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.