By: Laura Patrick
The Legal Eagles, fueled by a frustrating loss to the Contract Killers in last season’s final game, took this season’s intramural softball championship title in a heated battle against Penal Thunder. The evening started with four teams fighting in the semi-finals for the coveted golden trophy. The Susan Changs (5-0-1) faced off against Penal Thunder (5-1) on one field, while the Legal Eagles (6-0) took on the Fist Pumps (5-1) on the other. However, alas, there could only be one true champion. In case you missed the action, a recap of what went down in the playoffs on Manchester Field follows:
No. 2 Susan Changs vs. No. 3 Penal Thunder
Full disclosure: I am a Fist Pump to the core, despite being benched for the season with a crippling injury; therefore, I did not actually witness this game. However, through in-depth investigation, I have put together a general summary of events.
Both teams went into the game as a generally even match-up. The Susan Changs boasted a better record with five wins, no losses and one tie and held a higher run differential over Penal with 40 runs to Penal’s 30. The outcome of the game was a toss-up. “They were pretty even going in. Penal is significantly better than they were last year, whereas the Susan Changs have been a consistently good team for the past couple of years,” said umpire Josh Poulson.
Penal Thunder, however, came into the game with guns blazing after surprising many teams this year with their improved hitting skills and consistent defense. “Penal Thunder was about as hot as Bradley Cooper starting the semis,” said an anonymous Penal player.
After the first inning, Penal was down 4-5 against the Changs, but, according to Poulson, came back in the second with a four-run lead and never looked back. After finding it impossible to actually track down the final score of the game–apparently the softball score sheets are very elusive–I will go with my anonymous source’s estimation that in the end it was, “a lot to a little. Maybe 18-10, maybe 18-12?”
Highlight of the game: In his undying desire for victory, Penal Thunder center fielder Ian Friedman smashed the windshield of a pick-up truck parked nearby with what has been described as “one of the longest home runs in softball history.” With no record of home run lengths in USD softball history, this is completely unverifiable.
No. 1 Legal Eagles vs. No. 4 Fist Pumps
Meanwhile, on the opposite field, the undefeated Legal Eagles prepared to face-off against another underdog, the Fist Pumps. While I am no spokesperson for my team, I think it is fair to say the Fist Pumps were a bit wary going into the game. The Eagles are quite daunting–as my anonymous source aptly put–“with their black uniforms, manly mustaches, and smooth arms.” There is no denying they have put together a softball dream-team of sorts. “The Eagles were clearly favored coming into the season, and put together a perfect record,” said Softball Commissioner David Israel. The Fist Pumps were the dark horse, but the team is no stranger to facing adversity. Against all odds, the Pumps made it to the semi-finals despite the loss of the “most amazing first-basemen ever,” also unverifiable.
While the Fist Pumps gained an impressive 4-0 lead over the Legal Eagles in the top of the first, the Eagles quickly responded with four runs of their own. By the bottom of the second, the Eagles took the lead, 8-4 and continued to dominate on the field in both offense and defense for a majority of the game. In the remaining innings, the Fist Pumps managed to score only twice, while the Eagles pumped out nine more runs, bringing the final score to 17-6.
The win can be partially attributed to the Eagles batting skills, but the Fist Pumps defense also left something to be desired. “We played poor defense. You can’t beat a quality team when you’re dropping pop flies and making errant throws,” said Pumps third basemen Brandon Smith. However, Fist Pumps Manager Charlie Coover was not disheartened by the loss. “It was a tough game, the Eagles played well. It was unfortunate we made a few errors, but in the end we lost to the best team in the league and made it farther than any previous season. So I’m proud of that.”
Highlight of the game: While the Eagles’ home runs were impressive, a tip of my hat to Smith for back-to-back catches at third.
Final: No. 1 Legal Eagles vs. No. 3 Penal Thunder
Thus, the ultimate battle for the championship began. The Legal Eagles were unsurprisingly confident going into the game. “I don’t think we were nervous. We’ve been there before, so at this point it’s just a question of not shooting ourselves in the foot,” said the Eagles’ captain Austin “Mustache” Henderson. Penal Thunder had its own plan of attack. “We knew we had to play flawless softball. Smart fundamental softball,” said Penal player Alex Gershon after the game.
Things were looking good for the Penals at the bottom of the second inning. They had a two-run lead over the Eagles and their defense was holding strong. Both teams continued to score until it was 5-5 going into the bottom of the third. Unfortunately, for the Penals, the Eagles not only tied the game in the third, but also kept the runs coming with doubles from Henderson and Center Fielder Michael Gilberg.
Starting the bottom of the fourth with a 7-5 lead, the Eagles went to bat and brought the heat, earning four more runs. Penal attempted to level the score in the fifth but managed only one run, made by outfielder Josh Praw. At the bottom of the fifth, Penal’s third basemen Stephanie Sweat made a spectacular line drive catch to end the inning, but the Eagles gained a run putting them ahead 12-6. At the top of the sixth and final inning, Penal Thunder went up to bat six runs behind. They put up a good fight, but, ultimately, the Eagles caught a fly ball in the outfield to end the game and clinch the win.
The Legal Eagles were happy to nab their second championship and put their spring 2011 loss behind them. “It was nice to win our second championship,” said Henderson. “I think this was the most fun we’ve had in a season. We were more relaxed, didn’t take things too seriously but at the same time minimized errors and just hit the ball.”
While victory may taste oh-so-sweet in USD’s intramural softball league, both teams realize winning is not everything. “We may not hit runs, and we may not turn double plays. But we wear costumes, we bring our dogs, and we have a ton of fun,” said Gershon, “In the end that’s what softball is all about.”