Monday, March 30, 2015

Spring Game 3 – March 29th versus the French Kicks

Bryce had another big day at the plate!

The second game of our spring season took place on a beautiful spring day—just about ideal weather. & the results were reminiscent of our dominating run through the 2014 summer league, as we beat the French Kicks 31 to 2.
Zeb had a great day at the plate & with Matt & Colin both out, filled in ably at short
The French Kicks were not used to playing softball, this much is certain. They were a game bunch, though. When the umpire gave them the chance to invoke the mercy rule down 21 to zip after 4 innings, they proclaimed without hesitation that they wanted to keep playing. The game was called after 5, simply because we ran out of time before the next scheduled contest.
Emily K & Triffid - both had great games
While the French Kicks weren’t competitive, most of our hits—& there were a lot of them!—were clean, & we hit with plenty of power, as Bryce, Zeb & Triffid all contributed home runs. In fact, not to put too fine a point on it, but Bryce hit 4. He would have hit more I suspect, but he only got 4 at bats. Zeb was a single short of the cycle, & Triffid was 4 for 4, with a double in addition to the 2-run homer that concluded our scoring.
Hayden at catcher - 2 hits & a nice catch on a pop up
As anyone could guess, there were a whole lot of 4 for 4s, 3 for 3s & 3 for 4s up & down the line-up. Harrison continued her on-base string with 3 singles & a walk, & 4 runs scored. Yours truly even came through with a 3 for 3 on three clean singles, & six players had at least one extra base hit.
Mark at first & Gustav at second - & a French Kick on second base, which was a rare sight
There wasn’t a lot to write about in terms of defense, as the French Kicks were, to be truthful, weak hitters. In fact, there was not a single put out made by one of our outfielders, & they only managed nine hits, with a few of those being on swinging bunts. Emily K, who had a really solid day in her debut with the team, made the one really challenging play; a hard ground ball down the third base line that she snagged in the top of the 5th (the one inning in which they scored) & got a force at second. I should also mention that Hayden made a nice catch of a pop-up from her position at catcher—pop ups at catcher are never that straightforward.
Ariel chipped in with two hits!
It was great to have Emily K & Mitchell both making their debuts, & both contributed offensively. Emily K was 3 for 3 with a walk, & also had a double, while Mitchell was 3 for 4. Ariel also has been out for two of the first three games, & she had two hits, including an rbi. Really you could go up & down the line-up because there were solid contirbutions everywhere.
Cameron also had a fine day at the plate
For some reason I didn’t get any photos when we were at bat, but I did get some when we were in the field! Keeping the scorebook with that many hits & runs was kind of engrossing.
Emily H in right center - there wasn't much action in the outfield on Sunday!
I may post later in the week if we manage to get a practice in, but no game scheduled for next Sunday, so I’ll play it by ear. Great game, everybody!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Spring Schedule & Other News

Underdog published the full spring schedule for the Irving Park league earlier this week, & the Underhanded Compliments have five upcoming regular season games plus the playoffs.

After splitting the opening day doubleheader with a loss to Basic Pitches & a win against Huevos Grandes, the Compliments will take on the French Kicks this Sunday, March 29th, at 1:30. The weather is supposed to be clear & reasonably warm, so it should be a great day. There isn’t much information about the French Kicks. The only “related team” mentioned on the Underdog site is a flag football team of the same name—no softball teams.

Underdog takes Easter Sunday off, so there will be no game on 4/5, but if the weather co-operates we may try to practice that weekend. Our next game is April 12th against Indy Team #1, a team we’ve encountered before under its incarnation of Where My Pitches At. We defeated Where My Pitches At 33 to 9 & 14 to 6 in the Summer League, & then bested them 25 to 7 in the Fall League. That game is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.

The following week, 4/19 at 4:30 p.m., we will have our hands full with the Syndicate, last Spring’s champion & a really formidable team. The Syndicate kind of crushed us last spring—28 to 5. However, we are a much better team now than we were at that time, & I’m looking forward to a good game.

Unthank Park - photo taken in 2012, so the puddles are not currently in existence
There's an interesting wrinkle for the game on 4/26 against Pitches Be Crazy—because of an event that’s scheduled at Irving on that date, the game will be played at Unthank Park on N. Shaver between Haight & Commercial. Pitches Be Crazy is a well-established team in the Underdog leagues, & in the Lillis-Albina 2013 Fall League, (in which The Chain played) they were one of the strongest teams in the league. The Underhanded Compliments played them last fall in the Irving Park league, & defeated them 20 to 9. But they aren’t a team to be taken lightly! The 4/26 game also begins at 6:00 p.m.

