Avalanche stave off grind by Whetstoners

Getting down to the nitty-gritty

by Than Acuff

Teams are dropping like flies now in the Tuesday/Thursday league playoffs so lets take a minute to bid adieu to those we have lost.

Starting with the season long cellar dwellers Backcountry Cannabis Club (BCC). They struggled in their first season as a franchise but like “creeper weed” they came on strong in the playoffs including taking down KBUT 26-19 in the opening round of the post season and a 35-8 win over the Winehouse Monkeys before being eliminated. Suffice it to say BCC appeared to have found their magic but it was too little, too late. Hopefully it inspires them to return to the league next year to continue gaining ground.

The same could be said for Eleven. New to the league but with a handful of veteran players, they never reached maximum potential this season but if they stick together, pick up a few more players and return next season, they have middle of the pack written all over them.

The Monkeys, well they had a rough go all year long and were eliminated in back-to-back losses in the playoffs. The Hares, oh the Hares. The times I saw them they were on fire including one game where they scored over 30 runs at Pitsker field. But, they fell short of hopes and expectations in the playoffs and have been eliminated. Fortunately, they are stalwarts of the game and should be back again next year.

KBUT, possibly the most frustrating team to support as one game they appear destined for greatness and the next they’re a train wreck. Well, they went down in flames in the playoffs but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a moment to pledge your support to KBUT radio, 349-7444.

Then there’s the Talk of the Town. Anchored by the McGuire and Ervin families with a host of friends and barstool buddies joining them, they were off all season but will always be back for more next year.

Tuesday night Elevate and the Whetstoners were escorted into the off-season, sorry “shoulder season,” as Elevate fell to the Eldo and the Avalanche sent the Whetstoners packing.

Elevate has been a work in progress peaking this year to finish the regular season in fourth place with a title shot in their sights. I hate to see them go but they have become a legitimate force and should be back in the mix again next season.

The Whetstoners were at one point this year “the hottest team in softball” and had the Avalanche on their heels and in a panic as the game looked to be a grind Tuesday night at Tommy V Field with both teams facing elimination.

Pitchers Rich Driscoll and Mikey Weil were in charge through the first inning as their work had hitters off balance at the plate and swinging at junk while watching perfectly good pitches drop for strikes.

The Whetstoners rattled the cage in the top of the second inning as Chris Durante and Zach Matthias combined for a couple of base hits and a run, Lawson Yow’s screaming grounder squirted through for a RBI triple, Driscoll poked a RBI single up the middle and Michele Fitzgerald knocked a two RBI single to right for a 5-0 lead.

The Avalanche scratched its way back into the game as Weil led off with a double and Ben Reaman, Mike Montano, Maggie Chlipala and Slater Weil all drove in runs but things started to unravel for the Avalanche in the third inning and tension started creeping in.

The Whetstoners tacked on two more runs when an error toss turned into another triple and eventually a run thanks to a sac hit RBI by Liz Wigginton. Low connected for another RBI hit and the Whetstoners were playing loud and proud up 7-4.

The Avalanche hitters looked rushed in their next at bat and the Whetstoners added one more run in the top of the fourth as another error toss gave up a triple and eventually a RBI bloop single from Barb Winter for an 8-4 Whetstoners lead.

It was starting to look like a grind for the Avalanche and that’s just what the Whetstoners wanted as they rattled their cowbells and banged on the dugout fence. While it was still early in the game, there was energy on the field that had the game hanging in the balance for the Avalanche.

Fortunately, they settled their bats at the plate with Mikey leading off with another double up the middle. The big spark though came from Jodene Pahl. Pahl knocked a base hit into shallow left and upon seeing the outfielder fumble the ball, she sprinted to second waking up her teammates.

Ben followed with a big hustle infield RBI single and things really started clicking as the Avalanche knocked in a total of nine runs in the bottom of the fourth. While the base hitters did their jobs, the power hitters did theirs with Slater cracking a two RBI triple and Nolan Blunck connecting for a three-run inside the park home run and a 13-8 Avalanche lead.

But five runs is nothing at Tommy V especially when misjudged fly balls and bad tosses give up so many bases and eventually runs.

The Whetstoners mounted another brief attack started off with an error-assisted triple. Yow and Driscoll drove two runs in and more were on the way had it not been for Ralph Lundi who chased after a dribbling ground ball and scooped and tapped first base to close the inning.

But the grind continued as both teams’ bats settled down. Mike Montano drove in a run for the Avalanche and the Whetstoners scored two runs off hits from Wigginton and Matthias to keep it a two run game heading into the bottom of the sixth.

The Avalanche put on one more offensive push in the bottom of the sixth to get the Whetstoners off their back. Again, the lead off hitter got on base but it was the second batter, Gabi Prochaska (plastic bag ban starts September 1!) that provided the spark as Prochaska poked a RBI single igniting the Avalanche bench. Sam Reaman tried all game to pick the right field line with no success, until now, when he slapped an opposite field double to put two on for Blunck. Blunck continued his flawless night at the plate smacking a two RBI double, the Avalanche pushed another run home thanks to another clutch double from Pahl and then Ben cleared the bags crushing a three-run shot over the right field fence. Billy Watson came on to connect for a RBI double and the Avalanche was sitting on a comfortable 22-12 lead heading into the seventh and final inning.

It took all game long but the Avalanche defense did their job, and did it well, as Blunck made a diving grab in right center to rob a base hit and Sam did the same at shortstop to rob another as the Avalanche finished the Whetstoners off for good, keeping their hopes at a rematch with Pitas in the finals alive. They still have two games to go though as they have a doubleheader Thursday, August 9 when they play the Eldo at 5 p.m. and then, if they win, face the Brew Crew at 6:30 p.m.

Broadway the hard way.

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