Game 7: Fabulously Fun & Freaky Finale|
Team looks to put their best foot forward in the regular season finale
By Andrew Wolan / WRCS
Game date: August 9, 2010
Misha on first after beating the throw for a single. (Wolan)
Today’s game against Milestones marks the end of the regular season for Verdasys. It also marks the end of what has been a difficult and frustrating season, undoubtedly the worst in club history. But today, the team will cast that dark cloud aside as they put their best foot forward and prepare for the 2010 playoffs. And unlike past games, both teams report a full complement of players for game day. It should be a good game for once, so let’s play ball!
Making their début with Verdasys Softball are Jenna and Justine. Both players have past playing experience and will be looking to make a big impact in their inaugural game with the team. In fact, their presence alone helped the team prevent a forfeit by ensuring the team had a full complement of players.
Making a surprise appearance for the first time this season is former team co-captain Nicole Kelly. Known for her enthusiasm for the game, Nicole is perhaps best remembered for making players run laps around the field if they mistakenly called her “Kelly”. Today’s game will be her first start since the final game of the 2009 regular season.
To help keep Nicole’s return a secret, the team used a code name of “Mike Ditka’s Wife” when referring to her. As to why this particular code name was selected, it had to do with team’s need for a stern leader while Coach Wolan was away on travel. It also had to do with the Coach’s fascination with “Mike Ditka” being named the 2009 tournament champion.
Verdasys was looking to take an early lead but they would collide with a sharp M’s defense. Top of one with one down and Shelby on first base, Colby smacked a line-drive between first and second. But as luck would have it, an M’s fielder was there to snag the hit for the out. Since Shelby was running on contact, he was caught in no-man’s land between first and second after the play. His misfortune allowed the fielder to toss the ball to first for the easy inning ending double play.
“There is little Shelby could have done” commented Coach Wolan. “It was such a quick play that by the time he realized what had happened, it was too late. It was one of those hits that typically finds its way into the outfield unless a fielder is in position to make a play.”
Shelby and the rest of the Verdasys defense would not have to wait long to return the favor. With a runner on first, an M’s batter hit a hard line drive to third, but Shelby was there to snag the ball and record the out. The next batter hit a fly ball in center field, but Elliott was there to record the out. With runners on the corners, the M’s were denied any runs as A-WOL caught a fly ball at short to end the inning.
Though the M’s were held to a scoreless inning, it would be the last time that they would go down so quietly.
Geese Bombing Run
Top of two, Ryan Grimard got the inning going with a lead-off double into right field. Next up was A-WOL who connected for an RBI double, scoring Grimard.
At this point, the game paused for a few moments as a local flock of geese put on an air show for the fans. They flew over the field in a “V” formation, about 40 feet off the ground, flying from behind home plate over towards center field. One goose showed his appreciation for A-WOL’s hit by dropping a turd bomb about 5 feet away from where A-WOL was standing near second base.
“Dam you stupid goose!” shouted a displeased A-WOL.
A-WOL would advance and score following back-to-back singles by Justine and Lijun. Justine too would advance and then score following back to back fielder’s choices by Jenna and Misha, giving Verdasys an early 3-0 lead.
The M’s Rally
The bottom of the second inning will go down as one that is best forgotten. The Verdasys defense would crumble, and the M’s would take advantage of numerous fielding misplays to rally. When the smoke had cleared, 12 runs had crossed the plate to give the M’s a commanding 12-3 lead.
So what happened? “There were many things that went wrong for us” said Coach Wolan. “For starters, we had trouble converting infield grounders into force outs, whether it be fielding the ball or catching a tossed ball for a force out. What should have been easy outs became free outs for the M’s. We also had trouble catching fly balls, which contributed to the problem.”
“In addition, some of the M’s were making soft hits that dribbled between home and the pitcher. We did not have a fielder covering home plate who could also make a play on these types of hits. This inability gave the M’s even more free outs.”
“And if that weren’t bad enough, we had no answer to the lefty that could smack the ball into right field. We tried a shift, but the hitter kept hitting it into the gap. This allowed the M’s to cash-in on fertile scoring opportunities.”
Even the Coach had trouble fielding the ball as a pop-up near short bounced out of his glove and behind him. Fortunately, Nicole was standing behind him and was able to catch the ricochet for the out.
After a long defensive inning, the team was looking to catch some rest in the top of the 3rd inning. Unfortunately, the team was unable to start anything offensively and went down in 1-2-3 order. “Well that was a quick break” commented Nicole.
The M’s would capitalize on Verdasys’ situation and rally once again for 7 more runs to break the game wide open and take a 19-3 lead after 3.
