Week Eleven - It's Playoff Time
We have a very interesting situation, regarding playoffs, that will be resolved in a very interesting way. Three teams have tied for the final two playoffs spots. This upcoming Wednesday (which is the first day following the end of the regular season schedule) there will be a round robin between those three teams to determine which two get in and which one goes home.
The format should make it fun for all who attend and guarantee all three teams a very fair shot. Games will be "mini games" of four innings each and the first two teams to win two games are in the playoffs. The first game will be VMT vs. Super Tours, at 6:00, with STATS playing the loser of that contest.
Here's exactly how it will work: The winner of the first game will sit out and await the result of the second game. Winner of that second game will play winner of the first game, with each of those teams already having one win. So, the winner of that game (number three) will be in the playoffs. The fourth game will pit the remaining two teams against each other and could result in one team advancing or it could lead to a fifth and final game that will definitely send one team home. Each team is guaranteed at least 8 innings but could possibly play 12 or 16 (or more, if any extra inning games happen.)
We hope some of you will come down to watch. It will be especially interesting to the seventh and eighth seeds since they will be facing the two winners in the first round of the "one-and-done" series, likely beginning the day after these games (making for an endurance test for somebody!) Hope to see you there! Here are the recaps.
Monday was a night of upsets. Local 149 came into their game against Banshee with only three losses, but that's not how they left the field. Drew Atton ran his record to 4 - 0 as Banshee took down Local 149 via a 12 - 4 score. Young Drew also took over the league lead in ERA from his Dad and teammate, Jack Atton. Both of them sit one-two atop the pitching leaders, a mighty impressive feat for a father-son combo. The Attons are a combined 7 - 2 since joining Banshee (Banshee is 0 - 5 otherwise). Leading the way offensively was Ryan Sweeney, with a home run and four driven in, while Ryan Stoler went 4-for-4 from the leadoff position. Next upset came immediately afterward as The Kekambas, who could have made a big leap toward one of the bye positions, didn't take advantage of Local 149's loss in the opener. Instead, they were pounded by a team fighting for their very playoff lives. STATS guaranteed themselves at least a play-in playoff situation with a 24 - 9 win over the greensleeves, who were uncharacteristically porous on defense. Matt Restivo drove in five for STATS. His teammate, Tim Higgins, did him one better, driving in six (and Higgins also homered.) STATS now needed to await the result of VMT - Super Tours on Wednesday to find out if they were in the playoffs or would have to participate in a play-in scenario. The question entering the 9:00 game was whether or not Handdukies could complete a trilogy of underdog victories on this evening. The answer was no. Lincoln Tavern led start to finish in a 17 - 11 affair highlighted by both the pitching and hitting of Ryan Caswell. Cas went 5-for-5 and put two out of the park (creeping within one of Harp's Jason Clucas in the home run race) and he also had five strikeouts as winning pitcher. That's a pretty good night's work!
Tuesday opened with not quite so good a game for Caswell and his teammates. In a battle of top teams, Harp & Bard came from behind to take an 11 - 6 decision from Lincoln Tavern. Marshall Chick had a home run and three RBI, while Jimmy Botting had two doubles (moving him within one of league leader Leo Evriviades of Lincoln, who had one.) Robby Costello pitched a nice game, giving up only three earned and holding the power-packed Lincoln line-up to one extra-base hit, the aforementioned double by Evriviades. The second game was a damn good one, as an undermanned (and winless) Dorset Club team, playing with nine players, took the first-place (and undefeated) Loco Pirates to the limit. As they have been doing in many recent games, Dorset jumped to an early lead, going up 3 - 0 after two complete. The Pirates asserted themselves in the third, scoring six, but Dorset fought back for two in the bottom of the fourth to pull to within a 6 - 5 score. After a scoreless fifth inning for both squads, the boys in yellow and black once again tried to put distance between themselves and the pesky boys in blue. Loco scored six more to take a 12 - 5 lead and it was perfectly reasonable to expect that Dorset might get disheartened. Nope. They climbed right back into it again, with the first seven batters reaching and five of them scoring, making it 12 - 10, Pirates. That was as far as it got, though, as Adam Rivitussi was erased at third base for the first out of the inning and two subsequent attempts by Dorset to score another runner from third were unsuccessful. The Pirates scored another five runs in the top of the seventh as Dorset fell apart defensively (after a one-out single, two flies to the outfield were straight out dropped and Loco stepped on Dorset's throat.) After a very valiant effort, Dorset went quietly in the bottom of the seventh. All credit to them for a very entertaining contest, especially to Chris "Tish" Lisek, the unfortunate losing pitcher, who went 4-for-5 with a home run and drove in six. For the Pirates, Patrick Irvine had a home run and drove in five, while Charlie Conners and Josh Neely had three RBI each. Finally, the 9:00 game did not happen. Master Blasters got themselves tossed from the league via their second consecutive forfeit, giving Magix Box a win that clinched second place. That kind of pussying out at the end of a rough season makes me admire a team such as Dorset even more. At least they always show up with enough guys and give it their best shot.
