Monday, August 9, 2010

My Softball Champ

Another softball league has come to an end. It's always sad in between seasons when I don't have a sport to cheer for James.

A few months ago, he helped his city league team win their second championship. I unfortunately didn't get any pictures of that season, so I never blogged about it.

Last Thursday was the end of the church softball league. This year was much more competitive than any before. There was 20 teams, all trying to take away our championship streak, but we were able to hold onto it and win the 5th year in a row.

I wanted to get a picture of James on the field after their amazing win, but he wanted me to make sure I let everyone know that the score board behind him is wrong. This was the score after the 7 regulation innings. They had an extra inning and were able to score 2 more runs.

The last 2 games were very intense. Many players had to slid to get to their bases in time. This is what James' leg looks like after sliding home....he was safe!

Here is a write up the man in charge wrote about the season. James' team is Clovis 3rd (C3).

The Quad Stake Softball Tournament came to an exciting end this past Thursday night with East Stakes, Clovis 3rd Ward winning their 5th consecutive championship against a very formidable opponent in the Riverside team from the West Stake. Clovis 3rd and the Alluvial Ward were the only undefeated teams entering the twelve team tournament with Alluvial claiming the spot as the number one seed. It was expected by most that Alluvial and Clovis 3rd would walk through the tournament and meet in the finals, but both teams ran into a buzz-saw of a team in Riverside. Riverside beat Clovis 3rd in a very close quarterfinal game and then beat Alluvial in the semifinal. Riverside had a number of good players, but in my opinion the key to their success was the consistency of their pitcher Tom Thatcher.

Many pitchers in slow pitch just feel happy when the ball hits the 20" wide target some 50' away, but Brother Thatcher was not only seeking the strike zone, he was finding purpose in his pitch placement. It's not that common to see strikeouts in slow pitch, but Tom was the cause of many a player walking back to the dugout shaking their head or left wondering why they kept popping the ball up or hitting a weak grounder. What many hitters fail to realize is the impact a well placed pitch can have on their sometimes, macho swing. Chase a low, short pitch and the likely result is a pop-up or a weak pulled grounder. Swing at a high, deep pitch and watch the ball sail high into the air but with little distance. When a good pitcher adds a little inside or outside placement to the mix, his team often finds they are in the winner's bracket. Both of the teams in the finals had pitcher's with real skill and focus with their pitch placements and were the key for their teams successes. Tom Thatcher from the Riverside team and James Kraucyk of Clovis 3rd were the pitchers of two very strong teams.

To quickly recap the final week, Peachwood lost to Echo, but the next night after having scored 8 runs in the first inning, Echo's run for the title ended as Clovis 3rd shut them down for a come from behind victory. In the winner's bracket, Alluvial was to play Riverside. The Riverside/Alluvial match-up was one of the best games to that point in the tournament, but some small mental errors led to Riverside squeaking out the victory. It appeared as though the Riverside match-up took all the wind out of the sail for Alluvial as the Alluvial team was manhandled by a very determined team in Clovis 3rd. Alluvial was a dominating powerhouse of a team throughout league play and up till their last night of tournament play where they met two teams that would provide the night of tournament nights in the finals. Congratulations to both Alluvial and Echo for making it to the quarterfinals and providing a season of excellent play. It should also be noted that if an award were to be given to a team for their display of sportsmanship, that award would go to the Echo Ward, at least that is from my perspective.

On the final night of tournament play Riverside was the team to beat as they had knocked off all their competition during the tournament and if Clovis 3rd wanted their 5th Quad Stake Crown, they would need to defeat Riverside two times. The first game of the night ended up being no match for the stunned Riverside team as the hero of the game was the pitcher for Clovis 3rd, Brother James Kraucyk. His last name is as difficult to pronounce as are his pitches to hit. Riverside just couldn't make the adjustment in the first game and James pitched the one and only shutout game of the season. A shutout in slow pitch softball is almost unheard of, but not on Thursday night. Great pitches with a good defense are the makings of a quick victory. The Clovis 3rd revenge victory meant both evenly matched teams would square off in the second game of championship play.

The final game was a match-up of two strong pitchers, good hitters and excellent defense. The lead in the game switched several times and the fans were excellent as they cheered for their team. There were a lot of big hits and exciting defensive plays. Unfortunately play was interrupted when a player hit a ball over the left field fence and smashed the bedroom window of an apartment dweller. The apartment was dark and all eyes remained focused in that direction thinking just maybe it was a vacant dwelling, but then the light turned on and in just a few short minutes the game came to a stop as a very frustrated renter came straight to me as I sat at the scorer's table, with the ball in her hand. "Someone broke my window and I need it fixed, now", she said. I directed her to the individual responsible and information was exchanged and arrangements made for the repair. (I instituted the rule that any balls hit into the property of our neighbors would be an out after having received several complaints from them after balls had hit their cars and walls. This was the first time a face of those neighbors stepped forward and I think everyone saw this neighbors frustration and yes, anger.) The brief interruption only added to the excitement of the closing innings of the best game of the tournament. After 7 innings of see-saw scoring, the game was tied at 11 runs and we headed into extra innings to determine a champion. The visiting team was Riverside and following a short threat, their half of the 8th ended quietly. Unfortunately for Riverside, Clovis 3rd started the 8th with the meat of their lineup. The first hitter got on base and then was called out in a fielders choice play at second. With the score tied at 11 and James Kraucyk on first, Bart Ballard came to the plate and performed just as the fans and players of Riverside feared. When the pitch left Tom Thatcher's hand you just knew it was going for a long ride and it did. The ball was crushed and sailed into the trees of center field, a legal home run that ended the season for Riverside. The 13 to 11 run game was an end to a great game and season. Both teams came together in a wonderful display of respect and sportsmanship, in fact the entire night was an example of how athletes should conduct themselves during competition. I have spent many years watching softball games and this will remain one of my favorite memories of Church athletic play.

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THE TEAMS AND MOST OF ALL TO OUR 2010 CHAMPIONS, CLOVIS 3RD.

Thanks to all,
Curtis Thompson