VERO BEACH, Fla. — The Chicago White Sox RBI program had its cake, and ate it too, during Saturday’s junior and senior division championship games of the 2022 RBI World Series.
The junior division Sox (5-1) defeated the reigning champion Atlanta Braves RBI (3-2) by a 7-4 margin in the first championship contest, while the Sox’s senior division (5-0) defeated Paterson (NJ) RBI ( 3-2) by a score of 18-5 via mercy rule, securing the White Sox RBI program its fourth World Series title in the past six years.
The junior Sox and Braves took a tight 2-1 contest into the fifth inning, where both teams traded blows.
After Moises Vazquez roped a single over the Braves shortstop and Sir Jamison Jones launched a double to straightaway center field, designated hitter Angel Castro drew a walk on eight pitches to load the bases with no outs.
Up stepped first baseman Jimmy Downs, who had been moved to the cleanup spot for the championship game.
“I had to pull him aside and tell him that, ‘Hey, you’re my guy. I’ve been putting you in my fourth spot. I know you’ve been sixth, but I have confidence in you. Go up there and show me,’” junior White Sox RBI head coach Jovan Martin said. “And he did. He came through big for us.”
Downs promptly sent a three-run triple back up the middle to center field, giving the Sox a 4-2 lead with his monster hit.
“I went up there with a mindset of ‘I’m that guy, and I’m going to go up there and clear the bases for my team,’” Downs said. “I took a first-pitch strike. I didn’t like it. The next pitch I got, I smoked it over the center fielder’s head for a triple. That felt good.”
In the bottom half of the inning, it was the Braves’ Bruce Wyche who made the most of the spotlight, launching a two-run shot over the left-field fence to tie the game.
It was one of just a few blemishes on the day for Chicago’s starting pitcher Aaron Scott, who pitched into the seventh inning and fell just two outs shy of a complete game.
Though Scott’s fastball was working throughout the afternoon, it was a different pitch that kept Braves hitters off balance.
“My fastball was pretty good, but my changeup — I was getting rollovers, off the end, cappers,” Scott said. “It hasn’t really been as good as it was today. Just perfect spin on it, working all day.”
If Downs’ bases-clearing hit was a big blow in the fifth, Lance Moon delivered the knockout punch in the sixth, driving in two go-ahead runs with a single to left field past a diving infielder.
The White Sox then plated a seventh run, and there was no looking back.
Though Moon gave credit to Scott for the morning’s performance, it was the right-fielder that was deservedly named the game’s MVP Award recipient.
“It means a lot,” Moon said. “I put a lot of work in this year to get to where I am. The job’s still not done, though. Even though I won this MVP, I’ve still got to get back to work, keep grinding, keep being humble — because I want to win more of these.”
In contrast to the junior division final, the senior division championship saw Chicago open the flood gates in the first inning, en route to a mercy-rule win after four innings of play.
Nearly batting around the order twice, Chicago’s senior RBI team plated 11 runs, highlighted by speed on the basepaths in addition to a cascade of hits.
That first inning, which featured an RBI single by Aydin Wright and a two-run single by Kyree Alexander, was capped off by a two-run double by Sean Moore, marking his second hit of the inning.
Moore, who tallied a third hit before the game drew to a close, ended the tournament with a perfect batting average, lending him a number of team nicknames.
“We’ve been calling him the Hall of Famer,” senior White Sox RBI head coach Marcus Rodgers said. “Mr. Perfect. Sean has been our leader, and that’s just a testament to the kid. Every time I see him, he’s a little bit better.”
Paterson RBI attempted a game of catchup after the early deficit, plating three runs in the top of the third to build on a two-run first inning.
The gap, though, proved too significant to overcome, and the White Sox put the finishing touches on their victory.
Hoisting the MVP trophy after the abridged contest, Moore wore a big smile and acknowledged that the big moment hadn’t yet fully set in.
“It’s been amazing,” he said. “It still hasn’t hit me yet, but it feels really good.”