Sunday, August 21, 2011

Gotham City: Hounds Fall in the Chip

After dominating in the regular season and the first round of the playoffs, it was time for the Hounds to take the field in pursuit of undefeated perfection. The setting was the gorgeous fields of Heckscher, and the weather could not have been more ideal for softball. The commissioner himself was in attendance, trophy in tow. The format was a 6- team double-elimination tournament, and we knew a long, grueling day was at hand. Just how long and grueling nobody could have anticipated.

For Game 1, we took the field behind our ace Margaret, who we pretty much knew would be out there for the whole tournament. Our opponents were The Swingers, who we had swept in our regular season encounter. After holding them scoreless in the top of the first, we came out guns blazing with 6 runs in the bottom of the frame, Iain leading the charge with a 3-RBI triple. Now we were in firm control and the game would never be closer. Our defense was stellar and Margaret was magnificent. The Swingers had no answers for her and even though we failed to score in the middle innings, we took a 7-1 lead into the bottom of the 5th. We then added 4 runs in the inning to knock The Swingers out by mercy rule, Cindy's RBI single being the game-ending hit. Final Score: Hounds 11, Swingers 1.

Next up were The Chopheads, a team we hadn't faced at all in the season, and whom we knew very little about, other than they had a good record. We knew winning this game would give us a big advantage in the tournament, and we came out focused and determined to get the result. Turns out, The Chopheads are a damn good team and gave us a heck of a battle. It would not be Gotham City League without some controversy, and sure enough, some issues came up that were handled with the usual confusion and ambiguity. The game was closely contested  from start to finish, and it was clear that these were the best two teams in the league. We scratched out 6 runs, with Pat hitting a 2-run homer in the 2nd, part of a 3-3, 4 RBI performance from The Bopper. Cardillo and Dave also had RBIs, and our defense held The Chopheads' potent offense down. After it was over, we had a strong feeling we would be facing Chopheads again in short order. Final Score: Hounds 6, Chopheads 4.

We then waited for Chopheads and last years' finalists Grass Stains to duke it out for the right to face us in the Final. We took the time to re-fuel and get some rest. Chopheads beat Grass Stains easily, so now the stage was set for the Championship. We held the critical advantage of home field for the first game and knowing we only needed to win once, while Chopheads would have to beat us twice to take the title. After the pleasantries were exchanged between the two managers, it was time to play ball.

Once again, we took the field behind Margaret, who continued to put us in a position to win the game. We exploded for 5 runs in the bottom of the first, Dave with a monster shot to left that would have been a home run against any other team. The Chopheads have some elite defensive players though and were able to hold the Big Fella to a 2-RBI triple. JT, Iain, and Cardillo also had RBIs in the frame. We held a 6-2 lead going into the 5th inning and had to like our chances of repeating as champs. However, there were warning signs afoot, as we hadn't been able to score more than one run since the 1st, while The Chopheads offense seemed to get stronger as the game progressed. They rallied to tie the game at 6 in the 6th inning. While we didn't make any major gaffes in the field, we did have some slip ups and give The Chopheads credit for being aggressive, alert, and capitalizing on our mistakes. After we failed to score in the bottom of the 6th, our opponents seized control of the game with 3 runs in the top of the 7th. We were now down to our last licks and chasing a three-run deficit. Unfortunately, we were unable to muster anything other than a meaningless single. Final Score: Hounds 6, Chopheads 9.

Now it was down to one final game, winner take all. A coin toss determined home team, and the flip didn't go our way. We came out swinging in the top of the 1st, scoring two runs on RBI base hits from Cardillo and Pat. However, Chopheads answered with 4 runs of their own in the bottom of the inning. We have to give them a lot of credit, because they continued to rake, spraying hard hit balls all over the field. We had no answer to stop them, an unusual position for us Hounds to be in. Meanwhile, our offense fell silent after the 1st, as we began to show some signs of fatigue. By the time the final inning rolled around, there was little doubt who would prevail. We went out quietly 1-2-3 to end the game and our season. Final Score: Hounds 2, Chopheads 9.

