It was one of those games
by Than Acuff
What I mean by “one of those games” is that the Wednesday league title game on August 23 between the Rent-A-Gades and the Lords of Dirt at Gothic Field had everything one could ask for in a championship showdown in Crested Butte. Unless you’re a Rent-A-Gade.
First, after a season relatively free of rainy weather, the annual monsoonal flow came to Crested Butte in late August and doused the title game for a couple of innings.
Then there was Glo Cunningham. Longtime local softball player turned enthusiast, Glo made sure to bring a leftover keg to the game for all to enjoy.
Even Sean Hartigan, former player/manager/owner of the Last Steep softball team, showed up to watch some ball having not been to a game in 15 years, give or take.
And then there was the game, a game that ended up going to extra innings before some classic late game heroics from a local athlete who had his fair share of high school highlights as a Titan and continues to have that competitive edge well after his high school days.
Speaking of local high school athletes, there were a total of five, maybe six, players on the field in the title game, all of whom grew up playing sports in Crested Butte and for the Crested Butte Titans.
To the game!
The Rent-A-Gades lost just two games all season, one in the playoffs, and entered the championship in need of a win to force a second and final game that night in the double-elimination format.
Aside from that one loss in the playoffs, they had a solid modus operandi for post season success. Score early and often, and combine base hits with power and aggressive base running. But in the title game, they were strangely subdued as they managed just two runs through the first two innings.
Perhaps, and this is just a wild speculation, it may have had something to do with the opening play of the game. Rent-A-Gade lead off hitter Katie Sauer did what she has so often done, sent what appeared to be a line drive base hit to shallow centerfield. Only problem was, Lords of Dirt outfielder Isaac Evans had other plans as he charged in on the dropping ball to slide for the grab finishing with a forward roll.
Like I said, we had ourselves one of those games.
Lauren Alkire and Mark Krause knocked base hits to follow, and Peace Wheeler-Schaefer pushed them home with a double, but two runs was all they got.
Meanwhile, the Lords of Dirt, full of vim and vigor, racked up 10 runs through the first two innings. RBI hits from Robbie Holleran and Jake Sunter scored their first two runs, a single by Hunter Lucas put two runners on base and Evans then stepped to the plate to stroke a three-run shot to straightaway center for a 5-2 lead after one.
Once the first inning Lords of Dirt bronado was done, the women led the charge for the team in the second inning as base hits from Katie McKernan, Sophia Gonzales and Lucas either drove in or supplied runs during a two-out, five-run rally for a 10-2 Lords of Dirt lead after two innings.
The Rent-A-Gades, as I mentioned earlier this year, are one of those teams with the perfect blend of competitiveness and calm, and when the rain started falling, the Rent-A-Gades started scoring. Kate Schmidt provided the initial spark when she led off flaring a single to right, reached third on a double from Kody Hawkins and then joined Hawkins at home plate when Sauer drove a two RBI double into the outfield. Alkire and Krause provided the next two Rent-A-Gade runs and Pip Bailey iced the initial rally cake with an RBI single to right to pull the Rent-A-Gades to within three runs of the Lords of Dirt. The Lords of Dirt slowed down with just one run in the third off an RBI hit by Morgan Holleran, but the Rent-A-Gades managed just one run as well when Jesse Smith tripled and scored on a double by Schmidt.
A solo shot from Jake Sunter had the Lords of Dirt up 12-8 but Krause found his swing for a two-run shot in the top of the fifth inning and one could just feel the tension building with each at bat, especially after a scoreless sixth inning.
Down two and heading into the seventh inning, the Rent-A-Gades did the least necessary to stay alive. Opening base hits from Schmidt and Hawkins put two on with no outs, and Montana Wiggins and Krause connected for RBI base hits to tie the game 12-12 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning. The Rent-A-Gades then held the Lords of Dirt to a single base hit in the bottom of the seventh inning and we were headed into extra innings.
For those of you that don’t know, extra innings is short attention span softball, or Tik Tok ball. Teams start with a runner on second base and every hitter steps to the plate with a full count.
The Rent-A-Gades were primed with solid hitters stepping to the plate in the top of the eighth and things looked even better when Bailey led off sending an extra base hit down the right field line to score one and possibly two when Bailey turned the corner at third and headed for home. But the Lords of Dirt defense turned the relay to home near perfectly and threw the runner out.
While that was only the first out, the psychological damage was done as the Lords of Dirt held the Rent-A-Gades to that single run and stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth down 13-12.
This time it took just one pitch to determine the game as Holleran led off with a runner on second base and sent the first and only pitch he was going to see over the fence for the game-winning two-run home run.
It was one of those games. See you next summer!