Welcome the San Diego Stars back to the NBC World Series spotlight.
It's been a long time. They earned the love after Monday's rally-for-the-ages to beat Valley Center 12-11 in an elimination game at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
After, manager Mickey Deutschman celebrated with players and fans outside the stadium, talking on a cell phone until somebody replaced it with a beer. Disneyland scripted that game, he said.
He recalled a game in the 1980s where his team rallied from a 10-4 deficit — nothing like trailing 8-0 against Valley Center. He remembered a game lost to Liberal 15-14 in 13 innings.
And, he said his players "like to hit, women and beer."
It was that kind of night for the Stars, who finished third in 1999 and haven't done much since. Deutschman said he hadn't been interviewed in 10 years.
"I bet on 17 a lot on the roulette wheel, because we've been finishing 17th for about the last four years," he said.
His luck is changing, thanks to a team that hits and runs and hits some more. The Stars lead the NBC with a .407 batting average, 70 hits and five triples. Power — three home runs — isn't their thing. Their 14 stolen bases rank second.
"This is actually a brand-new team from what the Stars are used to," catcher Matt Powell said. "I'm a fourth-year veteran on this team. I came back and I was surprised at how much speed we have. The Stars are used to having an absolute power-hitting team."
The Stars can muscle up when needed. First baseman Shain Stoner crushed a two-run homer in the eighth inning to put the Stars up 12-11 against Valley Center. San Diego trailed 8-0 after giving up seven runs in the second inning. It trailed 9-4 after four innings and 9-5 entering the seventh. The Stars scored five runs to take a 10-9 lead. Valley Center scored twice in the eighth to regain the lead at 11-10.
"We've had less home runs this year than ever before and score more runs," Deutschman said. "But they're actually playing baseball. Ty Cobb would be happy. Babe Ruth would be sad. The boys execute."
The Stars stayed alive to meet the Gunnison (Colo.)-Seattle Studs winner tonight in another elimination game.
Scouting report — Stoner used his time in the on-deck circle. He watched Valley Center pitcher Scott Wingo and learned enough to expect a fastball on a 1-1 count.
"He was telegraphing his pitches," Stoner said. "He held the fastball on his hip and put it straight in his glove and I sat fastball. I felt the catcher on the inside of the plate and let it go from there."
Stoner sent that fastball over the fence in left field to put the Stars ahead for good.
Settle down — Stars lefty reliever Cory Caruso was the lone pitcher to emerge in a good mood after Monday's slugfest.
He allowed seven hits and three runs over 7 2/3 innings. Caruso, using his curveball and slider, struck out four. The Stars picked him up for the NBC, and he quickly figured out his teammates could hit.
"I could tell we had the potential to come back and score a lot of runs," he said. "I just wanted to do my job."
Caruso should have cruised to the win. He had two outs in the eighth when Valley Center's Ryan Bohanan lofted a fly ball to right. San Diego's Matthew Young slipped and the ball fell into the grass, allowing the tying run to score from third. Valley Center's Brandon Cox gave his team an 11-10 lead when he slid in safely after Bohanan got caught in a rundown.
Caruso regained his composure to get out of the inning and retire the Diamond Dawgs in order in the ninth.
"It's hard not to keep that in the back of your head, but you've got to clear it and get on to the next play," Caruso said.
Shockers with a K _ Wichita State pitchers topped the NBC strikeout leaders entering Monday's games.
Lefty Charlie Lowell was first with 16 in 12 innings for El Dorado, which is out of the tournament. Lowell went 1-1 with a 2.92 ERA and three walks for the Broncos.
Senior Tim Kelley, still alive with Santa Barbara (Calif.) has 13 strikeouts, tied with two others behind Lowell. Kelley, who struck out eight in Sunday's win over Derby, owns a 1-0 record with a 0.88 ERA in eight innings over two games. He has one walk.
Recaps _ Denver remained unbeaten with a 9-4 win over the Seattle Studs on Sunday night. The Cougars grabbed a 5-0 lead with a four-run second inning. Left fielder Aaron Bauman doubled three times and drove in three runs for the Cougars.
* The Gunnison (Colo.) Colts eliminated Play Ball Sports (Colo.) 9-8 in 10 innings early Monday morning. The Colts scored three runs in the seventh inning and four in the eighth to erase a five-run deficit.