Likkers hand Gas Holes their first loss of the softball season

Three teams now with just one loss

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It doesn’t get much better than slow pitch softball in July with the sun shining bright and a slight evening breeze blowing in.

Tuesday night was a classic from start to finish as the second-place Mountain Spirits Likkers faced the first-placed Gas Holes, the only undefeated team in rec league play, at a freshly groomed and near flawless Pitsker Field, thanks to the efforts of the Crested Butte Parks and Recreation crew.
Word of the showcase showdown reached me on Monday, and while this week was initially dedicated to comp league coverage, the magnitude of this game required that the Sports Barrel step it up for a week of double coverage.
“Double up,” as veteran KBUT DJ Lonesome Bob Brazell says.
And in the end it was well worth the effort. (I know what you’re thinking—what “effort” could it possibly take to sit in the sunny stands at Pitsker Field and “cover” another softball game. Honestly, not much, but I am happy to “step it up” anyway.)
Things were lining up for the Likkers prior to the game with the Spring Creek Landscaping fan base in the house, Aaron Tomcak slipping on his lucky socks and Jason Fries finding time in his child-dominated schedule to show up and pitch.
The Gas Holes had their pre-game mojo working as well, with pitcher John Hopper getting in some practice tosses on the mound and Ian Baird and Judd Mesaris discussing the finer points of proper field care.
Fries led off for the Likkers in the top of the first inning with his patented placement-before-power swing that dropped a double in the gap. Lisa Slagle followed with a RBI single to center, but impatience at the plate soon plagued the Likkers hitters as Hopper tossed up some of his LA fog to retire the next three in a row.
The Gas Holes offense sputtered through the bottom of the first inning yet still managed two runs. After Likkers catcher Jesse Ebner chased down a pop foul to send lead-off hitter Mark Robbins packing and Amy Williams grounded out to Fries, Mesaris and Keitha Kostyk each singled and Tyler Williams drove them both home on a line drive double to left and a 2-1 lead.
The Likkers came charging back in the top of the second, loading the bases on singles from Lissy Anderson and Gavin Sollberger and a walk. Tomcak pushed one runner home with a single and Fries popped a sac fly RBI to score another run.
Slagle then stepped to the plate with two on and two out and delivered with a bloop single turned two RBI triple as crafty Likkers base running confused the Gas Holes defense, putting the Likkers back on top 5-2.
Jim Harlan doubled to put a runner in scoring position with one out but Likkers’ second base woman Brooke Moor took center stage diving for a grounder, rolling and flipping a backhand toss to first. First basewoman Kelly Rasmussen stretched for the quick flip to beat the runner by a hair, capping an unbelievable play and causing one Likkers’ fan to comment, “That was some hot girl-on-girl action.”
The Gas Holes scored during the “action” but Matt Roettger chased down a foul pop to end the inning and preserve the slim Likkers lead.
Gail Barto and Mesaris offered up some defensive highlights for the Gas Holes in the top of the third inning as Barto reeled in a fly ball to the gap in center field and Mesaris snagged a line drive down the third base line.
Sollberger and Rasmussen each connected for hits to push one more Likkers run across and the Moor continued her highlight reel at second base.
After scooping a grounder and sprinting to first for the tap-out, Moor pulled down a line drive from Mesaris to hold the Gas Holes scoreless in the bottom of the third.
The Gas Holes defense returned the favor retiring the side in the top of the fourth and threatened to take the game back in the bottom of the fourth.
Notorious for opposite field hitting and aggressive base running, the Gas Holes can wreck their opponent in one half of an inning. The bottom of the fourth looked to be just that, as a couple of Likkers’ errors left the bases loaded with one out.
A sac fly RBI scored one Gas Holes run but Sollberger read a fly ball perfectly to make the grab in right center and shut off the Gas Holes before they could get started.
Moor and Anderson added two more insurance runs to the Likkers’ lead in the top of the fifth inning, but an 8-4 lead is nothing to rest on, especially against the Gas Holes.
The Gas Holes threatened again in the bottom of the fifth inning, scoring two more runs, but the Likkers defense did what it had to do to hold the Gas Holes off, thanks again to the effort of Moor and Fries on defense.
Dave Ebner drove in one last run for the Likkers on a single up the middle to build a tenuous 9-6 lead in the top of the sixth inning and then gunned a runner down at second from deep in left to catch him stretching for two bases on a routine single in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The Gas Holes defense, specifically Mesaris, kept the game well within reach in the top of the seventh inning as Mesaris charged on two ground balls to third base to turn two of the three outs and left the game open for a Gas Holes comeback in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Chris Spagnoletti looked to spark the comeback, slapping a double down the left field line and scoring on a single from Amy Williams. CJ Meyer pulled in a couple routine fly balls and Tomcak made a stretching grab at shortstop to shut the Gas Holes off once and for all, sealing the 9-7 Likkers win.

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