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Tuesday, August 30, 2005 | The final week of the Surf Dawgs’ season would be an uncharacteristic one for the team. In the final homestand of the 2005 season, the Dawgs played host to the Arizona Division leading Mesa Miners. The opening game of the series resulted in a 5-0 loss for the Dawgs, their third shutout of the season. Rickey Henderson hit two doubles but was stranded on second base both times. The Dawgs only needed one more win to claim the California Division and were hoping to do it before the home crowd. The second game of the series felt like that opportunity, with the Dawgs leading into the ninth inning, thanks in part to a home run by Seth Pietsch in the second inning. Two errors in the ninth inning opened the door for Mesa to take the lead and win the game 4-3.

The home finale also provided a chance to thank the families that hosted the players and the fans who supported them. Unfortunately, a win for the Dawgs wasn’t in the cards, losing their fourth straight game 2-3. “We got back into an offensive funk,” said manager Terry Kennedy. “The middle of the line up is not picking up the guys on base. We’re not getting that big hit. (Mesa’s) pitching staff is no slouches, it’s just that we’re off at the plate for now.”

Winning the division would have to happen on the road as the Dawgs traveled to Surprise, Ariz. for a three-day, four-game series against the Fightin’ Falcons. The Dawgs came out strong in the first game of the series. Rickey Henderson went 3-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs and Cody Clark hit in four runs in the 12-3 victory, winning the California Division. “I think the guys were pressing,” said Kennedy. “They’re trying too hard to get it over with. I got the same eight guys playing every day so they’re a little tired, but I told them they can sleep when they’re dead!”

With the division title and a place in the playoffs, the Dawgs found focus elusive in the series doubleheader, dropping both games (2-4 in the first, 1-2 in the second). The Dawgs ended the season on a high note, winning the season finale 7-6, finishing with a 52-38 record – the best in the Golden Baseball League.

The Golden Baseball League’s Championships (Sept. 2-4 at Blair Field in Long Beach, Calif.) will be a double elimination style tournament. The Dawgs go in as favorites, with the league’s best record, but high expectations don’t score runs. “You have a bad day and you’re in the hole right away,” said outfielder Scott Goodman. “In the playoffs, you have to play every game like it’s the World Series. But we’ll be ready to play.”

Of course, Goodman’s nerves of steel will come in handy after the tournament as well, with his wedding following shortly after the end of the season. “I won’t lie to you,” quips Goodman. “I can handle the playoffs, but the wedding …”

Having played in three World Series, Henderson might be a candidate for auto pilot going into these playoffs. But, regardless of the league, the veteran knows that the championship title is the reason for playing. “That’s what I strive for the most – the playoffs, the championships,” says Henderson. “It’s what makes you a ballplayer. That’s when the test is on and the pressure’s on. Can you live up to that challenge? I think I’ve had success in that challenge because it gives the momentum, it’s time to give everything you’ve got, bare down and try not to make any mistakes.”

The Surf Dawgs begin play for the Golden Baseball League’s inaugural championship Sept. 2 at Blair Field in Long Beach. The Dawgs will have games Sept. 2-4. To listen to the games and for ticket information, visit http://sandiegosurfdawgs.com or call (619) 282-4487.

Tami Rapozo is a San Diego native who has written for several local publications. In 2001, she wrote Keepers of the Faith, a book on the San Diego Padres and their booster club, the Madres.

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