K-W-R-L pitcher Derek Kropp baffled Denver City, Texas, hitters for seven innings; he was perfect through 6 2/3.
But his biggest moment may have come as K-W-R-L took the field in the top of the eighth on Sunday evening at David Story Field locked in a 0-0 tie with the Southwest Region runner-ups.
Kropp calmly walked out to skipper Dave Chicks and told them his arm was fatiguing. He was leaving pitches up in the zone, and somebody else should finish this must-win game.
“(Chicks) made it clear he wants us to tell him when we’re done,” Kropp explained. “Not only for our health, but this team is a family. To let your family down and be selfish isn’t OK. It’s not OK to say ‘I can do another’ when you can’t. We’ve been stressing that the whole year. It’s a team effort.”
Irving Alvarez came in, battled through the top of the eighth — allowing Denver City’s first hit — and gave K-W-R-L another chance at a walk-off. Alex Wood drew a walk to open the inning, Landon Krausse sacrifice bunted him to second and Irving Alvarez was intentionally walked to set the stage for Cade Reitzenstein.
‘Cheeto’, as his teammates call him, floated one just out of reach of the second baseman — the ball cascading off his fingertips at full extension. It was enough to score Wood, who dodged the tag of the catcher and crossed home plate with a roar to give K-W-R-L the 1-0 win.
“I don’t know what to say. I’m overwhelmed with joy,” Chicks said. “I’m so proud of these guys. And to do it in a World Series: A no-hitter, one pitch shy of a perfect game…
“And for Derek Kropp to come out and say ‘Chico, I can’t do it. Bring in Irving to close it out.’ That is called selfless. If you look up the world selfless in the dictionary, Derek Kropp’s name is the first one on there.”
It keeps the Pacific Northwest Region champs alive, as they move to 1-2 and face Longview at 7 p.m. Monday.
For a team that prides itself on “family”, Sunday was everything the ballclub embodies. The postgame festivities were rightly focused on the team win.
But Kropp’s no-hit performance will go down as one of the greatest performances at the Babe Ruth 13-15 World Series. Kropp is smaller in stature, he doesn’t overpower hitters. Instead, he uses his control of his pitches and the strike zone. His fastball never missed a spot. His offspeed stuff threw hitters into a whirlspin.
It was masterful.
“He spots the ball well; he’s got good movement of his changeup and curveball,” Chicks said. “(Former Mariners pitcher) Jamie Moyer couldn’t break a window but he could spot the ball well. Derek Kropp spots the ball very well.”
This wasn’t lost on Kropp at all. He admits he started thinking about the perfect game in the sixth inning. His jaw dropped when his 3-2 fastball in the seventh was just a sliver outside.
“It’s one of those things you try not to think about too much,” Kropp said. “Went out there, tried to keep pounding the zone. As soon as I walked him I knew. (Catcher) Aidan (Hundt) came out and told me ‘I blew it.’ He made me laugh and get over it, and we got out of the inning.”
He somehow didn’t walk away with a win. His team did, though. And that’s all he cares about.
“It’s amazing especially on this stage,” Kropp said. “I’ll remember it forever.”