Friday, May 17, 2013

Heartbreaker: Late WSJ Rally Stuns Bullets

Softball's a funny game. You play six frames and things are going your way, and then in one inning, the time it takes to collect three tiny, little outs, it all comes undone - a few balls are just out of a fielder's reach, a guy gets down the line a fraction of a second too quickly, and sweet victory turns into the ashiest defeat.

That's how Thursday night's New York Media Softball League game on North Meadow #2 between the DC Comics Bullets and Wall St. Journal went down for the comic book makers. For six innings, DC contained a short-handed, but still powerful WSJ offense, and for six innings the Bullets scrimped and scraped and tacked on runs to take a 7-3 lead into the final inning. One top of the seventh later, WSJ scored five time and left the stunned Bullets on the short end of an 8-7 loss.

Wall St. Journal's top-heavy line-up came out swinging in the first, scoring three times to put early pressure on the comic book makers, but DC answered back quickly in the bottom half. Neil Hiremath lined a single into left and Mike Lorah bounced a chopper back through the middle to put two runners on. Jay Kogan's base hit scored Neil and Kevin Schwoer added a fourth single to load the bases with no outs. Vince Letterio bounced into a fielder's choice, scoring Mike, but forcing Jay at third, and then Sal Cipriano and Christine Napolitano flew out to left field to stall the rally. But DC tallied a couple runs and kept themselves in the game.

DC's defense stifled the bottom of WSJ's line-up, taking them down 1-2-3 in the second and with only a single baserunner in the third. Alas, the bottom portion of DC's line-up was faring no better. In the second, Blake Kobashigawa's scorching line drive was snared by a diving WSJ shortshop. Larry Ganem popped out to third and Nel rolled over a grounder to wrap the inning. Taylor Esposito swung through strike three, and Brittany Holzherr and Neil grounded out in a quick third.

Fortunately, through the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, Larry Ganem's pitching kept the opposition off balance. Larry must've caught four pop-ups himself, and Blake made a terrific play to snare a groundball up the middle and throw a laser to first to get the out. Perhaps the defensive highlight of the fame came in the sixth, when shortstop Blake picked a grounder and flipped to Nel, who made the turn to Sal for a crisp 6-4-3 double play.

Bottom four, Mike broke a stretch of nine straight Bullet outs, smashing a home run into right center, tying the game at three apiece. Jay singled and came all the way around to score the go-ahead run as Kevin clubbed a double to left. Kevin alertly took third on the throw home and scored an insurance run on Vince's sacrifice fly. Sal went down swinging at a high pitch after questioning an earlier strike call in the at-bat. After CNap lined a base hit over third base, Blake popped up on the infield for the final out.

The fifth went quiet and quick, with Larry lining out to third, Nel popping up and Taylor grounding to shortstop, but DC managed to extend their lead in the sixth. After Allison flew out to center (and if there was one thing about this nail-biter of a game that I personally thought could've been more fair, it was WSJ's outfielders creeping within ten feet of the infield dirt when DC's women batted - both Alli's sixth inning flare and CNap's seventh inning line drive might've dropped if the outfield acknowledged the league's 25-feet-off-the-dirt rule. WSJ got a huge key hit in the seventh because Kevin stayed back - but there were plenty of other opportunities for DC to win the game.), Neil singled and went to third on Mike's base hit to right, with Mike taking second on the throw to third. Jay launched a deep sacrifice fly and Kevin drove Mike home, lasering a base hit through the left side. However, Vince flew out to left and the comic book makers went to the seventh leading 7-3.

Top seven. I don't usually remember an entire inning from the other team, but this one I do. WSJ's #2 hitter singled and then a hard double to right center put two runners aboard. The clean-up hitter, a lefty, reached on an unbelievable infield single. With Blake playing up the middle and Mike back to defend most of the left side of the infield, the hitter flared a weak pop-up over the pitcher's mound where it fell just beyond the reach of Larry, Blake and Mike for an infield single. The runners had to hold, but the bases were loaded with nobody out and the tying run was at the plate. Two more singles plated three runs, putting the tying run at second base and go-ahead on first. DC finally got the first out on a fly ball to left. The next hitter smashed a long fly to right field. CNap, going back, leaped and the ball skipped off the top of her glove. The tying run scored, but a quick relay from Nel allowed Larry to tag the trail runner out at the plate. Two outs, tie game, the go-ahead run on second, and one of WSJ's women who hadn't hit a ball out of the infield coming to the plate. Except this time she did, flaring a ball over third base just onto the outfield grass, and the runner move up from second to third. Another lefty hitter for WSJ, this one trickled a ball out in front of the plate to the left side. Larry was off the mound quickly and got the ball, but coming out of the left-handed batter's box, the hitter had one extra step toward first and hustled out the infield hit. The leading run crossed the plate. Larry got the next hitter to pop out to Mike at third, but the damage was done and the Bullets, sadly, mustered little pressure in the last of the seventh.

Sal flew out to left and CNap lined to (very) shallow left. Blake punched a single through the right side to put the tying run on base, and Larry tried to follow his lead - but WSJ's first baseman picked the ball and shoveled to the pitcher to nip Larry by a half-step for the game-ender.

It was a thriller, a nail-biter, and a helluva fun game (thanks, WSJ). Also, a heartbreaker. The biggest difference in the game: the bottom of Wall St. Journal's line-up was able to string together a few baserunners and DC couldn't do the same. But the Bullets will bounce back, starting next Thursday on the Great Lawn when they face Forbes at 7pm.

3-3 (0-2 NYMSL), the Bullets have an unusual home game on Great Lawn next week, as the Parks Department performs maintenance on North Meadow. Don't get lost, we'll see you there.

Bullet Box:
RCF Neil Hiremath - 2-3, 2 R
3B Mike Lorah - 3-3, 3 R, RBI, home run
LCF Jay Kogan - 2-2, R, 2 RBI, sac fly
LF Kevin Schwoer - 3-3, R, 2 RBI, double
OF Vince Letterio - 0-2, 2 RBI, sac fly
1B Sal Cipriano - 0-3
RF Christine Napolitano - 1-3
SS Blake Kobashigawa - 1-3
P Larry Ganem - 0-3
2B Nel Yomtov - 0-2
DH Taylor Esposito - 0-2
C Brittany Holzherr - 0-1 / C Allison Klein - 0-1

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