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Atleticos bats come up big in title game
San Luis' James Mays certainly put an exclamation point on the Atleticos' league title.
Mays hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth to finish off the Atleticos' 19-7 win in the Arizona Winter League championship over Blythe Heat on a windy Monday night at Desert Sun Stadium.
“It's unbelievable to be put on this team,” Mays said. “From Day 1 everybody just clicked and knew we had a solid club.”
The 25-year-old from Fort Worth, Texas, hit for the cycle, going 5 for 5 with four runs and two RBIs and pitched five innings in relief to pick up the win. Not to be outdone, teammate Matt Nilmeyer went 5 for 6 with seven RBIs and ended up a home run shy of the cycle.
Nilmeyer picked up two of those RBIs in a four-run first inning for the Atleticos, bouncing a single up the middle. However, Blythe chipped away and took a 6-4 lead in the top of the fourth and had scored 21 runs in a win over Yuma in the semifinals earlier in the day.
The Heat's lead was brief as the Atleticos answered by scoring five runs in the bottom of the fourth with some help from their big hitters — Mays hit an RBI triple to center field and Nilmeyer knocked a two-run triple to right-center.
Giving back the lead seemed to take all momentum out of Blythe, which didn't score again until a solo home run by Mike Garcia in the top of the ninth.
Things started to unravel for the Heat in the bottom of the seventh when Nilmeyer hit another two-run single and Clint Bowker legged out a two-run triple as San Luis scored seven runs — all of which came with two outs.
Just for good measure, Mays hit his home run and Nilmeyer picked up one final RBI on a single in the bottom of the eighth.
When the dust finally settled on the Atleticos' offensive explosion, they'd racked up 20 hits, including six extra-base hits.
“We got shut out against Long Beach right before playoffs, and from then on we took (batting practice) at 8 a.m. before games and it showed and translated to the field,” Mays said.
Mays and Nilmeyer certainly got some help from their friends, too. Bowker, Bryan Marquez and Lucas Nakandakare each had two hits and a pair of RBIs.
“The last four games we've been really swinging the bats,” San Luis coach Eddie Dennis said.
Nicholas Lenzendorf pitched the final two innings for the Atleticos and got Brandon Gregorich to pop up in foul territory to clinch the title — and cue the celebratory spraying of champagne.
“We knew we had a good ballclub that could win it,” Dennis said. “It feels good to go out and do it.”
Jesse Severson can be reached at email@example.com or at 539-6881. Find him at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson.