The M Street Softball league concluded play last week with two championship series coming to a close. The Feeney division (B) final between STATS and the Playwright lived up to expectations and went the full length with the STATS crew pulling out the series clinching win in game five. In the Lucas division (A) final, Shenannigans swept away the Southside Tavern in three uncompetitive games. Mark Preziosi and Jack Atton were named MVP's for the STATS while Nick French took home the honors for Shenannigans.
Feeney "B" Finals - STATS vs. the Playwright
Game 4: STATS 8 - Playwright 5
Facing a must win situation, Jack Atton allowed just three hits through the first six innings, then held on against a furious Playwright rally in the seventh, to give STATS an 8-5 victory, to force a winner-take-all game five.
After two quick outs in the top of the first, Playwright opened the scoring. Mike Comtois walked, Sean Morgan singled, Shane Knowles walked, and then Mike Broderick drove in his 7th run of the series with his bases-loaded walk. Atton left them loaded when he got Scott Tarentino to fly to right. That lone run wouldn't be near enough as STATS scored 5 times in the third inning. Bill Davis singled to lead off, Mark Preziosi doubled (he would end with two on the evening, bringing his series total thus far to a brutal seven extra-base hits), and Pat Donovan tripled to score Davis and Preziosi. A Matt Clifford single scored Donovan. After Playwright got the first out of the inning on a pop up, Mark Campbell doubles to put runners on second and third. Dave Nutter then hit one about as far as possible to left field without the ball leaving the park, driving in Clifford on the sacrifice fly. John Pels singled, bringing home Campbell. When the dust had cleared, STATS had batted around and taken the 5-1 lead.
Playwright recovered one of those runs in the 5th when Jack Rogers (OB% .615 for the series thus far) walked and scored three batters later on a fielder's choice. Again, STATS answered with more runs. Nutter, Pels and Blanchard scored via RBI singles by Blanchard and Davis to give STATS what looked like a very comfortable 8-2 lead after five complete. And, with Jack Atton working a 1-2-3 sixth, it appeared even more comfortable. But then Playwright woke up.
A rare error by Preziosi at short gave Playwright a runner. Mark Hindman singled and (yes) Rogers walked to load the bases with nobody out. After getting the first out on a pop to Preziosi, Atton surrendered a two-run single to Joe Broderick, making it 8-4. A long fly out to right moved Rogers to third and he scored on Mike Comtois's single to bring it to 8-5 (Comtois is sporting a hefty .688 OB% himself.) Sean Morgan then walked to load the bases and bring the go-ahead run to the plate in the person of Shane Knowles. Atton, however, reached down for his final good pitch and induced a fly from Knowles to end it.
Game 5: STATS 12 - Playwright 5
In a winner take all situation, Matt Clifford picked one hell of a dramatic time to hit his first home run of the year. With the bases loaded in the first inning, the right fielder parked one over the fence, igniting his bench and giving STATS a 4-0 lead in game five.
After that, STATS pitcher and co-MVP winner, Jack Atton (3 victories in the series), never relinquished the lead given him. He allowed eight hits and only two earned runs the rest of the way.
Playwright scored unearned runs in each of the first two innings. Mike Comtois (a possible MVP candidate, had Playwright gotten the victory) tripled with two out in the bottom of the first, subsequently scoring on an error. In the second, Modono tripled and scored on a throwing error. That shrank the lead to 4-2, but it was as close as Playwright would get in this one.
STATS exploded for five more runs in the third, with the big blow being struck by catcher Dave Nutter, a bases-loaded three-run double. After that, it was a matter of Atton holding the lead, which he did by working his way out of danger in the 4th and 5th, allowing runs in each but stranding five runners in those two frames. STATS added three more runs in the sixth for the final tally of 12-5, as Playwright did not score in their final two turns at the plate. The game ended, and the celebration began, when Atton got the final batter on a called third strike.
With Mrs. Preziosi in the stands to watch, her shortstop son, Mark, took MVP honors. His series was outstanding - five doubles, three home runs, seven RBI, nine runs scored, a team-leading batting average, highest on-base and slugging percentages, and spectacularly steady defense at shortstop.
Playwright had a fine season, and the series went the distance, so nothing to be ashamed of for them. But this was STATS night, right from the start. Congratulations to the 2014 - and first ever - Feeney Division Champions at M Street!
Lucas "A" Finals - Shenannigans vs. Southside Tavern
Game 1: Shennanigans 8 - Southside 1
Nick French dominated, giving up only four hits while striking out nine, to lead the defending champion Shenannigans to a game one win.
This one got out of hand early for Southside. Jim Innocent, taking the mound despite a couple of nagging injuries, was rocked for all eight runs in an inning and a third. Dan Brown drove in three, while Al Martin sent two home. Mike Hoadley, Bryan Erwin and Steve Stalcup had the other RBI.
