Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Meatsticks shut down Monkeys’ comeback bid

Opening game ends in extra innings blowout

by Than Acuff

You really couldn’t ask for much more out of the opening game to the 2017 slowpitch softball season. First of all, it was at Pitsker Field with Crested Butte Mountain, Paradise Divide and Mt. Emmons as the backdrop in a variety of directions. Jakki sang the National Anthem as the two teams lined each base line with hats over their hearts. Forty-year veteran (and still going) of the local leagues, Jim Schmidt, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Drew Stichter had a PA playing tunes and a grill going.

And then there was the game. The game had everything. There was a comeback, a blow-out, extra innings, pitcher struggles, a diving catch, an inside the park home run (ITPHR), a traditional home run, walks, strike outs, base path confusion, a couple of disputed calls, a couple of overturned calls, some errors, the infernal racket of children, open consumption, dogs at-large, a woman on one team named Boomer, and the local police stopping by, not to write tickets, but just to say hi.

While the pomp and circumstance set a nice tone for the game, it took a while for the game to get going. Granted, the Meatsticks jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning, paced by RBI base hits from Rhett Yarbrough, Jess Johnson, Thomas McLean and Jessica Thomas. And while I credit the hot bats of the Meatsticks, it wasn’t without some fielding assistance from the Winehouse Monkeys.

The Monkeys came back swinging with Vince Scola, Jessica Taylor leading off with back-to-back singles and Joe Knight driving a run in with a sac fly RBI but the Monkeys soon cooled off as the Meatsticks slowly, oh so slowly, built an 8-1 lead over four innings.

Phil Escue stretched a routine single for an ITPHR and Jessica Thomas cracked a RBI base hit down the right field line for a 6-1 Meatsticks lead. Some crafty base running by Roland Mason, a hit from Sooner “Boomer” McKay and a walk helped the Meatsticks to an 8-1 lead by the bottom of the sixth and it looked like we were in for a snoozer of an Opening Day game.

Then things got good, real good, as the Monkeys stopped playing around and started playing. Knight doubled and scored on a double to centerfield by Pete Basile. Jimmy Hensley stretched a routine single into an error-assisted three-RBI triple and Shirley Considine cracked a RBI single to pull the Monkeys back to within two runs.

Feeling the heat, the Meatsticks woke back up. Jess Johnson led off with a single and scored on a double up the middle from Bryan Densmore (related to Doors drummer John Densmore?). Scott Sanders rolled up to the game fresh off his job at the Alpineer to pop up a sac fly RBI—and the Meatsticks had a four-run lead heading into the bottom of the seventh inning.

But the Monkeys weren’t done. Andy Richmond kicked the Monkeys’ next rally off with an ITPHR. The next two hitters chose to walk rather than swing and Knight rapped another RBI double to pull the Monkeys back within two. Terann Wight, never afraid to swing, looked off a bunch of junk to walk and load the bases for Basile.

With their lead in jeopardy and their pitcher struggling, the Meatsticks brought Cody “I’m too” Sexe in for the save but there was nothing stopping the Monkeys. Sexe did what he is supposed to do as a pitcher, threw a strike, and Basile jumped on Sexe’s meat (that’s disgusting) to drive the ball to right field and tie the game with a two-out, two-RBI single. The next Monkey hitter struck out, though, sending the game into extra innings.

Thanks to the modern era of rule changes, extra innings is softball on speed. The team at bat starts with a runner on second and every hitter steps to the plate with a full count. Talk about pressure. Well, sort of—I mean we’re still talking about local slowpitch softball. But, still, there’s some pressure.

And said pressure got to the Monkey pitcher who will remain nameless simply because I am that nice of a guy. Let’s just say his name starts with a V and rhymes with since.

At any rate. The pitcher known as “Since” struggled to find the plate with his one and only pitch, walking five out of the first six Meatstick batters, with the one lone hitter connecting for a two-RBI single, and allowing four runs. After his sixth walk, Since pulled himself from the game and Tony Wildman was brought back in to stop the bleeding. Ice cold from sitting since the fourth inning, Wildman walked the first batter he faced to allow two more runs. Shelby Newberry stepped up to take a swing, driving in another Meatstick with a single and then Sanders closed it out with a three-run, single-wall bat, home run over left field (Go Terps) for a 20-10 Meatsticks lead.

In the interest of expediency, and mercy, the umpires enforced the 10-run rule (which, remarkably, Wildman disputed, despite the fact that it was his team getting pummeled). But enough was enough as the Meatsticks retired the side in the bottom of the eighth for the 20-10 win.

See what I mean? The game had everything.

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