Designs on a 6th Championship and a Game 7 to Remember

After a pair of second place finishes last season between the division and the GLBL championships, this year’s Architects had designs on heading back to the Championship series with something to prove. They would need all seven games and five extra innings in the GLBL Championships to do it.

A hot Chicago start in April, going 20-3, was followed by a losing month in May. Chicago bounced back and held onto the lead for the rest of the season, though in early June they were tied for first, not with—as many suspected—Milwaukee. It was Traverse City, led by MVP Pedro Morales, who won the batting title with a .349 average and who finished with an 8.2 WAR. The Bears had surprised everyone and while they never passed the Architects, they did manage a clear wild card berth and were the only other team in the league to win more than 80 games.

Chicago finished with 91 wins, a far cry from their 100+ of the last two seasons, but good enough for the best in the league. The offense was led by Daniel Huffman (302/402/556), who led the GLBL with 35 home runs, and aided by outfielder Eric Pryor (.928 OPS, 5.5 WAR) and third baseman Paul Boulay (.905 OPS, 5.9 WAR). On the mound, António Méndez and Everton Mounsey led the league in ERA (2.48 and 2.54 respectively). Tom Higgins was the rock in the bullpen with a 2.28 ERA and 22 saves.

While the Canadian division see-sawed back and forth, the USA was decided earlier. Traverse City would face Chicago in the opening round of the playoffs. Unfortunately for Traverse City, they could manage just five runs in four games and were swept out of the USA Championship.   Meanwhile, Owen Sound emerged leading Canada and defeated Toronto in five games. Both teams were looking to be in good form advancing into the Championship.

With Chicago taking the first two games in Owen Sound (and opening the playoffs with six wins), they looked unbeatable. Owen Sound responded with a decisive 7-2 win in Chicago, but the Architects had an answer of their own, winning the next 10-3. Backed against a wall, trailing 3-1, Owen Sound won 9-5 in Chicago again to make the series 3-2. Game Six evened the series at 3-3 when Owen Sound opened a five-run lead and narrowly escaped with a one-run win, setting the stage for one of the most exciting games in GLBL history.

In Game 7, Chicago struck first in the top of the third, but Matthew Smith tied the game on a solo shot in the bottom half.  The Architects quickly took the lead back when Roberto Ortíz laced a single to center that scored Daniel Huffman in the top of the fourth. That would be the last run scored until the bottom of the ninth. With his team trailing by a run, Shane MacKinley walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch.  Javier Crespo, on a 3-2 count with two outs, hit a shallow single to left, scoring MacKinley and tying the game in dramatic fashion.

By the time the 14th inning came around, Chicago had used 22 players, leaving only Dave Bell available. Owen Sound had used 18 players.  Between the two teams, they would use 15 pitchers in 14 innings. In the top of the 14th, ten innings after they had last scored, Bill Bungay doubled home Daniel Huffman, who scored his second run of the game to give Chicago the lead. While they threatened with runners on second and third with just one out, Julien Pages escaped the jam and gave his team one more chance to come back. António Gomez walked the first batter, Matt Miles, but managed to get two fly outs. Gómez then walked Brett Collins, likely pitching around him because the next batter was Julien Pages with no one to pinch-hit for him. This did move Miles into scoring position, but Pages swung at the first pitch, grounding out to short. Unfortunately for Pages, he gave up the winning run and made the last out, likely a first in the GLBL (and doubtless the first in the final game of the GLBL Championships). 

This gave Chicago their sixth championship and fourth since 2030.

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