With the score 8-0, a runner on second and still only one out, manager Brian Pacheco brought in veteran Jimmy McNiff to pitch. McNiff acquitted himself very well, not allowing the inherited runner to score and then pitching three more additional innings of shutout ball.
Pacheco himself relieved McNiff later and threw two hitless shutout innings. If Southside can take heart from the loss, it's in the fact that over the 5 2/3 of relief, Shenannigans mustered only three hits. However, there was no urgent need for them to hit more, what with a big lead and French racking up the outs, so the adrenaline may have been lowered.
Game 2: Shennanigans 8 - Southside 1
It was the same final score as game one but came with a slightly different route.
Joel Kershner started the game with a single for Southside and, with one out, advanced to second when Rob Rogers was hit by a Mike Hoadley pitch. However, that was the last runner they got as far as second base - and the last hit - until the sixth inning. They had chances to do some damage, with the leadoff man reaching via walk in the 2nd, 3rd and 5th, but Hoadley didn't allow anything else in those innings.
Meanwhile, Shenannigans slowly built a lead. In the bottom of the first, Nick French singled. Hoadley followed with a single of his own. After a 6-3 putout, the runners moved up to second and third, which forced Southside manager Brian Pacheco to intentionally walk Dan Brown. However, pitcher Jim McNiff was not pleased with the strategy and let his feelings be known. After things quieted down, McNiff walked Greg Trudell, giving Shenannigans a 1-0 lead. He then got the next two batters to end the inning.
In the second, Marty O'Malley drew a one-out walk. The late-arriving Steve Stalcup was sent in as a pinch runner for O'Malley. Nick French singled, some bad throws moved the runners further which allowed Hoadley to hit a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0.
The score stayed that way until the fifth when Dan Brown delivered a two-out run-scoring double to raise the lead to 4-0. Then Southside had its best chance of the evening in the top of the sixth. With one out, Rob Rogers lofted a high pop to short center field. Stalcup and second baseman Luis Colon converged on the ball with neither giving ground to the other and it bounced off a glove and hit the ground. Rogers alertly took second with nobody covering. The second out followed, but then Jim Innocent ripped one down the left field line to drive in Rogers and make it a 4-1. Hoadley walked Pat Wilson and Garrett Hauck to load the bases, bringing the possible go-ahead run to the plate in the person of Josh Neely. At that point, manager Dave Conti made a pitching change, bringing in French, who snuffed the rally by inducing a 4-3 grounder.
The game was put out of reach in the bottom of the inning. Four runs scored on five hits (aided a by some more ill-advised throws) and although Kershner (2 for 3) got his team's third hit in the seventh, Southside went quietly.
Shenannigans is poised to win their sixth consecutive championship and Southside faces the daunting task of taking three straight from the defending champs in order to stop that from happening.
Game 3: Shenannigans 11 - Southside 0
In a finale that left little doubt concerning the better team in the series, Shenannigans staked their claim as possibly the best team in M Street Softball League history, taking an unprecedented sixth consecutive championship with an 11-0 win.
This one was over early. Jim Innocent took the mound for the somewhat undermanned Southside squad (Charlie Conners, Josh Neely and Rob Rogers were missing.) Without his best control, "I-Man" surrendered five runs on three hits. The remaining runners came via a walk and three hit batsmen, as well as a questionable fielder's choice that could have resulted in at least one out, possibly two, but instead got none and allowed a run to score. After surrendering back-to-back home runs to start the second inning, Coach Brian Pacheco brought on Jimmy McNiff in relief. He got out of the inning without further run-scoring damage, but a 7-0 lead was already in hand for the champs.
Meanwhile, starter Mike Hoadley didn't allow a hit through those two innings. In a somewhat surprising move, Hoadley was replaced by Nick French to begin the third inning. French didn't miss a beat. The series MVP (two victories, a save, and a batting average of .800) struck out the first 5 batters he faced.
The perfect game was broken up on an E-6 by the normally defensively superb Steve Stalcup. That was followed by a sharp clean single to left by Pat Dolbeare, so no sweat for the official scorekeeper (Jim Sullivan)!
Shanny's added four more runs and Southside was unable to plate any, and that was that. Congratulations to the very well-deserving Shenannigans squad on their record-setting victory!
The victory and championship run surpasses that of the great L Street Tavern teams that dominated the M Street league during from 1990 to 1994. Paul Alessi, Jack Feeney, Paul Turner, Don Bolstad, and Ed Toland were just a few of the stars that suited up during that run for the L Streeters. I guess as they say in sports, all records are made to be broken.
With the softball season now complete and the start of another hockey season on the horizon, next week's article here in South Boston Today will focus on my experience attending Mitch Korn's (Washington Capitals) goaltending camp. It's a cant miss read for any hockey fan or aging athlete who vies to stay young and keep up with the competition. Until then, have a great week everyone!