Our final regular season game is scheduled for noon on 5/3 against All My Subs. All My Subs  played in last fall’s Irving League, & we won by the uncomfortable margin of 12 to 11.

In other news: Colin reports that his leg injury appears to be worse than originally thought, & may even put him out of action for the entire spring season. That’s a tough situation both for Colin & for the team—losing our starting shortstop & a power hitter in the heart of the order. The good news is that Matt is also a very skilled shortstop—not many teams have the luxury of two players who can play short at a high level. In addition, Mitchell T., brother of Harrison & Hayden, has signed on as a sub, & Mitchell brings a formidable middle of the order bat! Finally, it’s looking like Emily K is close to coming off the injured list—possibly as soon as tomorrow—& she will also bring a lot of skill both at the plate & in the field.

We may be going through some adversity, but I still believe this team will be one of the top squads in the league when the dust finally settles after the playoffs!

Several members of the team took batting practice at Batting a Thousand this week - that should wake some bats up!

Next week: Game recap!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Opening Day! 3/22 vs. Basic Pitches & Huevos Grandes

Team Photo, Spring 2015: back row from left: Triffid; Cameron; Mark; Jessica; Emily H; front row from left: Zeb; John; Gustav; Matt; Bryce; missing: Harrison & Hayden played in the game but arrived to late for the photo; also: Colin R; Emily K; Nicole
 In the immortal words of the great Ernie Banks: “Let’s play two!”

In fact, that’s just how the Underhanded Compliments started the season—a doubleheader, with games at 10:30 & noon. Sunday was a gloomy & soggy day. Last week’s rain had left the field wet, & then there was a strong drizzle during part of the first game. There were quite a few bags of Diamond Dry used during that doubleheader!

Zeb at third, Triffid on the rubber
Our bats didn’t seem to wake up in time for the first game. Jessica picked up our first hit with 2 outs in the second, & I singled to lead off the fourth for our second hit (& my only hit of the day.) But we also held Basic Pitches down; they scored a run in the first, & our old pal from spring practices Seth homered in the fourth. Then they added on two more in the top of the fifth, & it might have been far worse except Bryce ran down a shot to deep centerfield & made a spectacular catch for the third out.
Harrison - player of the game against Huevos Grandes! - at second; Bryce - player of the day! - in center
We finally got on the board in the bottom of the inning, as Zeb tripled home Emily, & then Bryce tripled to drive Zeb home. But Basic Pitches added two more in the 6th. We started the bottom of the inning in a promising way, as Cameron singled & Triffid doubled, but we failed to cash them in. Basic Pitches added one more in the 7th, & we went down 1-2-3 in the bottom half.
Mark didn't like that pitch - with the team's new Easton bat
The second game against Huevos Grandes was much more satisfying, as we took that one 14-8. Bryce had a huge game at the plate, going 4 for 4 with a single, a triple & two home runs—& 8 rbis! (9 total rbis for the day). Zeb also was 4 for 4 with three runs scored & two rbis, while Harrison went 4 for 4 with three runs scored & three runs batted in—& was deservedly named “Player of the Game.” In addition, there was a great play to end the Huevos 5th inning, when one of their batters tried to stretch a triple into a home run. Emily sent an accurate throw to Matt, & Matt threw a strike to Cameron to get the tag at the plate with time to spare.
Matt at the plate
We jumped on top with two in the 1st, as Mark & Matt opened the inning with back-to-back triples; Harrison then drove in Matt with a single. Huevos Grandes roared back in the 2nd, scoring five & batting around, but we tied the game in the 3rd on Bryce’s 3-run homer. Huevos Grandes added two in the 4th & one in the 5th to build an 8-5 lead, but then we scored a 5-spot in the bottom of the 5th, capped by Bryce’s second homer, which also was a 3-run shot. & while we held Huevos scoreless the rest of the way, we added on four in the bottom of the 6th with five straight 2-out hits by Mark, Matt, Harrison, Zeb & Bryce, who finished it off with a triple.
Zeb at bat
Although it was a wet & gray day, I think a good time was had by all. The line-up had Mark playing first & leading off; Matt at short; Emily H in right center; Zeb; at third; Bryce in center; Jessica in right; Cameron catching; Triffid pitching; Ariel starting at second; Gustav in left, John at DH; Hayden subbing in at catcher; & Harrison subbing in at second. For the second game we were without Ariel, who could only play one game, & Harrison moved to the third slot & full-time at second, while Emily batted after Gustav.
Bryce doing some damage!
It was also wonderful to see Tyler & Lauren who braved the drizzle to come out & cheer the team on during the first game! You two are definitely missed.
Jessica, who picked up our first hit against Basic Pitches
Since our standby watering holes on Fremont were closed, many of us headed to the Tin Bucket on Williams after the game.
Cameron batting lefty
Later this week: news on next Sunday’s match-up & the season schedule!

