B'nai B'rith Completes Undefeated Season With Finals Sweep
Completing an unprecedented 22-win, zero-loss season, B'nai B'rith swept Larchmont Temple in the Finals to earn the 2017 WHSL Championship. B'nai's march to posterity is the exclamation point on a sustained run of excellence: This team has won the most regular-season games in the league every year since 2013. B'nai's streak should be celebrated for the team's remarkably consistent roster. Week to week, no team lines up the same way as often as B'nai. That breeds a cohesiveness which boosts their inherent talent and produces enviable results.
Game One remained scoreless through five innings despite a steady rain that ratcheted up the difficulty of pitching and playing defense. The goose eggs came as no surprise for B'nai. Their pitcher, Dan Forrester, had produced back-to-back shutouts in the semifinals. Larchmont's pitcher, Russ Ellis, admirably matched those zeroes as long as he could. In the fifth inning, though, Murray Goldfarb led off (as he does) with an Ichiro-like slap in the hole between third and short. Following a Forrester walk, Jeremy Cohen singled in the first run of the game. Steve Bluth singled to load the bases. Dan Wurtzel worked an RBI walk and Brian Fern singled to score the inning's third run.
Three runs seemed like a huge lead considering B'nai had allowed just one run -- total -- in four playoff games. B'nai was not done scoring. The next inning, RBI singles by Forrester and Cohen, plus a run-scoring error, doubled B'nai's lead to 6-0 after six. Larchmont finally got on the board in the top of the seventh inning. Josh Gotthelf had his team's first clutch hit, plating two after one run was already in on a B'nai misplay. Ross Prussin drove home another later that inning. Larchmont's offensive breakthrough in the seventh proved that B'nai could allow runs, but it also marked the last scoring of Game One: B'nai 6, Larchmont 4.
Game Two looked like it might be over early. B'nai was the visiting team for the second game, and they started hitting immediately. Goldfarb, Forrester, Cohen, Bluth and Wurtzel hit consecutive singles. B'nai led 2-0 and had the bases loaded and nobody out. Ellis stopped the bleeding by coaxing a line drive to shallow center, a pop-out to shortstop and a groundout to third. Nobody likes to be losing before coming to bat. Still, the 2-0 deficit felt like a moral victory considering how much worse it could have been. It did get worse for Larchmont in the third inning. Bluth doubled, Fern singled him home, and Lee Goldstein doubled to drive home another run. B'nai led 4-0 through three innings.
Larchmont began their comeback in the bottom of the fourth. Gotthelf hit another RBI single. Brian Levine hit a sacrifice fly. Mickey Glauber also singled to cut B'nai's lead to 4-3. The next inning, Larchmont took a 6-4 lead on singles by Rob Gaynor, Ellis and Ed Curry, along with an Eric Jacobs walk. That lead was short-lived. B'nai tied the game back up in the top of the sixth, with Cohen and Bluth again tormenting Larchmont with run-scoring hits. Both teams were punchy at that point, four hours into the doubleheader. Larchmont scored on an error in their half of the sixth inning to take a 7-6 lead. When both pitchers threw a shutout seventh, Larchmont needed just six outs to send the series to a tie-breaking game the next week.
But B'nai's top of the order proved too much for Larchmont -- almost in déjà vu fashion. In the top of the eighth inning, Goldfarb and Forrester again led off with singles. Cohen again drove in a run, this one on a sacrifice fly, to tie the game at seven. After Wurtzel walked again, Fern lined another hit into the outfield to give B'nai the 8-7 lead it would not relinquish.
With all respect to B'nai's hitting, scoring 14 runs against a strong Larchmont team, credit is due to B'nai's defense, particularly Michael Koenig and Lee Goldstein. Koenig made three full-out diving catches in left field to steal extra bases from Larchmont hitters over the course of the first game alone, then another couple of strong plays in Game Two. Goldstein played a nearly flawless first base, scooping errant throws off a slippery turf. The difference between a playoff team and a champion in the WHSL often comes down to defense. Koenig and Goldstein were difference-makers for B'nai.
Twenty-two in a row. To win the last four of those games against the 2016 and 2015 WHSL champions makes the streak even more impressive. It's hard to picture a more dominant season than the one we just witnessed.