Monday, November 18, 2019

Irwin battles Pitas OG’s with elimination on the line

Mark your calendar for the finals August 21

by Than Acuff

We’re down to the nitty-gritty now, sports fans, as teams are dropping like flies while others are rising like, whatever the opposite of flies are.

Before we get started, I would like to bid a fond farewell to Wednesday league teams who have fallen. At least now you can have Wednesday evenings to go to music on the mountain. Meanwhile, a handful of other teams remain to battle it out for the coveted Wednesday league title, and the beauty of the post-season is that anything can happen.

Take last Wednesday night for example, as the Irwin Tuckers, the sixth seed, faced off against the number one seeded Pitas OG’s in the loser’s bracket. First of all, what was Pitas doing in the loser’s bracket? Well, they lost and were there to play Irwin and the game was a testament to what’s possible in the playoffs. Well, at least for four innings, when the possible turned into the maybe, then into the unlikely and eventually not at all possible.

The Irwin side was ramped up and raring to go despite the Herculean effort facing them. Seemingly unaware of the challenge, the Tuckers took to the field and erupted early and often to build a solid 10-3 lead.

The game started off as expected with the OG’s defense holding the Tuckers to just one base hit and then taking a 2-0 lead as Ben Hayes hustled for an infield single and then scored when Drew Stichter punched a two-run inside the park home run (ITPHR) showing that while he may have lost a kidney, he may have gained a step.

Like I said though, Irwin was unfazed by what was in front of them and came back in the top of the second inning with a mix of base hits and home runs. Phil Dujardin led off with a solo shot, Megan Craver and CJ Hoover each singled and Sonny Burgess cleared the bags with a three-run home run. Jack Morgan then stroked a triple to the fence that sent a Pitas outfielder actually running through the fence, Jacinda Lemons pushed Morgan home with a single and Paige Rumery finished it off with a RBI double to left for a 6-2 Irwin lead.

Hayes managed a Bobo solo shot but the Pitas bats were surprisingly silent and Irwin tacked on three more runs in the top of the fourth. Morgan and Kyle Pendleton each tapped base hits and Rumery scored one of them with a single and then motored home to score on a bloop “weird area” double by Dujardin. Craver then singled and scored on a single to center from Hoover and Irwin was up 10-3 midway through the fourth inning.

With the OG’s struggling at the plate and Irwin connecting, a couple of others and I believed that we were about to witness an upset and the continuation of a miracle run in the post-season by Irwin. They only lost by one to the Rent-A-Gades and had taken down the Rasta Hairnets so the energy was there. But, so were a gaggle of subs for Pitas OG’s and when Stichter turned to his bench heading into the bottom of the fourth inning, the game took a serious U-turn, as in an 11-hit, 10-run U-turn.

It all started with a lead-off single from Ari Grunert and carried on from there. Singles from Garrett McBride and Rayna Clark and a double by Pip Bailey knocked in two runs. Sydney Pracht followed with a two RBI squib single, Lindsey Garrett followed suit with a squib RBI single as well and Hayes struck once again with a three-run home run. Grunert pushed another home with a single and McBride capped it all off with a two-run blast that only counted for one run as they had reached the 10-run limit for a 13-10 Pitas’ lead.

Still, that was only a three-run lead but the energy had been drained from the Irwin engines and Pitas continued to pour it on. Bailey scored another OG with a triple and Mark Bortolin popped a two RBI soft-serve double to shallow right for a 16-10 Pitas lead.

Hoover did provide a little life for Irwin with a two-run home run but Stichter followed that in the bottom of the sixth inning with a solo shot. The Irwin defense did turn two huge outs as Rumery gunned down a runner stretching for second from right center and Craver pulled a big catch at second base but another bloop from Bortolin landed in the same “weird area” of shallow right for three more Pitas runs amidst Irwin’s defensive heroics.

Lemons did finish strong with a RBI for one last Irwin run but Pitas made sure that after losing to KBUT two weeks ago, they remained on route through the losers’ bracket to climb their way into the finals to face KBUT again. They will have to get through CB Extreme and the Rent-A-Gades first, though.

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