Emily in right-center had her usual solid game in the field, including an assist

Triffid batting
Jessica patrolling right field

Friday, March 20, 2015

Pre-Season 2015

Colin taking some batting practice

Spring came even earlier than usual this year. The first practice—admittedly sparsely attended (two counts as sparse!) was on January 25th.
Mark with a nice level swing
But things really got going in February. The weather was warmer & drier than usual all month, & we were able to hold practices at Irving Park every Sunday between February 15th & March 8th—great fun. In addition, a pick-up game involving players from four Underdog teams (Underhanded Compliments, Huevos Grandes, BAM & Basic Pitches) started up on Saturday February 21st & continued through March 7th. We had good turnouts for both the practices & the pick-up games, & it sure was a good time.
Emily H at bat during one of the spring scrimmages
The Underhanded Compliments started off the year with some adversity, as we lost several key players. Maddie & Jay who were so crucial to the team in so many ways moved away—they are & will be missed! On a happier note, Lauren is expecting a child in April, & we wish her & Tyler all the best, but she sure will be missed. Lauren is an exceptional player in all aspects of the game & a real team leader.
Bryce at the plate
In addition, Steven was lured away by Basic Pitches! I guess he got a better contract; at any rate, Basic Pitches got a really good player. & on a much more serious note, Tyler suffered an injury playing flag football that will keep him out all the spring season & quite possibly beyond. Tyler is a great place hitter with gap power, & had been slated for the leadoff spot; he also is a skilled outfielder & was effective backing up Triffid at pitcher (2-0 in fact). We sure will miss him.
Cameron ready to launch
So that’s all the bad news. But we have some great new players coming in! Emily K from The Chain, who is a really formidable player, as well as Hayden & Harrison T, Jessica S & Nicole L. Emily H & Triffid are our two returning women players.
Matt at the plate during a scrimmage
Besides Tyler, Jay & Steven, the rest of the men are back, & Bryce will be playing full-time, which will be a big boost to the line-up.
Triffid waiting on her pitch during the scrimmage
The roster entering our first games on March 22nd looks like this:

C: Cameron
P:  Triffid
1B: Mark
2B: Harrison/Emily K
3B: Zeb
    Emily K
SS: Colin
OF (M): Gustav
OF (F): Emily H
        Harrison (when Emily K plays 2B)
DH:  John (3B-1B)

Ariel: C/2B/OF
Lauren: 2B/3B/OF

Harrison making solid contact
Despite the players we lost, I believe we will have a first division team again. Really looking forward to March 22nd when we open up in a doubleheader against two teams that should be a challenge: Basic Pitches & Huevos Grandes!
The old captain, yours truly at third base during batting practice, with Emily H & Bryce in the outfield
Next Week: Opening Day Recap

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

2014 Season Recap

Spring Team Photo: back row from left: Colin, Monish, Gustav, Zeb, Mark; front row from left: John, Cameron, Triffid, Lauren; missing: Andrea, Heather D, Mallory, Steven, Tyler; Emily H joined the team later in the season
For a team that began as a group of “independent players,” many of whom had never met prior to the first game, the Underhanded Compliments had a remarkable 2014 season. We played in all three seasons—Spring, Summer & Fall—& compiled an overall 17-5-1 record, including the Summer League Championship (Irving Park weeknight league). We were undefeated in that summer league—one tie, & we beat that team 20 to 4 in the finals. Our run differential for the season was 441 to 238, with the highwater mark being the Summer League, when we outscored our opponents 235 to 63. Fall was a more modest 118 to 63, while we did have a negative differential in the Spring, 88 to 112.

We started the season well with a 14 to 7 win over the B-Side Bombers, despite playing with only nine on opening day. The line-up was in flux for much of the Spring, as we lost both Andrea T & Monish fairly early in the season. But we picked up Emily H, who has been a fixture on the team since. After the first game, we ran into the buzzsaw of the eventual league winners the Syndicate & were soundly defeated. In fact, we were a middle of the road team, & though we finished in the first division for the playoffs, we were eliminated in the first round by BAM, 21 to 9.

