The Genesee Rebels got one step closer to a birth into the Grand Championships with a 9-3 playoff victory over the North Prairie Dawgs on Saturday afternoon. The Rebels played shut down defense, got a solid pitching performance, and came up with some clutch hits enroute to the victory. The win propels the Rebels into the Playoff Championship game (Waterford won the regular season championship and an automatic birth into the Grand Championships) on Sunday, August 23rd where they will travel to East Troy to face an Express team who defeated Oconomowoc on Saturday by a score of 5-1.
The game got off to a sloppy start for the Rebels. DeMarais took the mound and retired the first two hitters before the Genesee infield graciously awarded a hard hit groundball with a 10 foot hop over a befuddled Urban at third base. DeMarais then threw a pickoff attempt to the right field fence and the North Prairie runner stole third two pitches later. With two outs, a lazy fly ball was lifted to shallow right-center but the elements came into the play and the sure-out turned into a dropped pop fly which allowed the first run to score.
Luckily for the Rebels, that would be all the Dawgs could muster over the next 7 innings. DeMarais pounded the strike zone and got some stellar infield play behind him. Derek Urban, getting his first start at 3B on the year, calmly gathered 5 assists on 5 attempts. He flashed the leather and showed off the arm with precision darts across the field. On more than one occasion, his fancy glove work got the Rebels out of jams and held the Dawgs from crossing the plate. Up the middle, Koehn and Dolan were flawless and Dave "Mayo" Hellman showed that infielders can play the outfield as he caught each fly ball with ease in right. Other than a few fly balls that handcuffed the Rebels centerfielder and an errant throw headed for the North Prairie dugout, the defensive machine was a thing of beauty.
The game was neck-and-neck over the first four innings. The Rebels couldn't get answer the North Prairie run in the first inning but managed to get on the board in the second when Lucas Bourassa led off with a single, advanced to second on an Aaron Dolan walk, moved to third on a Heckenkamp fielder's choice, and scored on Mayo's fielder's choice. Both Heckenkamp and Hellman were motoring down the line beating out double-plays to keep the inning alive.
The third inning saw Rebel's pitcher Matt DeMarais get his first at-bat since the season-opener and he calmly blooped a double down the right-field line. He would be stranded at second as the Rebels couldn't get anything else going.
The fourth inning saw Dolan leadoff with another walk. He moved up to second on a Hellman ground out which brought Urban to the plate. Urban laced a single to right field which brought in Dolan from second. The Rebels had grabbed the lead and wouldn't give it up.
After scoring two runs in the bottom of the 5th, Genesee would add four more in the bottom of the 6th. DeMarais would collect his second hit of the game, a dribbler to the shortstop that he beat out for an infield single. Matt Bauer and Keith Koehn would put together back-to-back singles which would load the bases with one out. Chris Theisen hit what looked like an inning-ending double-play, but he had his PF-Flyers on and beat out the throw to bring DeMarais across the plate. Lucas Bourassa took advantage of the situation and ripped a single to left-center which brought in Bauer. Then, the Genesee infield would help prolong the inning. Aaron Dolan hit a hard grounder to short which looked like it would end the inning, but, true to its form, the ball took a wicked hop off the side of the North Prairie infielder. Heckenkamp followed with a hard grounder to third which once again took a neat little hop away from the fielder's mitt. After it was over, the Rebels had a commanding 8-1 lead. They would add one more in the 8th when Derek Urban continued his hot play by leading off with a double, later scoring on a Keith Koehn fielder's choice.
On the day, the Rebels would collect 12 hits and were led offensively by Bourassa would finished the day with 3 hits, 1RBI, and 2 runs scored. Bauer, Urban, and DeMarais would also collect two hits on the day. DeMarais kept the Dawg hitters off balance allowing 3 unearned runs, striking out two, and using his defense to get 5 runners in scoring position throughout the day.
The win brings the Rebels one game away from a birth into the Grand Championships. To get there, they have to go through an East Troy team they split with earlier this year. The Rebels will have a full squad tomorrow after half the team returns from vacation, work, and birthday parties and will look for another solid pitching performance from Keith Koehn to help put the Rebels into the Grannies. First pitch is scheduled for 1:30pm at East Troy.