Wednesday began with Village Pizza hurting their chances for one of the byes. They dropped a 14 - 10 decision to Playwright. Joe Broderick went 4-for-4 and drove in three, while teammate Mike Mercier also drove in three via a fifth inning home run. VMT and Super Tours then met to determine if VMT and STATS would be in the playoffs or if all three teams would have to fight it out one more day. If you read the introduction, you know the answer. Super Tours forced the three-way round robin via an 11 - 3 victory. They led all the way and VMT never seriously threatened. Eric Frost drove in five for Tours, including three on a bases-loaded first inning triple. The four scored, total, in that first inning were all pitcher Joey Kalil needed. Kalil gave up just two hits through the first four innings, walked nobody for the game, and was in control throughout. The last game of the day was another win for the Attons. It was Drew again, going to 5 - 0 and holding onto his league lead in ERA (and, perhaps more importantly, getting enough innings to qualify for the playoffs.) His teammates on Banshee piled it on in the first inning against a Dorset team that played porous defense, scoring 14 in the frame. If it was a boxing match, the ref would have stopped it for a TKO. You have to go five in this league, though, and the final score was 21 - 5. The Mullan brothers, Dan and Matt, combined for three home runs and 7 RBI.
Dorset closed out a winless season on Thursday via a 19 - 6 loss at the hands of Elevated Realty. Once again, though, I want to commend Dorset on always showing up and always giving their good shot every game. They have a decent nucleus of a team if they could get their best ten on the field at any given point, which they rarely did this season. Kevin Greene (who had two home runs in this loss) and Taylor Ferguson (injured, DNP) are both very much the real deal; Mike Hughes never stops hustling - and usually takes home half the dirt around first base on his uniform; Chris "Tish" Lisek is a good bat and would be a serviceable pitcher with a bit more defense behind him; 51-year-old "Fast" Freddie Goodman still gets on base at a .500 clip; and coach Wes Lisek should be commended for his work in always getting a team to the field (which isn't easy when you're piling up the losses, as some guys with inflated opinions of their worth will usually quit on you.) Kudos to all from Dorset who stuck with Wes, and here's hoping I see you next year. For Elevated, who clinched a first-round bye with the victory, Jeff White, Bret Belcastro and Cody Carlson homered, with Carlson going 4-for-4 and driving in seven (Yeah, I know - Elevated Realty won the damn game and I only gave them ONE sentence, but they'll get more ink come the playoffs. If I didn't say something nice about Dorset now, when could I?) The middle game again saw Village Pizza continuing to fade, starting the game with only eight players and falling to the Kekambas, 16 - 11. The greensleeves were paced by Kevin Lee, who was perfect from the leadoff spot, including a home run; Will Kiriazidis (home run, 3 RBI); and Andrew Moynihan (2 HR, 5 RBI).
The last game of the week was expected to be a better contest than it was. Local 149 continued giving other teams a chance to grab a bye they were almost certain of before this week's contests, losing a laugher to the still-undefeated Loco Pirates, 14 - 1. Two stories in this one: Chris "Killer" Kowalski, who powered two bombs out of the park and had six runs batted in, and emergency starter Wally Preble, who absolutely baffled 149 all night. Brian "Cheeks" Pacheco was scheduled to get the start, but failure of another Pirate to show up forced Cheeks to take a fielding position and Preble to toe the rubber. And Wally was magnificent, scattering six hits and striking out two while walking none. His defense was sharp, also, as Greg Bosse patrolled the outfield with both speed and grace, while Steve Stalcup didn't give anyone reason to think he wasn't still the best shortstop in the league. Stalcup's partner on the left side, 3B Pat "Dub" Wilson also flashed some nice leather (a final inning error that didn't hurt anything notwithstanding.) As for Local 149, they can still grab the fifth seed but will have to win out (a doubleheader on Monday and another game on Tuesday) to do so. Something less and the possibility exists for them to fall all the way to eleven.
News & Notes from around the league
In case anyone is wondering why I praised Dorset Club so much, it's because I once coached a team at M Street that almost went winless. I never had one that didn't win at least one game, but I did have one that ONLY won one game. And that team only won one game because some of my better players quit or were poached by other teams. The only way a team gets better is if good players stay and you can build around them, so I very much respect the good players on Dorset who took their lumps but remained loyal… And here is as good a place as any to say "thank you" to all of the coaches. It's a labor of love to coach a team, often it's a job with lots of headaches and little reward, but without them willing to do the dirty work, this league doesn't exist… I love it when Elevated Realty has the early game. They always go up to the stands afterward and get lubed. Then they provide loud (and hilarious) commentary on the later games. You can rest assured you'll have a very vocal audience if you play after them. If you get caught in a rundown, which seems to be their favorite situation, their yells of "Pickle!" will still be echoing in your ears when you go to sleep that night. It's not all catcalls and jeers; they'll applaud if you do something good, so bring your "A" game… My other favorite group of players, when they're not playing, are the guys from The Spot. They're probably the most "local" of the teams, as a whole, so many nights will find a few of them at the park just to enjoy the games, even if they're not playing that night. Good bunch of guys…
Games are played 6:00, 7:30 and 9:00, Monday through Thursday. Hope to see you at the park!
Jim Sullivan is an opinion writer for the Boston Herald and sportswriter for multiple GateHouse Media publications. He is also the official league scorekeeper. You can check out a sample of his sports reporting at Carver Softball