Still, the team grew together—friendships were formed, positions solidified. Our starting infield for the whole 2014 took shape, with Mark A at first, Lauren C at second, Zeb R at third & Colin R at short. In addition, we quickly identified our pitching mainstay in Triffid A. Other fixtures moving forward were outfielders Tyler C, Cameron D, Steven N, Mallory O, & Emily H, super utility man Gustav L, who played catcher, infield & outfield, & John H who also played catcher. We also began practicing together, which not only improved our play, but also helped to bring us together.

Summer Team Photo: back row from left: John, Cameron, Tyler, Matt, Steven, Triffid, Mallory; front row: Emily H, Lauren, Colin, Maddie, Gustav, Mark, Heather P; missing: Zeb
In the summer we had two major additions to the team: Matt H came on board as a center fielder. Matt brought an extensive baseball background, & great skills both at bat & in the field; he also brought a lot of speed. In addition, we added Maddie B. from the 2013 Chain team, & Maddie, who had a background in fast pitch traveling teams, also contributed in all aspects of the game, usually patrolling the outfield & showing off an absolute gun for an arm! The summer league team really was a formidable group as we won most games by lopsided scores.
Summer League Champs! Back row from left: Mark, Colin, Matt, Triffid, Emily H, Gustav; front row from left: Lauren, Tyler, Zeb, Cameron, John; also at the game: super sub Dani S
We all had high hopes for the Fall league. Most of the core players returned, except for Mallory who went her own way. But we also added Jay G & Bryce H, friends of Maddie & Emily H respectively, & they are both formidable players. We suffered a defeat in the second game of the season to a team called Up Yurs—soundly in fact, 14 to 5, but after that we returned to our winning ways, & when Up Yurs later was beaten, we had a lot of confidence that we’d get them in the playoffs & take a second championship.
Fall League Photo: back row from left: Steven, Shea, Beckie, Emily H, Gustav, Colin, John, Matt; front row from left: Zeb, Maddie, Tyler, Lauren; missing: Bryce, Cameron, Jay
Sadly, it was not to be. Despite a large roster, we forfeited our playoff game to Huevos Grandes because we didn’t have enough players to field a legal team. We played the game out anyway, & beat Huevos Grandes soundly, but that was only for pride. It was just a perfect storm—people with out-of-town commitments & a bad cold that was going around. Still, we ended that season with only the one loss. While the Fall League didn’t end the way we’d hoped, we’d had a great time playing ball together for over 7 months!

Later this week: 2015 pre-season!

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Origins of the Underhanded Compliments

Clockwise from upper left: Summer League Champs; Spring League; Summer League opening day; Fall League
"Team”, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, meaning number 4b, is “a number of persons associated in some joint action, now esp. a definite number of persons forming a side in a match, e.g. in a football match or a tug-of-war.” This usage, per the OED, dates at least as 1529 when it is found in John Skelton’s poem Vox Populi.

That is of course the bare bones definition, but it has been my experience & the experience of most who’ve played sports that there are “teams” & then there are “teams.” I am very gratified to say that the Underhanded Compliments, whose exploits will be covered in this blog, is definitely one of the latter.

It’s hard to say what makes a group of people cohere—mutual liking, an atmosphere of respect, a shared sense of both play & seriousness. All of those factors & more have been a part of the Underhanded Compliments softball team. We came together as an independent team in the Portland, Oregon Underdog Sports league as part of the Sunday Irving Park spring league in 2014. Of the 15 players on that original team, 12 continued with the team for the remainder of the year (Summer & Fall seasons), & 10 are still on the team as we look forward to this spring’s opening game on March 22nd. It’s great to have such a stable base!

The players are for the most part an athletic bunch: most if not all the men have a baseball background, & a high percentage of the women have played fast pitch softball, several at highly competitive levels. In addition, we have volleyball players, football players, competitive runners, bicyclists, & at least one competitive figure skater!

But this is also a team that enjoys lifting a few glasses after the games or a few cans of beer at a practice. It’s also a team that laughs easily together.

The Chain!

To tell how everyone came to the team would involve many stories; but the single largest contingent on the Spring ’14 team came from a softball team called The Chain that had competed in, & ultimately won the championship in Underdog’s Lillis-Albina Fall League. Five players on the opening day roster came from The Chain: Andrea T; Colin R; John H.; Mallory O; & Monish S. In addition, Ariel W. was a sub in the Spring League, & Maddie B. joined us in the summer & fall. While Andrea, Maddie, Mallory & Monish have all moved on, we have recruited Emily K from The Chain for Spring ’15 (& beyond we hope!)

It’s a great group of people—I feel so lucky & privileged to be a part of this team!

Later this week: 2014 season recap & pre-season 2015!