Great Baldini propels 735th AMS with late-inning magic

The 735 AMS is crowned the 2017 Winter Softball League champion.

Story and photos by Randy Dela Cruz

Sports Editor, Ho‘okele

Cleanup hitter Chad Bald-ini, a Department of Defense civilian, lived the dream of starring in a championship on Nov. 18 during the Winter Softball League title showdown between the 735th Air Mobility Squadron (735 AMS) and the Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) at Earhart Field, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Baldini, who blasted two home runs in previous at-bats, came up to the plate in the bottom of the final inning with two outs and runners at first and second.

With the game all tied at 15-15 and one out away from going into extra innings, Baldini didn’t hesitate one bit. He swung on the first pitch and mashed a deep, towering fly ball over the leftfield fence to turn the lights out on a three-run, walk-off shot and an 18-15 victory.

“I was surprised that I got a ball right there, but I knew if I saw something good, I would put a good swing on it,” Baldini said. “He (pitcher) just happened to throw one right in there and I was just hoping it would stay fair.”

Jimmie Miller keeps his eyes on the ball before smashing it for his second home run of the game.

The hefty swing ended a back-and-forth affair that was everything you’d expect from a championship game.

The 735 got the jump on the game first when retired veteran Jimmie Miller blasted a two-run shot in the bottom of the second inning for 3-1 lead.

“As team sports go, momentum shifts all the time,” Miller said. “At any time, anyone can come through with a big hit. That was my first home run of the season, but whatever I could do to contribute, that’s what it’s all about.”

Miller’s bomb jumpstarted the 735 as the team clearly continued its momentum in its next turn at the plate.

In the bottom of the third, Baldini smashed his first home run of the game with a high fly over the centerfield fence that drove in three runs.

A double by Airman 1st Class David Clifford drove in another run, and then Miller drove his second shot out of the park for two more runs and a 9-1 advantage.

The 735 kept the damage coming in the next inning, with Baldini doing his best impression of Babe Ruth.

Again, with two runners on base, Baldini crushed another pitch over the centerfield fence for three more RBIs and a 12-2 advantage.

Clifford followed up with an RBI single to extend the 735’s lead to 13-2 and that placed the 735 to within three outs of finishing the game via mercy rule.

Instead of closing out the game early, the CES started to wake up at the plate and scored two runs on a single by Staff Sgt. Justin Peredo to avert the mercy rule.

Then in the top of the sixth inning, things really began heat up. Master Sgt. John Edwards launched a three-run homer to pull the CES back to within six runs at 13-7.

The 735 seemed to have a lock on the game when the team pushed across two runs in the bottom of the sixth. However, after starting a comeback, the CES had one more big inning that would bring them all the way back.

With two outs, two runs in and the bases loaded, Staff Sgt. Breyden Gardner kept the rally going by slicing a single to drive in two more runs.

Now trailing by a score of 15-11 and the bases still full of runners, Peredo completely wiped out the deficit with one big swing for a grand slam and a 15-15 tie.

After losing an 11-run lead, Baldini said that with one more frame in regulation, there was no need to panic and he turned out to be right.

“Softball is a crazy game,” Baldini said. “I take my hat off to the CE guys. That’s a good team. They battled all year, so I knew unless it’s the third out, they’re still in the game. It is what it is. They tied and I got a chance to come up to the plate and hit the ball pretty well.”

While Baldini was the clear MVP of the game, he said that the 735 won it all because of a great team effort that lasted all year.

“I’ve got to take my hat off to Miller,” Baldini said. “Those two home runs earlier in the game were awesome. And then we had some guys that just came in. Our guy in right-center Joey Henn (Capt.) just PCSed in and there were other guys. It’s just constant work. The bats came around and we played pretty well.”

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Category: Sports