Congratulations on a great season, team! Although we fell short of our ultimate goal, we played hard and gave it all we had. We should be proud of the fact that in the 3 seasons we have participated in this league, we have been in the final every year. We just lost to a better team today, it's as simple as that. Although they were certainly frustrating, the controversial decisions made by the league officials had no bearing on the outcome. We have not had to deal with a lot of failure these past two years, so perhaps it is a good thing that we were humbled in defeat. Maybe we bought too much into our own hype and weren't hungry enough this time around. We had not lost by 7 runs since back in Early 2009, when we were a very different team. So we tip our caps to The Chopheads and congratulate them on a thoroughly well-deserved victory. Meanwhile, we Hounds will re-group, re-tool, and re-dedicate ourselves to getting back to the top of the mountain. I thank you all for being a part of it and hope we get a chance to together, fight another day.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Gotham City: Hounds Advance

After an undefeated regular season, it was time for the Gotham City Hounds to do battle in the playoffs. The first round was a best-of-three series between the top-seeded Hounds and the bottom-seeded Thuggz & Juggz team, whom we had disposed of pretty easily last week. Conditions were ideal, with the temperature only in the mid 70s at game time. The commissioner was in attendance, no doubt to take a look at the best team in his league. He would not leave disappointed. 

courtesy Gotham City Sports
For Game 1, we were the home team and took the field behind Margaret, who was masterful on the hill today. T & J were forced to swing, and our defense continued to put in stellar work. JT got us on the board in the bottom of the 1st with a solo home run, and Alan had an RBI single in the frame as well. We tacked on 1 in the 2nd on a double by JT, and 2 in the 3rd on a 2-RBI single by Dave. We were now up 5-0 and T & J showed little sign of being able to score. They did not have a baserunner advance past 2nd base the entire game. Let's give ourselves a lot of credit for that, because they are actually a pretty good-hitting team. We just did a great job of being in the right position to make a play and we did not give them many extra outs.

After a yet another RBI hit from JT in the 4th, we put the game beyond reach in the 5th. We did a great job of hustling, and when some bloopers fell in for us, we took full advantage. Amy and Jay B. each had RBI hits in the inning. Margaret closed them out 1-2-3 in the last inning. Final Score: Hounds 9, T & J 0.

courtesy Gotham City Sports

courtesy Gotham City Sports
For Game 2, little changed except now we were the away team. We came up to bat first and got two quick runs through a 2-run home run from Iain. Margaret came back out to the mound and we continued to impose our will on the ballgame. T & J were finally able to scratch a couple of runs across, but after we had a big 5-run inning in the 2nd, with RBIs from Pat, Jay B, Mike, & JT(2), we knew there would be no Game 3. The inning was marred by an unfortunate injury to our Bopper, Pat. He had to come out of the game and along with Wink is listed as day-to-day with a sprained ankle. We added 3 in the 3rd on RBIs from Karim and Margaret, who aided her own cause with a 2-RBI single. Meanwhile, we flashed the leather all across the diamond, and there were signs that T & J were ready to submit. They began to discuss their plans for the bar and that was the final nail in the coffin. Another 5-run inning in the 4th made victory by mercy rule inevitable. A solo jack from Cap, a 3-RBI triple from Iain, and an RBI single from Dave did the damage. T & J were faced with the prospect of having to score 2 in the bottom of the 4th to avoid the mercy rule, but they were able to muster nothing and went out in 1-2-3 fashion. Final Score: Hounds 15, T & J 2.

We're off to a great start in this 2nd season. League sources have confirmed that next week will be a grueling 6-team double-elimination tournament for all the marbles. It will be a long day of softball but we come into the day with some critical advantages, namely home field for our first game, our depth as a team, and the fact that there are some teams out there that have never seen us. The way we are playing right now, we are a very difficult opponent to beat. It is imperative that we go out and win that first game. Actually, according to my calculations, if we win the first two games we automatically advance to the final with our opponent needing to beat us twice to win, while we would only need to win once. This is ours for the taking, Hounds... 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hounds All-Star Voting

Hounds All-Stars (Vote for at least one male and one female)
Jay B.
Jason C.
Jason T.
Wink free polls

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Gotham City Final Player Stats

The Final regular season stats have been compiled. Congrats to Iain who had another monster season, leading the team in RBIs, setting a new Hounds mark for ribeyes. Pat took the batting title, just barely having enough at-bats to qualify. Dave took home the home run title, while JT, Cardillo, and Alan also had very productive seasons. Props to Amy who had the highest batting average among the ladies, and rookie Marguerite, who got on base over 60% of the time. Of course, we can't forget to mention Margaret and her mind-blowing pitching stats.
(click to enlarge)

Gotham CIty: Hounds Sweep Twin Bill

Iain flashes the leather
The final week of the Gotham City regular season brought us to Heckscher Field for a grueling 4-game double bill. Fortunately it was not too hot and a bit overcast in the city, so the heat was not really a factor. We were up against two good, playoff-contending outfits. After the usual delays, it was time to play ball.

