Battle Creek, MI – Eighteen years after Paul Wolf took over the MUNY AAA’s Diesel amateur baseball club from the late Ray Caso Sr., the “Dirty Dogs” have themselves an NABF Championship. Now known as the Battistoni Diesel, the Wolf owned and managed team won two highly-contested games Saturday to clinch a berth Sunday in the finals vs the Lombard (Ill.) Orioles.
Diesel posted playoff victories a day earlier over tourney host HBC Behnke and then Brooklyn Sports Fever (Brooklyn, NY) two quality clubs that had opportunities to put Battistoni away. However the lone representatives from Western New York never quit. Kevin Hughes (Starpoint/UB) went the distance in the championship game, picking up 8 strikeouts along the way. He wasn’t coming out of this game. Hughes surrendered 10 hits over nine innings. The O’s scored two runs in the top half of the first inning, 1 earned. That was the only lead Lombard had all afternoon. Battistoni scored two of their own in the bottom of the first and followed that up in the 2nd with two more. They added another three runs and then hung on to close out the tournament. 1B Jimmy Spano, LF Ryan Baroudi, CF PJ Stack and 3B Rob Leuhrsen, four players that have been with Wolf’s Diesel for the better part of the last 10 seasons all played integral parts in winning the national title.
“This is the best, I know I’m tired but I can’t feel anything”, Leuhrsen said after the game. “Amazing, awesome” Wolf added. It was an emotional day for the manager who was able to share the moment with his father, brother and uncle who made the six hour drive out for today’s final.
Hughes was named the game’s Most Valuable Player and was also named to the all-tournament team. Teammates Luehrsen, Stack, Spano, right-fielder Randy Moley, catcher Andy Russo and shortstop Mike Wagner were also selected.
This was the second time these teams played in the past 4 days. They were both placed in Pool C and led off the tourney facing each other. Hughes went 9 innings then with Diesel winning that game 5-2. Three of the final eight teams in the quarter finals came from pool C. The Cincinnati Chiefs were the third team, Lombard beat them Saturday morning to advance to the semi’s. The Chiefs handed Battistoni their only loss. The Diesel went 5-1 in Battle Creek and finished the season an impressive 32-3. They also led the tournament in runs scored (31).
With the win Sunday, the Diesel are awarded an automatic berth in next years NABF World Series. The tournament might not return to Battle Creek in 2016. Buffalo and Niagara Falls hosted the NABF-WS back in 2012 Wolf says he will be attending league meetings in Baltimore this November. He’s hoping to return next season to the same site. Battle Creek has hosted the tournament the past three years. Before WNY hosted in 2012, the world series was held in Louisville, KY.
Battistoni Diesel is only the 3rd team from WNY to win the NABF world series joining the 2005 Orchard Park Sox and the 2011 West Herr teams. Somewhere, Ray Caso is smiling.