's .521 batting average is the eighth-best single-season performance in Challengers' history. ...Siegrist set a new Challengers single-season record by hitting three triples. ...The Challengers had only 87 stolen bases, the second-lowest total alltime. ...The Challengers' pitching staff has allowed an alltime worst 194 earned runs. ...Zöllig's offensive stats were almost a duplicate of last year. He equaled his 2002 totals in doubles (4), total bases (24), RBI's (14), stolen bases (9) and sacs (3). ...Benny Räber set a new career-high by hitting seven doubles. Pitchingwise, he recorded only two wins - the lowest total since 1996 - and also had a career-low ratio of 5.8 strikeouts per nine innings.