NLB Spiel 17, Sep. 13, 14

Bandits 1010000223
Challengers 001303x782
W: Christen, O. L: Nussbaum, R.

Challengers win Series opener 7-2 vs. Bandits


Prior to last season, the two toughest spots roster-wise for the Challengers were catcher and Swiss pitcher. Things sure have changed: with four viable backstops on the team, catcher is no longer a concern. While there aren't quite so many options pitching-wise, the C's faced a choice before Game 1 of their quarter-final series against the Jona Bandits: Oli Christen or Nick Lehmann? Christen was the logical choice, since he could always be lifted for Lehmann in the event that he faltered. Despite a shaky start, Oli was lights out in pitching a 2-hit, 5 strike-out complete game.

Interestingly, Christen ended up hitting the Bandits more often than they hit him: After striking out the lead-off batter, Christen loaded the bases with a walk and consecutive HBPs. However, the Bandits were only able to score once, on a fielder's choice grounder, as a caught-stealing and a pop-out ended the inning. The C's bats also got off to a quiet start: Kurt Kovac struck out, and Yusuke Azuma singled, but was thrown out trying to steal. Juan de la Rosa drew a walk and stole second, but was stranded there after Renzo Falcone struck out to end the inning.
The Bandits extended their lead in the top of the third, when the lead-off batter reached on a HBP, stole second and then took third on a passed ball. A single by the next batter made it 2-0 Jona. While the Bandits didn't know it at the time, their offensive output had just peaked for the game. Sarmiento and Kovac pulled off a sweet double-play, with Kovac somehow making the turn despite the runner being nearly on top of him. Christen then induced a grounder to second to end the inning.
The bottom of the third got off to a rocky start: Before Adrian Chinea led off, Gregg Zingg gathered the team together and announced that the brakes were being put on the running game (we'd already had two runners thrown out at second). Naturally, after drawing a walk, Chinea immediately took off for second, where he was thrown out by a good 5 feet. Sigh. Fortunately, things quickly improved: Daiki Sato reached first on a bunt, and after a single by Kovac and a walk to Azuma, the C's had the bases loaded with only one out. A walk to de la Rosa forced in a run, but the Bandits escaped further damage when Falcone hit into a 1-2-3 double play to end the inning.
In the top of the fourth, the Bandits threatened but were unable to take advantage of some shaky fielding. With one out and a runner on first, the batter bunted the ball towards Christen, who threw wildly into right field, putting runners on first and third. Oli recovered, however, fanning the next batter before getting the third out on a fly ball to center.
The Challengers' bats finally woke up in the bottom of the fourth: Nick Lehmann reached on an error and went to second on a single by Sarmiento. The Challengers caught a break when Zingg's bunt was flubbed by the first baseman, loading the bases with no one out. After Chinea flew out to short for the first out, Sato lined a double into right field, scoring Lehmann and Sarmiento, and giving the Challengers a 3-2 lead. Kovac followed with a single to score Zingg, making it 4-2.
After a scoreless fifth, the Challengers put the game away in the bottom of the 6th: Kovac, per usual, led off with a walk and stole second. Azuma followed with a walk, and then both runners advanced on a wild pitch. De la Rosa followed with a grounder to short, that the Bandit fielder held...and held...and then held some more, allowing Kovac to score from third, and all other runners to reach safely. Azuma and de la Rosa then pulled off a double steal, with a run scoring (and de la Rosa advancing to third) on a throwing error by the catcher. Falcone finished off the scoring with a Sac Fly to third ( read that correctly), which scored de la Rosa who took advantage of the Bandits' failure to cover home. Christen retired the Bandits in the top of the 7th, and the Challengers had a 7-2 win.

by Alex Gordon