SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The 2022 Arizona Fall League season ended much like the World Series, with players sporting “Astros” on their chests bursting into a title-winning frenzy on the Diamond.
The longest game in AFL postseason history (11 innings) ended when championship game MVP Scott Schreiber laced a walk-off single into the left centerfield gap for Surprise, swinging the pendulum of the ultimate swing affair in his favor. For the first time since 2013, the Saguaros took the Fall Circuit throne with a 7-6 win.
Surprise never led to the last swing in the final game of the domestic baseball campaign. Glendale kept the pressure up throughout, but the cohort of Astros, Phillies, Pirates, Rangers and Royals-Prospects kept clawing back, forcing the game to an 11th frame.
“I said it that inning, ‘I’m tired of answering the whole game. As we keep answering, we keep answering — knock them out,'” said surprise manager Mickey Storey. “And Scotty knocked her unconscious.”
Storey, the skipper of Houston’s Triple-A affiliate at Sugar Land, oversaw the third walk-off in AFL title game history that had a distinct Astros flavor. Third baseman Will Wagner, who split between high-A Asheville and double-A Corpus Christi in 2022 and then enjoyed a breakout fall league campaign (1,145 OPS), entered the frame with a run and flared a double that earned the opposing field joined competition for the fifth time. This set the stage for Schreiber’s exploits.
“I was like, ‘Do you want me to take it off, or are you going to take it off?'” Wagner said of a conversation he had with Schreiber. “Then I thought, ‘I’m hitting double here, you walk it away.'”
Think of Wagner as prescient.
“It was exhausting, but also exciting,” said Schreiber. “I mean, the pitchers did a great job of keeping us there in the game at the end. Of course it’s tough with a runner-up, but they limited it to one run and then we just managed to produce there to finish the game.”
Schreiber entered his 11th inning plate appearance 1-for-3 on the night with two walks. He had a chance to play hero at the end of the ninth but struck with a flourish and let it burn to end a difficult season on the right note.
“I was looking for off-speed,” said Schreiber. “I was looking for offspeed most of the game, especially with runners in goal position, and luckily I got one that I could do some damage with.”
Schreiber, a ninth-round pick from Houston in the 2018 University of Nebraska draft, took an arduous path to the desert. The 27-year-old, who was sidelined for the first four months of the season with back surgery, did not play until August and was limited to 23 games between the Florida Complex League and Double-A Corpus Christi during the regular season. A stint at the Saguaros offered the true golden ticket of opportunity.
Fast forward to Saturday night and Schreiber found himself cleaning up for the Saguaros after an impressive stint in the regular season in which he cut .340/.404/.540 in 14 contests. Surprise secured a bye straight into the championship game due to his 19-10 record; there was one game left – a true winner who takes it all.
The goal of all Fall League participants is to turn fall success into a call to the spring and summer show. That aspect stayed on Schreiber’s mind as he ended his year on the ultimate high note, but he still took time to savor the moment as he watched the ball find the grass on a brisk November night in Arizona.
“It was great,” Schreiber said with a big smile. “Just lots of emotions – mostly excitement – but just grateful that God has given me this opportunity to play in this league, show my skills and be with all these amazing players.”
“It’s exciting for Scotty,” Storey said. “On his last shot he hit and went back into the dugout frustrated, not liking the way his shot was going.
“Baseball is a great game – you get an opportunity, you fail; You get an opportunity, you fail; then you have the opportunity to capitalize and everyone forgets about the other.”