Schlink Went Yard X 2
For Game 1 of the two-game set vs I'd Hit That, we were the away team and came to bat first. We scored 2 quick runs in the 1st, Wink and Jane each had RBI singles. But IHT would counter with 2 runs of their own in the bottom of the frame. We then put up 3 in the top of the 2nd. This time it was Margaret, Iain, and Dave with RBI singles. IHT scored one in the bottom of the 2nd, and now we were up 5-3 and took complete control of the game. Our defense was solid across the board, and IHT would only score one more run the whole game. Meanwhile, we poured it on with Dave going yard twice, both majestic 3-run bombs. The game ended on a razzle-dazzle 6-4-3 double play. Final Score: Hounds 12, I'd Hit That 4.

Game 2 was a much tighter affair. Cap saw no need to change the formula, and Margaret got the call again. With the long day ahead of us, it made the most sense to leave our efficient ace out there for the whole afternoon. She rewarded his faith in her by getting us out of innings having thrown 5 pitches or less. Our defense continued to put on a clinic as we frustrated the heck out of IHT's batters. Let's give them credit too though, for they pretty much shut down the potent Hounds offense as well. RBIs from Push, Wink, and Alex is all we would get as the game was tied 3-3 entering the top of the final inning. IHT mustered a threat that was quickly squelched by a 5-5-3 double play. We had the top of the order coming up in the bottom of the inning, and felt very good that this one wouldn't be going to extras. After a pop out, JT came up to bat and smoked a single to left. Another fly out made it two outs and JT still on 1st. Then IHT's pitcher made a very curious decision. With Iain on deck, he decided to issue an intentional walk to Dave. This is not a knock against the big fella at all, but why put the winning run in scoring position so that now a single can beat you? It didn't make a lot of sense. I guess they were too traumatized by the damage Dave had done in the 1st game. But let's give credit to Dave for recognizing the situation and checking his usual desire to go up there and hack. Sure enough, Iain then came up and stroked a single to right-center. The outfielder fielded the ball cleanly and came up throwing. JT's all-out hustle as he rounded 3rd base made what could have been a close play into a non-issue as he touched home plate way before the throw arrived. The dugout exploded in celebration. Final Score: Hounds 4, I'd Hit That 3. 

No Fly Ball was safe from JT

Jay B's bat was on fire

Game 3 was actually the continuation of our interrupted game from last week against Thuggz & Juggz. We entered play down by two runs but with plenty of confidence that we could overcome the deficit. T & J was held scoreless by Margaret in the 1st, and we stormed ahead with 4 runs in the 1st– Cap, Iain, Dave, and Cindy with RBIs. We were now up by 2, but T & J grabbed the lead back with 3 runs in the 3rd, a clean home run doing the big damage. It was a hard fought encounter and as they did last week, things began to get testy. I feel bad for T & J's manager, because he is a decent guy, but he was having a hard time controlling some of his players' behavior as their unsportsmanlike tendencies began to rise to the surface. In the bottom of the 4th, we took the lead back on RBI's from Jay B. and C-Rod. Margaret was masterful and T & J would only score one more run against her. Let's give them credit for having some good hitters, even all of their females were making solid contact. But we continued to put on a defensive show, as we seemed to get more and more in the zone as the afternoon progressed. Meanwhile, we added 4 insurance runs on RBIs from Cap, Iain(2), and Jay B. Margaret closed them out with an easy top of the 6th. Final Score: Hounds 23, T & J  19.

Margaret was dominant
Game 4 was the culmination of many different factors: Our desire to get off the field to get on with our day and avoid the showers that were now threatening the park, our annoyance with some of their players for displaying unsportsmanlike behavior at our females no less, and the complete meltdown of their starting pitcher. He issued us walk after walk to start the game, and we were more than happy to take them. Truthfully, we mostly scored on double walks, sac flies, and fielder's choice, although Jay B did get yet another 2-RBI hit. Margaret and our defense were dominant, and as cocky as it sounds, we were focused like a laser beam on two things: win by mercy rule and a shutout for Margaret. T & J changed their pitcher but by that time it was way past too late. Things got a little ugly and there was a lot of yapping on both sides, but fortunately the umpiring crew took control of the situation and warnings were issued. In the end we were able to achieve both of our goals and it felt so sinfully good. Final Score: Hounds 11, T & J 0 (mercy).

