By Joe Healy –
I had the pleasure for several seasons of coaching Kirhofer’s Sports when it was known as U.A.W. Local #145 in Aurora American Legion League baseball. I handed over the managerial reins to former player and current manager, Alex Varvarezos. There were a handful of other former UAW players who’ve assisted over the years in a coaching capacity. When UAW no longer sponsored a team after the 2017 season, Kirhofer’s Sports, a sponsor for nearly three decades, assumed sponsorship of the team.
Last year, UAW Local 145 ended its 60-year run in Legion League with a 15-6 record and came within a hair of playing in its sixth championship game in 10 seasons. Having assumed its new look and new name, Kirhofer’s Sports returned with a core group of UAW players from the past two seasons (and a crop of talented, new players) to win its fourth consecutive division championship and first league championship under Varvarezos.
Kirhofer’s Sports won the championship this year with three playoff victories in three games. The culmination was a 5-0 victory over New Life Mechanical Friday at Solfisburg Park. Kirhofer’s Sports sent New Life to the loser’s bracket with a 10-3 victory in the first playoff game, then defeated A-Z Tax, 8-7.
Jacob Pavey’s pitching was essential. Pavey’s pitching was important in the final game. He struck out nine New Life batters and allowed only three hits.
For the season, Pavey secured the 2018 Joe Bernard Memorial Most Valuable Player Award by going undefeated as a pitcher and struck out 113 batters in 60 innings with a 1.79 earned run average.
Kirhofer’s Sports’ regular season highlight was a tense, divisional battle with New Life. Toward season’s end. Kirhofer’s won the first head-to-head game with an extra-innings walk-off, then won 9-6 two days later to secure the division championship.
Kirhofer’s faced New Life in its first playoff game and won behind a stellar outing from Pavey and offensively thanks to Michael Holstine and Anthony Martinez, who reached base three times apiece.
Advancing to the semifinals, Kirhofer’s faced A-Z Tax Services, yet another inter-divisional adversary and familiar UAW rival. The two teams played an intense, 4.5 innings of baseball before weather delayed its conclusion.
Rudy Elizondo allowed one earned run in five innings while striking out seven batters; however, Kirhofer’s found itself trailing, 3-1 once play was suspended.
Restarted two days later, Kirhofer’s scored six runs in the fifth inning to take a 7-3 lead. A-Z responded with four the following inning to tie the score. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Kirhofer’s catcher Johnny Acevedo singled, stole second, and scored on a Diego Avila base-hit to take a one-run lead. A-Z loaded the bases with one out in the top of the seventh inning, but pitcher Ian Mooney forced a line-out to Elizondo at shortstop who threw to first base to double off the runner for a heart-stopping, semifinal game victory.
With the championship on the line, Kirhofer’s battled rival New Life for the fourth and final time. Pavey returned to the mound and capped off his season with a complete-game, 5-0 shutout. Offensively, RBIs by Jorge Soto and Jordan McGath-Tanner provided ample support.
The 2018 all-stars, Holstine, Martinez, Jorge Soto, and Johnny Acevedo will say goodbye to Legion League. Joining them are Roman Hopp, team’s Most Improved Player; Ian Mooney, every-day first baseman; and Collin Litzelmann, two-time all-star, who meant as much to UAW/Kirhofer’s success over the past three seasons as anyone.
All-stars Elizondo and Jordan McGath-Tanner, along with Diego Avila, Erick Linares, Charlie Lopez, Fabyan Cardenas, Patrick Holstine, and Frank Aquino, contributed significantly in Kirhofer’s victories and will play key roles in defending the championship next year.
Former UAW players Loukas Varvarezos and Michael Ferjak returned as coaches and through tremendous time, effort, and dedication were helpful.
By Joe Healy –