Lijun’s Moments in the Spotlight
Top of four, Ryan Grimard got what would be an adventurous inning started by hitting a lead-off double.
He would advance to third on a hit that A-WOL managed to stretch into a double.
With runners on 2nd and 3rd, Justine stepped-up and hit a grounder to the right side of the field, enough to advance the runners for a SAC and to drive in Grimard. Lijun followed with his own grounder to the right side of the infield as well. Miraculously, he was able to beat the play at first to score an infield hit. While that was happening, A-WOL made a dash to home plate and slid in to score. Nicole was not impressed.
“Hey, this is Lijun’s moment in the spotlight. Now get up, dust yourself off and march into the dugout.”
“Yes ma’am” said an embarrassed A-WOL. (Editorial comment from fan club: I need some advice from Nicole on how to tame A-WOL!)
Justine followed in these festivities with a single. This put runners on first and second for Misha, who hit a line-drive near third base. The third baseman was there to snag the line drive for the out. As the fielder basked in the lime-light of a great catch, Lijun quickly and quietly advanced to third. The fielders had thought Lijun left second prematurely and thus tried to get the force out second. In reality, Lijun had left second base after the catch had been made. With the M’s caught off guard and confused, Lijun would quietly tiptoe home for the score.
Nicole would contribute to the fun with a single, her first since Game 5 of the 2009 season. But that would be the end of it as Elliott ended the inning with a fly ball to leftfield. 19-6 after 4 and a half.
Fourth Inning Fixes
Prior to the start of the inning, Misha told the coach, "I'm not catching well. You should put someone else on 1st." After giving up two large rallies, it was clear the team needed to reshuffle their fielders.
And so, a shuffling of the infield was made: Shelby was moved from third to first base. Lijun was moved from catcher to third base, a position he has played a few times in the past. As for Misha, he was moved from first to home plate. Since this was a position that Misha had never played before, Coach Wolan tried to quickly coach Misha on how to play the position. After Misha became confused with the Coach’s instructions, Nicole stepped in and simplified the directions into one line: "Just stand on the plate and tag the person before they touch it."
The reshuffling worked as the M’s were limited to two runs in the fourth, thus ending the hemorrhaging of runs allowed by the defense. This performance was highlighted with a great running catch by Nicole of a ball hit into shallow center field. The play was so impressive that Nicole overlooked a retreating base runner who could have been doubled-up on at first after the catch.
The Verdasys offense would not be able to capitalize on the situation in their half of the fifth. Despite a one-out double by Colby, it would get spoiled as both Grimard and A-WOL flied-out to right and left fields, respectively, to end Verdasys’ half of the inning. But their defense would step-up once again and limit the M’s to a single run. This run limitation was achieved thanks in part to some solid defensive stops by A-WOL at short. On two occasions, A-WOL was able to dive at a ball that was hit to his extreme right to stop the ball from exiting the infield. This prevented the hitter from obtaining extra bases. On one of those stops, A-WOL would connect with Colby at second for the force-out.
The M’s Rally Again
Top of six, Verdasys would be held scoreless once again, despite a “comrade power” base hit by Misha to try and spur some excitement. In the bottom half of the inning, the M’s would take advantage of a fatigued Verdasys defense to score 6 runs, making it a 28-6 lead after six. But despite this rally, Verdasys had an answer to the power-hitting right-hander.
When this player came to bat, the Verdasys team played a heavy shift to right field, with Elliott covering right field, Justine covering the line, and Grimard covering left and center fields. In the infield, A-WOL relocated behind first and second base, with Lijun covering the hole between third and second and Justine in shallow center field. In the batter’s last at-bat, he hit a blooper to A-WOL in shallow right field for the easy out. The play would have been a total success had A-WOL not called Colby “Nicole” by mistake prior to the play.
With the Verdasys team down 28-6 and down to their final at-bats, the team would need to overcome a 22-run deficit if they had hopes of a come-back. Coach Wolan reminded the team of a 21-run rally his team once had in the 2004 season. “Hey, it happened once. It could happen again.”
With one down Colby got the inning going with an awkward infield triple; after hitting an infield grounder, Colby was able to beat the play at first after the ball got past the first baseman. Realizing what had happened, Colby knew that she could go for extra bases: she pushed the first baseman to the side and proceeded to second. She would later take third after the first baseman mis-threw the ball to second.
Next at bat was Grimard, who connected with a fly-ball into right field, deep enough to drive in Colby for the SAC RBI.
With two down, it was now A-WOL’s turn at bat. Not willing to let the game end so easily, he connected with a line-drive base hit into shallow center field and hustled his way to second for a double. The double was his third of the game, which was also a single game extra base hit career high.
