Inglorious Batters glorious in extra innings win

Playoffs start next week

By Than Acuff 

I know I say this a lot, but I haven’t said it yet this season so here it goes.

It was the greatest game of all time, this year.

Butte & Co. faced the Inglorious Batters last Wednesday night, July 3, at Tommy V Field and while both teams are near the bottom of the stats list in runs scored, the match up was far from low scoring, and it took extra innings before a winner emerged. 

The local softball leagues were a bit shaken up following some heated exchanges in the Tuesday/Thursday league the past two weeks, but Wednesday league play continues to be a source of entertainment, athleticism and random acts of gametime heroics with the latest game a stunning example.

It all started off innocently enough with beautiful skies and happy faces at a field with Crested Butte Mountain, Paradise Divide and Mt. Emmons as the backdrop.

“How beautiful, we’re so lucky to play here,” commented one player.

Add in the fact that several players on both teams were raised right here in Crested Butte and the previous game that evening was a celebration of Willy and Teresa’s kids’ birthday and it was quite the evening for the homegrowns.

Note to self, make a softball team next year of all kids born and raised in Crested Butte and call it the Homegrowns.

Butte & Co. has been punching well below their weight with just two wins going into the game but looked to fix that with a five-run first inning. Successive base hits from Gus Hensley, Ryan Carroll and Andrew Arnold loaded the bases for Isabel Lucas and Lucas drove two runners home with a single to right center. Hillary Fujii and Danny Stoneberg followed with two more RBI base hits and a bloop single from Alden Watkins capped the early surge.

The Inglorious Batters were a different story at the start with not much happening at the plate. They did score their first run in the bottom of the second inning when Grant Robbins singled and scored on a double up the middle from Tadd Mertens. They had some defense going though thanks to the effort of Josh Varnadore at shortstop turning two of three outs in the top of the third inning to hold Butte & Co. in place.

They found their bats in the bottom of the third as Connor Beard, Bobby Crimi and Sara Robbins all singled to load the bases and Jack Foersterling scored two with a double but that would be it as their scoring ways, or lack thereof, continued to plague them. 

Fortunately for Inglorious Batters, the Butte & Co. bats fell silent aside from a single by Stoneberg and then some wheels as he charged home from first on a base hit by Watkins.

The game then switched into overdrive starting in the bottom of the fourth inning as a two RBI double from Grant, a powerbunt single by Mallory Briggs and an RBI base hit from Mertens pulled the Inglorious Batters to within one of Butte & Co.

Butte & Co. responded to stretch their lead in the top of the fifth inning. Safari Dan Oswald kicked it off with a solo inside the park home run. Hannah Strickland and Grant Spear each singled and scored off a double by Carroll and a sac fly by Prawit Durgan. A single from Lucas set up Fuji for an RBI single to right field and when Brice Koval doubled to left to score another run, Butte & Co. were out front 10-5.

At this point the Inglorious Batters switched to the glorious hitters to pull off a massive two-out rally. After the first two batters were turned away, the Inglorious Batters rattled off seven base hits and a couple of walks to light up the crowd. Crimi and Sara started it off with singles and scoring on base hits by Foersterling and Bron Walton. Troy Russ stepped up to knock his second base hit of the game for another RBI, a hit by Stephanie Reeves and a walk by Varnadore pushed two more in tying the game 10-10. 

And they still had more in the tank as Grant scored two more runners with an infield single that caused massive confusion among the Butte & Co. infielders. Biggs then smashed an RBI single to centerfield and a hit from Mertens scored one more run to put the Inglorious Batters out front 14-10.

Remarkably, Butte & Co. pulled off similar two-out rally heroics to retake the lead in the top of the sixth inning. After the first two batters failed to reach first base, the next six reached first and more. Oswald and Strickland each doubled to get things going, a grounder from Carroll caused more confusion resulting in an RBI triple and when both Durgan and Lucas connected for RBI doubles, Butte & Co. was back in the lead 15-14.

A base hit by Anika Engholm tied the game back up and the Inglorious Batters were poised to pull back on top with two runners on and one out, but Butte & Co. turned a 6-3-2 double play to end the inning leaving the teams tied 15-15 heading into the seventh inning.

Both defenses did their jobs but no one more than Lucas in the bottom of the seventh inning. With runners in scoring position to win the game and two outs, Varnadore sent a line drive to leftfield, but Lucas got a jump on it immediately to make the running grab sending the game into extra innings.

Intensity ramps up in extra innings as each team starts off with a runner on second base and every batter comes to the plate with a full count. You get one pitch.

While the first two Butte & Co. hitters popped out and lined out, Spear picked them up with a big hit to the gap in left center. The runner on second scored easily but when Spear looked to stretch for home, Varnadore threw him out with a missile of a throw from left field to hold Butte & Co. to their one-run lead.

It was now time for the Inglorious Batters to feast or famine at the plate. A strikeout was a dubious start for their line up, but Grant did push the runner on second to third base with a sacrifice fly and upon umpire review, runner interference was appropriately called and the runner on third given a free trip home to tie the game.

So here we all were, Wednesday evening on a beautiful night game tied 16-16 with two outs and every batter with a full count. Briggs won the mental game and watched her one pitch drop for a ball and walked to first. Mertens knocked his one pitch for a double to put runners on second and third and Shannon Hessler stepped up. Hessler was one for three that evening but finished the night two for four as she stroked the game-winning RBI single for the 17-16 Inglorious Batters’ glorious victory.

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