The post-season is here, the time when it really counts. The Secret Stash entered the playoffs on a four-game winning streak and opened the post-season with a big 25-7 upset over the Lobar.
To say they were hot would be an understatement.
The Rent-A-Gades are a pre-post-season (wait, pre-post?) favorite, coming in as the number two seed. Yet, they dropped their final regular season game to the aforementioned Stash so a shot at redemption was there for the taking when the two teams met Monday night at Gothic Field.
Given all of that—the playoffs, a hot streak and a shot at redemption—one would think the two teams would put on a showcase of some sort, particularly an offensive one.
But, one tends to be wrong.
The first five innings were a showcase, just not offensive. It was more a defensive battle, a pitchers’ duel or just poor hitting, tough to say, I’m just a “sports hack,” as John Mardesich once pointed out.
Nevertheless, what the game lacked in offense for the first five innings, it made up for in the final two innings.
No slight to the pitchers, either. Both Stash slinger Tony Wildman and Rent-A-Gades hurler Jerry Heal do have some subtle sorcery on the rubber.
And both teams do possess some deft defense.
The first three Stash batters all swung at the first pitch in the top of the first with no success, leaving the Rent-A-Gades a chance to do some early damage.
Jeff Banford set the stage with a lead-off double but back-to-back pop flies left him standing there until Heather Duryea connected for a RBI single up the middle and a 1-0 Rent-A-Gades lead.
The following three innings both teams stepped up, swung and sat down without scoring a single run. Heal fanned two of three Stash hitters in the top of the third inning and Wildman pulled in a scorching belt-high line drive to quash the Rent-A-Gades in the bottom of the third.
Rent-A-Gade Josh Schumacher led off the bottom of the fourth inning crushing a solo shot to straightaway centerfield for a 2-0 Rent lead. Heather Duryea followed with an error-assisted infield single and once again the door opened for a Rent-A-Gade outburst but the Stash defense clamped down to retire the next three batters.
The Stash gave a glimpse of their late season heroics in the top of the fifth putting together a two-out rally to score three runs and take the lead.
Ed Dujardin led off with a triple and scored on a sac hit RBI by Briana Wiles. Katie “Katred” Schmidt cracked a double and scored off a base hit by Mike Pruett and Rather Hosch and Mike Neustedter connected for a couple more base hits to give the Stash a 3-2 lead.
The deficit woke up the Rent-A-Gades offense as they responded to rattle off three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Andrew Butterfield swatted a double and shuffled home on a double by Leah Fischer. Jeff Banford took a walk (walk’s a run) to put two on and both scored when a line drive to center by Peace Wheeler was bobbled, allowing both runners to sprint home to retake the lead 5-3.
The Stash bats fell silent once again in the top of the sixth and the Rent-A-Gades took the opportunity to tack on two more runs.
Heal led off with a walk (again, walk’s a run) and scored off a sac fly RBI by Andrea Schumacher. Butterfield doubled to push home another run, building a 7-3 Rent-A-Gades lead heading into the seventh inning.
Pruett looked to spark a Stash comeback in the top of the seventh inning, leading off with a single. Hosch followed Pruett with a single that squirted through the infield and Pruett stretched for third but Banford charged in on the loose ball scooped it up and fired to Butterfield at third for the tag to deny Pruett the extra bag.
Neustedter kept the Stash hopes alive stroking a double to put two on with one out. Sarah Fruendt drove one run home with a sac hit RBI and veteran baller John Polzin came in to pinch hit and earned his keep with a RBI single to pull the Stash within two.
Terrann Wight hoped to capitalize on the Stash surge, driving the ball to centerfield but Wheeler read it perfectly and charged in to make the grab sealing the 7-5 Rent-A-Gades win.
The loss sends the Stash into the losers bracket to battle its way back into title contention, while the Rent-A-Gades move on to the semis of the winners bracket.