CHAMPION-- Berea Blue Sox, OH

RUNNER UP-- Lombard Orioles, IL

BATTING CHAMPION-- Matthew Schuler, Lombard Orioles

MVP-- Darius Washington, Berea Blue Sox

Championship Game Final Score-- Berea Blue Sox 5 Lombard Orioles 2

2023 NABF Major Division Champions – Berea Blue Sox

Berea Blue Sox win 3rd Major World Series in last one in Battle Creek

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — The Charles M. Blackburn Major Division World Series has called Battle Creek home for the past decade, hosting the tournament every year except 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, completed its 10th and final World Series. It consisted of 16 teams in four pools for the third consecutive year, with teams from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio.

The Buffalo Stingers, Fort Wayne Jackers, Manistee Saints, and Canfield Buckeyes received a direct bid for winning their Major Regional. While the Michiana Brewers, Livonia Firebirds, and The SoX got one for being the runner-up of the Kankakee, Fort Wayne, and Hackensack Regionals, and the Buffalo Diesel returned on an automatic bid as they were the reigning champions. Rounding out the field were six at-large bids — Beecher Muskies, Berea Blue Sox, Chicago Clout, Hackensack Troast, Hattiesburg Black Sox, and Lombard Orioles — along with the Battle Creek Merchants, the host team, and the Battle Creek Shamrocks.

In 24 pool games, the Diesel, Blue Sox, and Orioles were the only three to go undefeated to ultimately win Pool A, B, and C, respectively, with the runners-up being the Merchants, Black Sox, and Troast. The Muskies won Pool D by going 2-1, and the Stingers were the runners-up via a tiebreaker over SoX. 

Diesel vs. Troast, Blue Sox vs. Stingers, Orioles vs. Merchants, and Muskies vs. Black Sox were the quarterfinal matchups. The Troast upset the Diesel 4-3 in 10 innings as they took the lead in the extra frame, and Dan Carter picked off Adam Scibetta at second to seal the victory. Berea shutout the Stingers 4-0 at Morrison to face Hackensack in the semifinal.

On the other side of the bracket, the Orioles scored nine in the second inning to defeat the Merchants 13-1, while the Muskies won 12-9 over Black Sox in high scoring last quarterfinal.

The Blue Sox more than quadrupled its runs from the quarterfinal in a 17-4 defeat over the Troast, advancing to its third World Series championship game in five years. Lombard joined them after putting up double-digit runs in the second straight game to win 12-7, eliminating the Muskies.

Berea and Lombard have succeeded in Battle Creek since 2015 and 2018, respectively. The Blue Sox won the World Series in 2019 and 2021, and the Orioles appeared in the championship in 2015, 2018, and 2022, winning it in 2018. Whoever won this matchup would be considered a dynasty or on the path to one.

Berea took down Lombard 5-2 in a rain-shortened championship behind a three-run home run by Darius Washington in the first and six innings of combined two-run baseball by Alex Sir Louis and Dan Kraus.

After Lombard starter Adrian Rapier retired the first two Blue Sox to begin the game, he walked Alex Johnson and Steve Ross. Then Washington left the yard on a liner to left field, making it 3-0 Berea. 

The Orioles got a run back when Alex Najera doubled, and following Kyle Gibson advancing him to third on a 4-3 groundout, Matt Scolan hit a sacrifice fly to Washington in left.

Rapier got into trouble in the second as, with one out, he walked Zac Johnson and allowed an Eric White single. He escaped the inning unscathed by getting a 6-3 double play started by Gibson.

In the bottom half, Mikey Kocen and David Marshall reached on a single and a walk to begin the frame. However, Sir Louis struck out Jackson Bessette and Cliff Vickers grounded into a 6-3 double play, keeping the Orioles off the board.

The Orioles made it a 3-2 game an inning later with another sacrifice fly, this time by Matthew Schuler. Lombard’s third abruptly ended when Scolan attempted to get in scoring position for Charalambos Nicoloudes, but Berea catcher Jonathan Nola threw out Scolan at second. 

Following Rapier’s third consecutive scoreless inning in the fourth, the Orioles were sent down one-two-three by Sir Louis, keeping it a one-run game. The Blue Sox scored two insurance runs, one apiece in the fifth and sixth on Nola’s bases-loaded RBI walk and Alex Johnson’s 4-6 fielder’s choice.

Kraus, who worked a scoreless fifth inning, retired Scolan, Schuler, and Nicoloudes to earn the save, and the Blue Sox became the NABF Major Division World Series champions for the third time in the past five years. The Blue Sox joined the Cleveland White Autos, Cleveland Fisher Foods, New York City Equitable Life, Youngstown McKelvey’s Stores, Detroit ITM, Louisville Star Drywall, Cincinnati Reading Taxi, Detroit Jet Box, and Buffalo Battistoni Diesel as the only teams to win three NABF Major World Series.

Washington received MVP honors and Schuler was the Batting Champion. The Berea slugger went 6-for-13 in bracket play with one double, two home runs, and five RBIs, while Schuler batted .591 — 13-for-22  — with a double, a home run, and six RBIs. 

2023 NABF Major Division All Tournament Team

Tommy LaCongo Buffalo Diesel C
Steve Yellin Hackensack Troast C
Zac Johnson Berea Blue Sox 1B
Brandon Haynes Battle Creek Merchants 2B
Mickey Losey Battle Creek Merchants 3B
Mike Wagner Buffalo Diesel SS
Alex Johnson Berea Blue Sox OF
Lucas Spence Beecher Muskies OF
Darius Washington Berea Blue Sox OF
Mark Dye Beecher Muskies OF
Rich Guilled Hackensack Troast OF
Alex Najera Lombard Orioles OF
Matt Scolan Lombard Orioles OF
Jake Lycette Hattiesburg Black Sox UTIL
Jonathan Nola Berea Blue Sox UTIL
Cameron Kearney Beecher Muskies UITL
Caleb Thompson Lombard Orioles P
Bryce Shafer Beecher Muskies P
Colin Pytlak Buffalo Stingers P
Matt LaRocca Berea Blue Sox P
Zac Gould Lombard Orioles P
Chris Hahn Berea Blue Sox P