For the first time in Hounds history, we have finished the Gotham City regular season undefeated. That is quite an accomplishment when you consider that many of us were in and out all summer, and we had a different cast of characters out there every weekend. It just goes to show that we have tremendous depth on this team. We have to be one of the top one or two teams in the standings, but I am not sure if there will be a bye this season. It has been a season full of surprises so we should expect the unexpected. Updates as soon as they are available.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

YSA: Hounds Achieve Perfection

 After an undefeated regular season, it was time for the Hounds to take the field and claim their destiny as the best team in this Yorkville League. The setting was DeWitt Clinton Park on a warm and beautiful New York evening. The stage was set with an intense atmosphere as both teams had their own sets of supporters to cheer them on. We were facing the team from Amalgamated Bank, who we had dispatched pretty easily in the regular season. However, we knew that result would have little to do with the game at hand. After the pleasantries were exchanged between the two managers, it was time to play ball.

As the home team, we took to the field first behind our ace Juiena. In typical Hounds fashion, we had a rough first inning, surrendering a two-run home run on what should have been a single at best. We got out of the inning only down 2-0, and now it was time to for us to bat. MikePa and JT proceeded to get us started with back-to-back extra base hits. Iain drove JT in with a sac fly and just like that the score was tied. Over the next couple of innings both teams exchanged blows, and heading into the bottom of the 4th we were down 4-3. We never felt the game was beyond our each, and sure enough, in that 4th inning, we imposed our will. RBIs from Cap, Wink(2), and Mano, put us up 7-4 and we would never look back. Our defense settled down tremendously in the later innings and along with Juiena's masterful pitching, it was a deadly combination for Amalgamated. They showed no signs of being able to score while we added 2 in the 5th, Iain driving in MikePa with a double, and Dave driving in JT with a single. We were now in the driver's seat and with Juice in complete control, Amalgamated went out feebly in their last licks. Final Score: Hounds 9, Amalgamated 4.

WIth our place in the final sewn up, we waited for the other semi-final to wrap-up, and in an upset, the Bombers defeated Bloomberg to set up this final confrontation for all the marbles. Once again, we were the home team, an important advantage we had sewn up by virtue of having the best regular season record. Juiena of course got the start and this time, we had a much better 1st inning defensively, holding the Bombers scoreless. We then jumped to a 1-0 lead, with MikePa making an outstanding baserunning play, scoring from 2nd base on Iain's sac fly. The Bombers have some good hitters and they also employed the strategy of using some diminutive batters to make the strike zone tiny, but Juiena dealt with them well. We put on a defensive clinic, with JT, Mike, Wink, and Mano making all the plays and then some in the outfield, and the infield of Cap, Iain, C-Rod & Dave was sharp as well. We hardly made any mistakes, but our bats were quiet and we entered the bottom of the 4th down 3-1. 

Then we put together a small-ball rally in the 4th. JT, Dave, & Cindy all came through with doubles, and Pat hit an RBI single to put us ahead 4-3. The Bombers made a couple of critical errors and we took full advantage by being alert and ready to capitalize. By the later innings, the Bombers showed little threat to score, while we tacked on some huge insurance runs in the bottom of the 6th. Mike and JT led off with doubles, and were driven in on RBI hits from Iain and Dave. Now we were up by 3 entering the Bombers' last chance. Juiena got the first two batters easily, and when the last batter hit a fly ball in JT's direction, we knew victory was at hand. The ball landed in his glove like it always belonged there and a wild celebration ensued. The dream of the perfect season has become a reality. Final Score: Hounds 6, Bombers 3.

Congratulations to all of us on a great season! Our team showed tremendous heart all season, and we won the final with sheer grit and determination. We didn't hit any home runs in the playoffs, but we were able to get it done with small-ball, really heads-up baserunning, and outstanding defense. A perfect 14-0 record is something to be proud of, especially given that we really had to earn that flawless record. Savor this moment, Hounds...

Scoresheet(After the Jump)