Monday, May 25, 2015

Playoffs Begin! 5/17 vs. Huevos Grandes

Underhanded Compliments take the field at Unthank Park

Sunday May 17th was one of the most beautiful days of the Portland spring—& this has been a season replete with beautiful days; not a single rainout in the Underdog Spring League, at least for the Underhanded Compliments. Quite a contrast to last season.

Also in contrast to last season, the team entered the playoffs as a high seed: number three, whereas last year we were middle of the pack, & bowed out after a single game in which we were soundly defeated by BAM.  But there was one similarity between the quarterfinal rounds of 2014 & 2015—both were held at Unthank Park as opposed to Irving.

Unthank Park (named for civil rights activist Dr. Denorval Unthank) is a pretty spot on North Shaver Avenue. In addition to basketball courts & a playground, the tree-lined area has a Little League baseball diamond. In contrast to a standard softball field, the infield is grass, not dirt. However, the mound has been flattened, so that at least is more softball-like. While the park overall is kept up quite nicely, the outfield is a bit of a hazard. In fact, we had to have cones around a deep, potentially ankle-breaking hole in right field!

Zeb at 3B, Colin at short, & Matt in LF - really good defensive game for all three!
Our opponent in the quarterfinals was Huevos Grandes, a team we beat on opening day. Huevos Grandes is a great bunch of folks, & we looked forward to a fun game—we were not disappointed! In fact, it was one of the best games I’ve seen played in Underdog softball, especially in terms of defensive play. Both teams made a number of fine plays in the field, denying what looked to be sure base hits.

As a result, it was a low scoring affair. After both teams went scoreless in the first (helped on our side by a fine play by Bryce cutting down a runner trying to advance to third on a first inning single), Huevos broke the tie with a home run in the second. Two batters later a Huevos player sent a shot into the left center gap that looked like certain extra bases, & possibly a second homer, but Matt made a great play to run it down for the second out.

Mark had a great day at the plate!
Underhanded Compliments tied the score in the bottom of the third. With one out, Mark doubled, & then with two outs, Cameron singled him home. While it was a low scoring contest, we did have good two-out hitting, & Mark & Cameron both deserve to be mentioned as playing crucial roles, adding some serious pop toward the bottom of the line-up.

There was no more scoring until the fifth. Huevos threatened in the third with a two-out triple, but they were unable to cash in the run. Also noteworthy is a play Colin made on a line drive in the fourth to rob the Huevos of a hit.

Colin at the plate - his 5th inning triple was huge
In the bottom of the fifth, with two out, Colin tripled, & yours truly sent a solid line drive over shortstop to send him home—one of my prouder moments of the season. That put us up 2-1, but we were unable to add any more runs—& then Huevos answered in the top of the 6th with yet another home run to tie the score.
Hayden had a huge base hit in the 6th!
Going into the bottom of the 6th we had the bottom of the line-up coming up. However, we’d shuffled the line-up for this game to put some of our dangerous hitters lower in the order, & it paid dividends. Mark led off the inning with a single, & Hayden followed with a base hit. Cameron doubled to drive Mark in & put us back in the lead, & then Emily H followed with a single to plate Hayden. Back at the top of the order, Matt doubled to score Cameron, & then with one out, Harrison hit a solid 2-run single to put us up 7-2.
Harrison came up with the huge 2-run single in our 6th inning rally
Huevos Grandes did score in the top of the 7th on yet another home run, but that was the only hit of the inning, & we held on to take a 7-3 win.
Matt had a big double in the 6th & a great play in left field; that's Cameron on third, who also had a big game; Zeb coaching third
This coming Sunday we will face even stiffer competition as we play The Syndicate—the league’s defending champion—in the semi-finals. If we get by The Syndicate (to whom we lost by a single run in the regular season), we would play the winner of Basic Pitches versus BAM. It looks to be an exciting day!

Next week: Season recap & the beginning of Summer League!

Monday, May 4, 2015

A Tale of Two Games: 4/26 vs Pitches Be Crazy & 5/3 vs All My Subs

Lauren in her first at bat back with the team - a line drive base hit & Player of the Game! Lauren is already 4 for 6 after two games.

I’ve fallen behind on game recaps, so today’s post is a “twofer”; & these two games are a study in contrasts in many ways.

Our final April game was an evening match-up against Pitches Be Crazy, with a 6:00 p.m. start time. Through much of the preceding week rain had been predicted for Sunday, & though the forecast gradually looked more promising, the day was gloomy & overcast, with occasional bouts of light showers.

