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Imperials Reign Supreme

St. Jack's Defeats Rocky Point For Second NYLISL Title in 3 Years; Jimmy Rollins Named Series MVP

February 13, 2014 - Kris Medlen was the first pick in the 2013 NYLISL Free Agent Draft, and the last hope for the Rocky Point Eagles.

The Eagles handed the ball to Medlen to start Game 6 of the Marillac Cup Series, down 3-2 to the St. Jack's Imperials and needing a win to stave off elimination. One inning into the decider, Medlen trudged off the mound having given up eight runs - by far the worst inning of his otherwise incredible 2013 season.

The Imperials tacked on two more runs in the second inning and held on to win Game 6 by the score of 10-4, giving St. Jack's its second NYLISL title in three years. Jimmy Rollins, who batted .350 in six games and played flawless defense at shortstop, was named the Most Valuable Player of the Marillac Cup Series.

"No one expects to score 10 runs in a game that Kris Medlen starts," Rollins said afterward. "It was a shocking way to end an unbelievable season."

Rollins had just one hit in Game 6, but was an offensive force for most of the series. He had multi-hit games in Games 3 and 4, but it was his two-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 2 that evened the series at 1 and kept St. Jack's out of a two-deep hole.

Rocky Point, having won the opening game of the series 5-1 behind the brilliance of mid-season acquisition Justin Verlander, was hoping to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the series. Medlen started Game 2 and was dominant as well, giving up just one run in his first eight innings of work. On the other side, James Shields and five Imperials relievers combined to allow only one Eagles run for the first nine innings of play.

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and extra innings looming, player-manager Ryan Braun leaned into an errant Medlen offering, setting up Rollins to be the hero.

"This team spent the whole season at an elevated level," Braun said afterwards, as he celebrated with fellow outfielders Melky Cabrera and Nelson Cruz. "I don't think I've ever been as juiced as I was when Rollins hit that home run."

The momentum carried over into Game 3, which St. Jack's won 10-1. Jered Weaver got the win after five innings of work - the first time in three games that an Imperials starter threw a pitch after the fourth inning. Adrian Beltre led a 14-hit Imperials attack with three doubles and three RBI, and Braun added three RBI of his own.

Game 4 was the beginning of an unusual chain of events for the Imperials, who saw the starting catcher of each game depart early with a series-ending injury. Rocky Point evened the series with an 8-5 win and Miguel Montero was the first catcher bitten by the injury bug.

Montero pinch-hit for Carlos Ruiz with two outs in the ninth inning, in the hopes of protecting the brittle backstop from an otherwise avoidable injury. It was Montero who was injured for the rest of the series instead when he was hit by a pitch. Ironically, Ruiz could not be protected for much longer and was lost for the series in the very next game.

Nevertheless, Montero's injury was an unusual end to an exciting game in which the Eagles staked Verlander to a 4-0 lead that lasted until a wild sixth inning. Three batters into the top of that inning, Ruiz took Verlander deep with two men on base to cut the lead to 4-3. Rollins drove in Jason Heyward with a double later in the inning to tie the score.

The Eagles struck back in the bottom of the sixth, roughing up Scott Atchison and Ryan Cook for four runs. Atchison ended up taking the loss and the series was tied at 2, setting the stage for online play for the rest of the series.

Shields started Game 5 for St. Jack's and was brilliant for seven innings, allowing only one run and three hits. Rollins, Andrew McCutchen and David Ortiz all hit solo home runs off Rocky Point starter Colby Lewis, and Jake McGee pitched a scoreless ninth inning to secure his first and only save of the series. McGee - the Imperials' shocking first-round selection in the Free Agent Draft - capped a brilliant season with three scoreless appearances in the series.

David Price started Game 6 for the Imperials and, despite being staked to a 10-run lead, was pulled one batter into the fifth inning and ended up surrendering three runs. Atchison made up for his Game 4 failure with three scoreless innings in relief, earning the win for St. Jack's. The only lowlight was an injury to third-string catcher Jason Castro, who was unable to celebrate in front of the hometown fans when Charlie Furbush retired the final Rocky Point batter.

Castro will be back in time for the 2014 season, where he is expected to be the starting catcher for the Imperials. After three straight Marillac Cup Series appearances and two championships, Braun knows that St. Jack's may end up taking a step back in 2014.

Braun has already pledged to spend the first 65 games of the upcoming season managing the Imperials, ceding his customary spot in left field to a combination of Carlos Quentin, Oswaldo Arcia and Rajai Davis. However, Braun didn't rule out returning to the field before the end of the season and said that he didn't anticipate needing more than five games or so to get back into playing shape.



































NYLISL TICKER: Eagles trade Neil Walker and Erick Aybar to Stories for Ian Desmond and Carl Crawford. ... 2014 First Round -- (1) Riffs, Jose Fernandez; (2) Barkeaters, Chris Davis; (3) Bandits, Yasiel Puig; (4) Bandits (from Stories), Greg Holland; (5) Barkeaters (from Scribes), Luke Hochevar; (6) Scribes (from Eagles), Josh Donaldson; (7) Stories (from Bandits), Travis Wood. .... Opening Day is Feb. 22. ... Schedule consists of 14 games vs. each opponent. ... Bandits (Nationals Park) and Riffs (Marlins Park) sign three-year leases. ...