BELLINGHAM - Champions.
The Bellingham Bells can finally claim that word as their own.
A ground ball to the second baseman Dustin Breshears sent 2,821 fans into frenzy Monday, Aug. 18, at Joe Martin Field as he threw to first for the final out in the Bells' 3-2 win over defending champion Corvallis Knights to claim the 2014 West Coast League championship.
A Gatorade cooler full of water was dumped on coach Jeff James and a player dog pile behind first base punctuated the Bells' first championship since the WCL's inception in 2005.
The Bells finish the season 41-18, the best record in Bells history and the fourth time in WCL history that a team reached 40 wins.
"It was an incredible summer and a great group of guys," James said. "It was fun to watch the excitement grow."
Bells reliever Moises Ceja (2-1) was credited with the win after pitching 1 1/3 inning of scoreless relief.
Ceja came into a key moment in the ballgame as the Knights threatened to tie the game in the third.
With runners on first and second with two runs already in, Ceja got an infield pop-up to preserve the lead.
"Mo came into the game in a tough spot, he was money tonight," pitching coach Jim Clem said.
Corvallis starter Chris Haddeland (4-5) took the loss while pitching 6 2/3 innings of five-hit, three-run ball. He struck out seven and walked two.
The Bells only managed one hit through the last four innings, but the only hits they needed came in a pivotal third inning that saw the Bells knock in three runs on four hits.
Shortstop Chris Baker nailed a grounder up the middle and Lou Della Fera followed with a slow single through the right side.
With Baker hustling to third, Knights right fielder Tim Rausch made an errant throw, which skipped by the third baseman and allowed Baker to score.
A Dustin Breshears walk and a balk by pitcher Haddeland put runners on second and third for Dallas Carroll.
After a wild pitch scored Della Fera from third, Carroll hit a bloop single to center to score Breshears and put the Bells up 3-0.
Corvallis answered right back in the fourth with two runs to cut the Bells lead to one.
A leadoff walk, single and sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third with one out. Bells starter Gabe Cramer battled to strike out left fielder Scott Quinlan, but gave up a two RBI single to designated hitter Logan Ice.
Cramer walked the next batter he faced and was taken out of the game and replaced with Ceja.
Ceja got the infield popup to end the threat.
After Ceja, three other Bells relievers held the Knights to just two hits over the last three innings.
"It was all hands on deck tonight," Clem said. "Each of them pitched their hearts out."
The Bells and Knights played close baseball the whole year, and Monday's championship game was no different.
All six games between the two teams were decided by three runs or less.
The Knights made things scary for the Bells in the first inning.
Cramer walked the first batter he faced, who then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. A single put runners on first and third with one out, leaving Cramer with the task of some fancy pitching.
After a series of pickoff moves to keep the runner at first, Cramer induced a double play ball to the second baseman to end the inning.
"Cramer did a great job allowing just two runs," Clem said. "He kept us in the game."
Bells General Manager Nick Caples said the victory is a testament to the last four years of rebuilding as a franchise.
Joe Martin Field will begin a transformation this week as the natural grass surface is torn up and replaced with artificial turf.
Construction was pushed back a few days so the Bells could get one last game in at Joe Martin.
"It couldn't have happened to a better group of guys," Caples said. "It's a cool way to close out this era of Joe Martin Field.
Coach James said the chemistry and consistency of the guys on the team is the key to the championship season. This chemistry came in part to the excellent recruiting job done by coach Clem, James said.
"It took all the players to get this done," Clem said. "They all chipped in, performed on the field and were tremendous teammates."
BELLINGHAM 3, CORVALLIS 2
Corvallis 000 200 000 - 2 6 1
Bellingham 000 300 000 - 3 6 0
WP: Moises Cera. LP: Chris Haddeland. Highlights: Bells: Scott Heath 2-4; Chris Baker 1-3, R; Dustin Breshears 0-3, R; Lou Della Fera 1-3, R; Dallas Carroll 1-4, RBI.