With A-WOL running on contact, Justine would drive him home by sneaking a hit through the infield, well enough for her second RBI of the game. A-WOL would celebrate the score by jumping on the fence behind home plate.
Also not willing to end the game just yet, Lijun followed with a karate chop swing to net a single, his third hit of the game and a single game career high. But that would be it for the team as Jenna grounded out to end the game.
And so, despite a season marked by forfeit, the Verdasys Softball team ended the regular season by playing admirably, losing to the M’s 28-8.
Post Game Reaction
On hand for post-game reaction were Coach Wolan and former team co-captain Nicole Kelly. Wolan started the press conference with a post-game analysis.
“Given the situation, I think we played a decent game. Our defense had some good innings and struggled in others. That’s expected in a season where we did not get a chance to build any consistency. Our offense struggled but some of our players like Lijun and our new players Jenna and Justine stepped up and help produce some runs. The batting line-up could have been better, as the top of the line-up only had 3 total hits, but there wasn’t much I could do. Base running-wise, our players took advantage of the situations they were dealt, so I have no complaints in that regard. Overall, given our situation I think we had a decent game and I am thankful that we did not end the season with another forfeit.”
Grimard had a good game in the outfield, despite the lack of action photos. (Wolan)
(Q) What are your thoughts about how the team’s defense played in today’s game?
(Wolan) The team obviously had some trouble fielding early on. We adapted as best as we could to limit Milestones. The shuffling of fielders in the fourth obviously helped.
(Q) What are your thoughts about the team's problems trying to catch the ball?
(Wolan) For whatever reason, we had trouble catching the ball. Misha had problems at first. A-WOL had a missed ball or two. Even Elliott had some trouble catching the ball. I mean, when Elliott is having trouble making catches then you know something’s up. Oddly enough, I don’t think Ryan had much trouble catching the ball.
(Q) The M’s made several hits that were short or near the plate. Your comments?
(Wolan) Those types of hits are not intentional, but they happen. The M’s got lucky and had several of them in one game. Those types of hits can be difficult to field. Had we had Bergstein available, I would have placed him at home since he is able to make plays on those types of hits. It’s a shame he was out due to injury, because we could have used him.
(Q) Nicole, do you have comments that you would like to make?
(Nicole) Yes, ‘I heart Verdasys Softball 4 EVAH’.
(Q) I love softball.
(Wolan) We’re glad to hear that
(Q) The team is in the playoffs for 2010. Are you going to do a Coach Mora impersonation if we ask you about the playoffs?
(Wolan) Ah, Coach Mora impersonation? Why would I do a Coach Mora impersonation? Are you kidding me, a Coach Mora impersonation?
(Q) A-WOL appeared to have injured himself diving after a ball. Is he ok? Will he play in Delaware tomorrow?
(Wolan) Sometime in the fifth inning, A-WOL dove at a ground ball to his right. He missed the ball and did a tumble roll. During that roll he tried to stop abruptly by stomping his feet on the ground as he came around. I guess he stomped too hard, hurting his back. He shook it off and will be good for go tomorrow.
After the game, A-WOL took the corporate jet to Delaware to play in a 356er's playoff game the next day.
A-WOL: 3 for 4 (3-28) with an RBI and 3 runs scored.
Lijun: 3 for 4 with 3 RBIs and a run scored.
Justine: 2 to 3 (SAC) with 2 RBIs and a run scored.
Colby: 2 to 4 (2B, 3B) with a run scored. Becomes first female player in club history to hit a triple.
Memorable defensive plays:
Shelby: line-drive snag at 3B. (1st)
Nicole: catch of a pop-up that defected out of A-WOL’s glove. (2nd)
A-WOL: diving stop of a grounder followed by a 6-4 force out. (5th)
Grimard: multiple fly outs without a drop.
Today's game was A-WOL's 100th career game. (Fitting for the game to be played against a team named “Milestones”.)
3 for 4 (3-28) with an RBI and 3 runs scored. Single game extra base hit career high.
- On one move to right, I stopped ball, but it also hit my shoe. Ball was stopped and I was able to make close play at first.
- Another time I made a diving stop of a ball and threw it to 1B or 2B. No idea what end result was. I might have had no play, but was a cool looking stop.
- Yet another time, I made a diving stop of a ball and threw it to Colby at 2B for the out.
- Made two moves to my left at SS, but ball went under glove.
- Made a few throws to first base that were not caught.
- Nicole caught a ball behind me at SS after it got deflected off the top of my glove.
Game Photos |
Stats from the Game |
Andy Wolan is a reporter and photographer for Verdasys Softball. This story was not subject to the approval of the league or its clubs.