Packed house, broken windshield, lots of beer and a SWUNT
By Than Acuff
Finally, I was there. All season I “should have been there” and Tuesday night at Gothic Field I finally was as I, and so many others, got to watch Elevate take down both the Eldo and the Talk of the Town to advance to the Tuesday/Thursday league finals.
It was one of those nights. Recent rains had greened up the field, the stands were overflowing onto the walking path outside of the fence, there was a dogfight, a dog urinated on someone’s stroller, Wayde yelled at a motorist with Texas plates for driving too fast, a windshield was shattered by a foul ball and Drew Stichter had a cooler full of beer for all to enjoy that eventually turned into a recycling bin full of beer cans by the end of it all.
Once Elevate dispatched the Eldo in the early game, the stage was set for the Talk of the Town and the Elevate to square off for a shot at the finals. With both teams having already lost during the double-elimination post season, it was do or die and the Talk was the Cinderella story having finished the regular season in fifth place out of six teams only to rally through the playoffs.
Having caught fire during their first game that evening, Elevate continued to hammer away in their second game in the top of the first inning. It started off rather subdued with a walk and a pop out but soon turned the corner as Elevate sprayed the field with eight hits, six of them doubles, to score nine runs capped by a three-run shot off the town hall roof by Sam Reaman. Before it could get worse for the Talk though, Barb Winter made a shoestring grab at second base to stop the bleeding.
No need for the Talk to panic though as plenty of nine and 10-run leads in the first inning have disappeared over the course of a game and while the Talk was a bit slow to respond, their initial response, and copious amounts of beer, was enough to fire the crowd up.
It started with a solo inside the park home run from Micah Ryan followed by a SWUNT triple by Erik Ervin. Turns out, what I’ve been calling a powerbunt for 20-plus years of softball coverage is called a SWUNT (swing bunt) in other softball leagues and as soon as I heard that, it happened. Go figure. Well, from now on, SWUNT it is. Kelly McGuire then scored Ervin with a single and while they only scored two runs initially, it seemed like a lot more given the excitement.
In an effort to quash the Talk’s energy, Elevate tacked on five more runs in the top of the second inning. CJ Hoover led off with another double and Sam Robards, currently on hiatus from his day job in Hollywood, knocked a pitch from Talk pitcher Hollywood for an RBI double. Robbie Holleran doubled and scored on a double by Hillary Fujii and then RJ Spinella crushed a three-run moon shot over the centerfield netting for a 14-2 Elevate lead.
The Talk, being the Talk, punched back in the bottom of the second inning showing what got them to the semifinals. It also didn’t hurt that Elevate decided to play hot potato with the ball giving up extra bases unnecessarily.
Ed White led off for the Talk with a triple and Dave McGuire sent him home with a weird area RBI hit. Robbie Vandervoort followed two batters later with a two RBI single, Ervin punched a two RBI single to left, Winter scored two more runs with a double and then White returned to the plate to straighten out his swing and smash a two-run home run. McGuire picked another weird area of the outfield for a single and Pete Basile’s double to the gap in centerfield scored another Talk run pulling them to within two runs when all was said and done. In fact, they’d probably have scored more had they not reached the 10-run limit forcing the end of the inning.
For anyone keeping stats, the two teams combined for 30 hits and 26 runs in the first two innings alone. It was on like… you guessed it… Donkey Kong.
Elevate shook off the nightmare to come right back at the Talk in the top of the third inning as Hoover led off with a double again, Robards scored him with a base hit, again, and a walk and a hit loaded the bases for Spinella. Obviously capable of going yard, Spinella instead opted for a two RBI double, Christian Allen flared a two RBI triple to right and once Sara Reese and Hoover connected for two more RBI hits, Elevate was out ahead 21-12.
Things settled down a bit and it looked like we would be limping our way through the remainder of the game until McBride and Winter led off the bottom of the fourth inning with base hits and White smashed a three-run home run to straightaway centerfield to clear the bags and pull the Talk back to within striking distance.
The quick burst reminded Elevate that they still had more work to do at the plate and they did just that scoring seven more runs in the top of the fifth inning. Allen and Reese each knocked base hits and scored when Abby McGee found her swing to stroke a two RBI double. Hoover and Robards did what they’d been doing all game connecting for back-to-back base hits to score runs and then Spinella returned to his home run hitting ways with a two-run shot to left field for a 28-15 Elevate lead.
After surviving two standing eight counts, the Talk got back up again to give it one more go, kind of like when Rocky kept coming back for more against Clubber Lang in the movie Rocky II.
Vandervoort walked and Ervin and Kelly combined for base hits to score a run for the Talk with McBride stepping to the plate. McBride looked to pick the gap between shortstop and third for what appeared to be at least an RBI single if not a two RBI double only to have Reaman fully extend for the diving grab causing one onlooker, well that and the beer, to exclaim, “that’s my boyfriend.” And it wasn’t Mallory, it wasn’t even another woman. It was actually a man. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Winter did follow with another RBI base hit but that play by Reaman was another thundering hook from Clubber Lang only to have the Talk staggering but still not going down as they held Elevate scoreless in the top of the sixth. Reese led off with a single, but Reaman popped out and then Vandervoort scooped up a ground ball, tapped second and fired to first for a double play to shut them down.
Staring at a double digit deficit, the first thing a team wants to do is cut the lead back to single digits. It’s a key moment in any comeback and that’s just what the Talk did. Basile doubled and scored when Vandervoort singled, Ryan then cracked an RBI triple off the netting in leftfield and Ervin’s RBI single had cut Elevate’s lead down to eight runs heading into the seventh inning and getting dark out. Which is when the Talk, as a bar, starts to shine.
That magic of the Talk bar at night did not play out in the game though as Elevate scored two more runs and held the Talk to one to seal the deal on their 31-20 win and secure their return to the finals on Thursday, August 3 at Gothic Field where they will face Pitas Meatsticks at 5 p.m. Win and the two teams play again at 6:30 p.m. for the title. Lose and the Pitas will add a twelfth trophy to their case.