Isotopes open softball season with revenge over Black Holes

Al Gore, Kurt Vonnegut and Jim Schmidt

Jim “Deli” Schmidt was honored for his 32 years of consecutive play/managing in local softball leagues as he threw out the opening pitch of the 2009 softball season. He is one of three current players, the other two being Jerry Heal and Mickey Cooper, that I know of whose careers in local softball started in the ’70s and continue today.
Schmidt got his start back in 1977 playing fast-pitch softball on the Bear Mountain Bongers before switching to the Chumps and racking up several softball titles. Back then, the Chumps were awarded with a pitcher of beer for every run scored, capped off at the end of the evening with a pitcher of kamikazes.
He’s seen players come and go, players with names like Face and Suitcase, and seen teams come and go with names like the One-Eyed Trouser Snakes.
Just as Schmidt is a constant on the field, so to is fall-like weather on opening day of softball season.
It’s nothing new to be cloudy and chilly on opening day of the softball season. Ahhhh, spring. Or is it summer? Or did we hit a time warp and fast-forward to October? Quick—someone alert Al Gore.
So it goes.
This year’s opening game in the competitive league between the Isotopes and the Black Holes on Monday, June 1 at Pitsker Field had some history to it.
Last year, the seventh-seeded Black Holes eliminated the top seeded Isotopes from the playoffs with a stunning 10-9 extra-innings upset.
Mention of that fateful day was made so the two teams were aware of the ramifications of this rematch 10 months in the making.
Black Holes player/manager Wild Bill Thompson was unsure of his team’s ability prior to the game, having lost a couple key players from the line-up and replacing them with a couple of unknowns.
Meanwhile, the bench of the Isotopes admitted to blowing off any attempts at pre-season workouts, planning instead to use the regular season as their warm-up.
Despite the pre-game modesty from both squads, the game proved to be a midseason-style barnburner (though I have to admit I rarely think of softball games as “barn-burners”).
Nevertheless, this one was pretty damn good.
Both teams searched for their timing at the plate, making contact without much result as their defenses appeared fundamentally sound through the first two innings.
The left side of the Isotopes infield proved stout with Mark Fontenot on third and Marc Schellhorn at shortstop, while Kyle Anderson provided a human highlight reel, playing shortstop for the Black Holes.
The Black Holes broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the second inning as Thatcher Mills drove a two-run RBI double into the netting in centerfield. Mind you, that was hit with a single wall bat—a bat, that according to the aforementioned Heal, was constructed in China out of old PBR cans. Talk about recycling. Here’s a league that puts down the PBRs like nobody’s business now, swinging bats made out of PBR cans. Again, quick—someone alert Al Gore.
Tisha McElroy tapped a RBI single to right field for a 3-0 Black Holes lead heading into the third inning.
With their timing at the plate established, the Isotopes hitters started finding the gaps in the tight Pitsker outfield. Off-season Isotopes acquisition Charlie Gano led off with a triple to deep centerfield and Scott Isensee pushed him home with a sacrifice RBI.
The Isotopes defense held the Black Holes scoreless through the third and fourth innings, including a 5-3 double play by Fontenot, and their offense came around in the top of the fifth, scoring three runs.
Schellhorn and Carrie Moore, aka the Moorehorn Connection, lived up to their billing as both hitters stroked back-to-back doubles to open the three-run rally. Isensee added an RBI-bloop single and John Mardesich pushed the ‘Topes on top 4-3 with an RBI double.
The Black Holes returned the favor with a two-out, four-run rally in the bottom of the fifth inning.
McElroy snuck home on a double turned triple by Anderson, Crista Ryan poked a RBI base hit and league rookie Meredith McNamara connected for her third base hit of the game with a two RBI single up the middle giving the Holes a 7-4 lead with two innings to play.
The Isotopes crawled their way back on RBI base hits from Cole Stanford and Schellhorn in the top of the sixth inning and then took an 8-7 lead in the top of the seventh on clutch two-out hits from Mardesich and Fontenot.
The Black Holes threatened a repeat of last year with runners in scoring position and one out, but Gano reeled in a line drive to center and fired to second for the double play to preserve the 8-7 Isotopes win.

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