Hares inflict mercy rule, seriously
The Gray Hares, stalwarts of softball, average age somewhere in the 60s, appear to get better with time. Here’s a team that didn’t win a single game last year. In fact, they’re good for about one or two wins a year. Despite that, they continue to play each and every year and show up en masse for every game.
It’s not that they suck— they don’t. In fact, they play some of the smartest softball of any team in both leagues.
This year, their only win came from a forfeit. That is, until last week when they shocked the softball world, beating the Couch Petitos 15-5.
7-5 would have been a surprise; 15-5 was a shock.
So it was time to see what all the fuss was about and catch them in “action” against KBUT on Tuesday, July 21 at Gothic Field.
Now I heard that I “should have been” at the Gas Holes/Crackers game at Pitsker Field that same evening but in the end my decision proved sound, as I got a chance to witness a historic moment in local softball. Much like the Gray Hares had probably witnessed the historic lunar landing, which, ironically, happened 40 years ago almost to the day.
In the top of the first inning, the Gray Hares rattled off 10 runs, forcing the umpire to enforce the mercy rule and end their at-bat.
Never in the team’s history has that happened. Nor will it, probably, ever happen again.
Nevertheless, there it was.
It was hit-and-run ball at its best, with a little error assistance.
Don Bunnell kick-started the rally with a RBI single to center. Diane Metcalf and Mickey Cooper connected for RBI base hits. Returning Town Council member Margot Levy tapped a power bunt single, as did Lucy Hecker, building a 5-0 lead with no outs.
Sam Lumb and Jen Hartman joined in with base hit RBIs as well. In fact, the Gray Hares were so hot that when Cooper stroked his second base hit of the inning, Bunnell was waved home rounding third and beat the toss, capping the 10-run assault.
KBUT player Andrew Hadley summed up the top half of the first inning best as the team wandered to their bench.
“I feel like I woke up in the wrong house, in the wrong bed with the wrong woman,” said Hadley.
But there was a lot of softball left and KBUT managed to remedy their situation over the course of the next three innings.
The women got on base and the men cleared them off. Shannon Dunlap singled and scored when Hadley connected for a two-run inside-the-park home run (ITPHR).
Alyssa Sahlstrom and Liz Brower also singled and then scored when Carson Hoff punched a three-run ITPHR through the gap in left center cutting the Hares lead in half.
The famed KBUT defense, second in the league in fewest runs allowed, recovered from their first inning debacle to hold the Hares scoreless for the next three innings, anchored by stellar play from Kelly Jensen at shortstop.
Meanwhile, they continued to chip away at the Hares’ lead, scoring a couple of runs each at-bat.
Dunlap pushed two more KBUT runs in with a two-RBI double and KBUT pulled to within two runs by the bottom of the third inning.
This is where the genius of the Hares shone through, or at least almost. KBUT hitter Jaime Walton stepped to the plate with two outs, a runner on second base. Since KBUT was missing a woman, the next at-bat would have been an automatic out. With that in mind, Lumb decided he would intentionally walk Walton, forcing KBUT to take the automatic out and end the inning without giving up a run.
Walton saw otherwise. After watching the first pitch sail wide landing near the on deck circle, he chased the second pitch across the plate and drove it to centerfield to score a run before he was tossed out at third, cutting the Hares’ lead down to one.
It was a great idea from Lumb, but in the end brute force won over brains.
After blowing a 10-run lead, most teams would implode. But the Gray Hares were hot coming off the win last week and a 10-run inning and were determined to, perhaps, put together a two-game winning streak.
Cooper and Levy led off the top of the fourth with back-to-back singles and Rich Crawford drove Cooper in on a base hit to left.
Another base hit then loaded the bases for Dave Clement, and Clement delivered dropping a single in shallow center.
The old Hares would have scored just one run off the hit but the new and improved Hares waved Hecker home from second base and she scored to pull the Hares ahead 13-9.
KBUT responded to take their first lead of the game scoring five runs highlighted by a two-RBI single from Sahlstrom.
Levy tied the game 14-14 with a RBI single in the top of the fifth, but KBUT scored two more in the bottom of the inning to take a 16-14 lead into the sixth inning. Clement connected again with an opposite field RBI single and the Gray Hares defense held to stay within one run heading into the top of the seventh.
But just like Tom Watson at the British Open, the Gray Hares folded in the waning moments of the game as the KBUT defense retired the side to save the 16-15 win.