It’s going off in rec league, and so is El Niño
by Than Acuff
The sun is back, hallelujah and amen. And, I was just listening to NPR, compliments of KBUT, and in an interview with some guy from some meteorological society, El Niño (Spanish for the Niño) is strong right now, Pacific Ocean temperatures are up and can (i.e., might) result in a wet winter for the United States.
Can I get a witness!
Speaking of KBUT, my plan was to cover KBUT this week and use the opportunity to pump up and support the upcoming pledge drive. But, rainouts screwed everything up so instead we will dedicate this week’s slowpitch coverage to the ascent of the Whetstoners and the improvement of Elevate.
But before I even go there, the rec league is collectively coming out of its shell with all kinds of things happening all over the league. Talk of the shortstop on a particular team not really caring about runners in the way and nailing them with throws, the Avalanche beat the Eldo bringing its winning streak to six games, the Hares are falling apart at the seams (Let’s go Hares!) and the Whetstoners are doing what they do best, surging at the end of the season.
They continued their late-season surge Tuesday night at Pitsker Field when they edged out a 7-5 win over Elevate.
Elevate is new to the league this year and they’re not that good, but they’re getting better. Last week they got whacked in the rain. This week they made a game of it.
Things started out as they always seem to for Elevate. The Whetstoners held them scoreless in the top of the first, including turning a double play. The Whetstoners then stepped to the plate in the bottom of the first to rattle off four runs, assisted by some Elevate confusion.
Michelle Fitzgerald and Alex Mattes-Ritz led off with singles and scored on a base hit by Barb Winter. Two more singles loaded the bases and while Elevate pitcher Jesse LaFountaine pulled down a line drive, his double play attempt went awry and the Whetstoners tacked on two more runs.
The Elevate defense tightened up though as LaFountaine and CJ Hoover both turned grounders into outs to stop the bleeding.
Both defenses ramped up through the second inning as the Whetstoners held Elevate scoreless once again and Claire Bartholomew anchored a stout defensive stand by Elevate.
Elevate broke onto the scoreboard in the top of the third inning as Hoover doubled and scored on a single up the middle.
Unfortunately for Elevate, defensive chaos struck them again in the bottom of the third inning. Mattes-Ritz knocked a grounder up the middle that turned from a routine single into a two-run inside the park home run as Elevate played hot potato, and the Whetstoner third base coach Kyle Ryan just kept waving the runners through.
Fortunately for Elevate, they’re accustomed to those miscues, don’t get caught up in the mayhem, and are able to shake it off and keep playing. That mentality played out well in the top of the fifth as they found their bats to score three runs. Hoover opened the rally with a single, John Vanderhoefven pushed one run home with a fielder’s choice RBI and Bartholomew crushed a two-RBI single to center.
Chuck McKenrick then entered the game for the Whetstoners and made an instant impact, doubling and then scoring on a hit by Jamie Salter. But the Elevate defense managed to clamp down once again to keep the game well within reach.
Hoover looked to spark a seventh inning rally, stretching for a double to lead off and reach third, eventually scoring on a single by LaFountaine to pull Elevate to within two. But Mattes-Ritz chased down a fly ball in shallow center to quash any and all hopes of an Elevate rally and secure the 7-5 win, extending the Whetstoner winning streak to three games and holding their spot at the top of the rec league standings.