1988 World Series Champions
On August 15, 1988 the Everett Merchants, representing the Western International League, stunned the semi-pro baseball world by coming out of nowhere to win the National Baseball Congress taking the title from the Midlothian White Sox 14-11 on Troy Rusk’s dramatic three-run, 12th-inning home run.
What makes the championship even more special was that the team was not filled with many top prospects. A few players from the championship would go on to play professional baseball but not a single player from that 1988 team made the major leagues. Rusk was the closest as he made it to Triple A.
“We weren’t a great baseball team,” said Head Coach Harold Pyatte. “It was the charisma of this team and the chemistry that made us successful. We were down in this tournament a lot, but these guys kept playing and kept coming back.”
After falling behind 6-0 in the first inning, the Merchants slowly chipped away and led 8-7 going into the ninth inning. But they could not hold the lead as David Wong gave up a two-run home run with two outs to give Midlothian a 9-8 lead.
But the Merchants were not finished. Shortstop Scott Carpenter singled to open the bottom of the ninth and would score when “O” Sobottka doubled down the right field line with two outs to send the game to extra-innings.
The score would stay the same until the 12th inning when Midlothian would take a 11-9 lead, before Rusk’s dramatic home run to left field off of Dave White.
“I hit an outside fastball,” said Rusk. “I hit it pretty good. It probably would have had a chance to go out, even if there wasn’t any wind. We just knew we were going to win this game.”
Chris Lobaugh, who replaced Wong in the 12th inning after Midlothian had scored twice in the inning, picked up the victory.
Merchants started the tournament with a 10-3 victory over the Seguin SMI Steelers on August 6 and followed that up with victories against the San Diego Stars (9-5 on August 7), the Grand Rapids C&N Travelers (11-2 on August 10) and Midlothian (15-5 on August 11).
After a loss to the Clarinda A’s (8-1) on August 12th the team headed into the quarterfinals where they defeated the Cape Girardeau Capahas 7-6 and then defeated the Kenai Peninsula Oilers 11-6 to advance to the finals to take on Midlothian for the second time in the tournament.
Dave Wong was named the most valuable player in the tournament after picking up four victories. His 30 innings pitched, and 38 strikeouts led the tournament. O’ Sobottka received the Bauldie Moschetti Award (Most Inspirational) after hitting five home runs and driving in 13 runs. Troy Rusk led the tournament with a .500 batting average and also led the tournament in extra base hits (four doubles, a triple and three home runs).
Wong (pitcher), Rusk (Catcher), Carpenter (shortstop), Sobottka (Outfielder) and Coach Pyatte were all named to the tournament’s All-American Team.