Despite that, the Irving League got in the full slate of games. Playing as the visiting team against Pitches Be Crazy, we got off to a solid start with a 4-run first inning. Gustav led off with a walk, Matt singled, then Lauren in her return to the team followed with one of her usual line drive base hits to load the bases. Zeb drove in Gustav & Matt with a double, & Bryce hit a sacrifice fly to send Lauren home. Triffid finished the scoring off by plating Zeb with a solid single.

Zeb, Triffid & Colin - all had big hits in the win over Pitches Be Crazy
We didn’t score in the second or third, & Pitches Be Crazy scored single runs in both the bottom of the first & second—then they came up with a big 4-run third to take a 6-4 lead. Lauren led off the fourth for us with a single, & following a single by Bryce, she scored following a big two-out base hit by Colin. Lauren was named Player of the Game, deservedly so, & it is great to have her back in the line-up!

Pitches Be Crazy added a run in the fifth to go up 7-5, but we got one back in the sixth when Matt led off with a double; Bryce sent Matt home with a big two-out base hit.

Matt at the plate
Entering the top of the seventh we trailed 7-6. Colin led off with a single, then with one out Cameron followed up with another single to put both the tying & go ahead runs on base. Another out followed, so we were up against it—but Mark came through with a huge two-run double to give us the lead, & then yours truly singled Mark home to give us at least a little breathing room.
Not a great picture, but Nicole at second base & Mark at first with Bryce & Emily H in the outfield - great first game at second for Nicole!
Of course two runs in slow-pitch softball is almost no lead at all, so the bottom of the seventh was dramatic. With one out, Pitches Be Crazy got a runner aboard on an error. The next batter hit into a fielder’s choice. The final batter of the game hit a rocket to second base, where Nicole was filling in. Nicole, who had never played second before, had already made all the chances hit to her & played very capably—but she topped the game off by snagging this ball on a short hop & throwing to Mark for the final put-out. Definitely a great moment for the team.
Nicole at the plate
May 3rd was a much different day. One of the most beautiful so far this year with bright sun & blue sky & warm temperatures—perfect day to be outside playing softball! Our game was at noon against All My Subs, who entered the day with a 3-3 record.

Once again, we got off to a fast start. Playing as the home team, we retired All My Subs in order in the first inning, then scored 4 in our first turn at bat. Gustav led off with a single, Matt doubled, Lauren singled, then Zeb hit a sacrifice fly to get the first run in. Bryce followed with a 3-run home run to end the scoring.

But in the second, the wheels started to come off the Underhanded Compliments bus. In an inning marred with fielding errors, All My Subs scored 5 unearned runs to take the lead. However, we came back to tie in the bottom of the inning, as Mark hit a one-out single, Hayden reached on a fielder’s choice, & then with two outs yours truly & Jessica both singled. Gustav then walked with the bases loaded to drive in the run.

We took the lead in the third as Lauren singled & with one out Bryce hit his second home run. Although Harrison & Cameron singled later in the inning, we were unable to expand on our lead. There were a lot of missed opportunities.

Bryce had another big day on 5/3 - 2 homers & a triple!
All My Subs narrowed the lead with a solo home run in the top of the fourth, & then in the sixth they took the lead at 8-7. There was a big defensive play in that inning as we cut down a runner trying to score on a throw from Bryce to Matt to Cameron. As it turned out, that was large.
Emily K has been a great addition to the team!
We took the lead again in the bottom of the sixth. Zeb led off with a single, then Bryce tripled him home. Emily K got Bryce home on a sacrifice fly to center, though Bryce deserves a lot of credit on his base running on that play. Harrison followed with a single & Cameron walked, but then we were unable to take advantage once again.

In the top of the seventh All My Subs tied the game on a home run. Not to belabor the point, but there was controversy here as the player who hit the home run was a sub, & one of the better players in the league on another team. The fact is, he had a big impact on the game, but Underdog Sports has a pretty liberal regular season substitution policy. Whether we like it or not, we had plenty of chances to win this game outright anyway, & didn’t take advantage of them.

Harrison has done a great job of getting on base all season long!
I should mention that Bryce saved further damage with a circus catch in short center to end the seventh. There were two runners on, so his catch definitely preserved the tie.

Sadly, we were unable to score in the bottom of the seventh. Though Mark led off with a single, the next three batters all grounded out to the infield. So the game ended 9-9.

Zeb before his big sixth inning base hit
To put it in perspective: we finished the regular season with a 4-2-1 record, the number 3 seed. The fact is that going into the game, the only thing that would have affected our third place standing would have been a loss. Whether we won or tied, we were still going to finish third. I didn’t see the game as one of the team’s best moments. Not only was our play not up to our usual standard, but I believe some of us—myself included—let the sub player get into our heads & take us out of the game. But I hope we learn for the experience!

Later this week: Info on the Playoffs, which begin on May 17th!