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Softball Report, May 18 » Nutcan.com: 15, Eastside Hill Nightcrawlers: 5

Submitted by Editor on May 19, 2010 – 10:05 pm | Print or Email »No Comment

by Joe Thielen, manager, Eastside Hill Nightcrawlers

Hello everyone, and happy spring! It’s that time of year again. My flowers are still alive, my yard is not yet infested with crabgrass, and ants have yet to discover the inside of my house. This also means it’s time for softball to start, and for that, I’m excited.

The Eastside Hill has had a co-ed, neighborhood team since 2006. In 2007 I took on the task of managing the team, mostly because I was the only guy who volunteered. At the time, Woo’s Pagoda sponsored the team, and we all got one free beer after each game. Yes, times were wonderful. Unfortunately in 2008, Woo’s fell on hard times, and one of the first things to go was our sponsorship. At that time, we were able to secure an informal sponsorship from the Nightcrawlers. The Nightcrawlers are a 15 piece blues/jug band from the Chippewa Valley that lets me play guitar with them occasionally. It is a bit odd for a musical group to sponsor a team, but really, they’re all my friends, and there are 15 of us. It’s not financially terrible to pony up a little cash each year in exchange for a team that brings our neighborhood together.

The Eastside Hill team has always been a plucky bunch of characters. Historically we have done well in the postseason. Twice, we’ve won our league championship, and last year we took second place. There is some kind of magic that takes hold of our neighborhood during the early part of August, and we tend to be quite formidable in those times.

As for the regular season…umm…not so much. Last year we were 2 and 8, with some nail-biters and some blowouts endured. Still, everyone has fun, and it’s yet another great way to bring people together in our little corner of the community.

The Eastside Hill Nightcrawlers took the field for the first time this year on Tuesday, May 18th, on University field #8. We played against Nutcan.com, a team that typically matches us evenly. This night, however, we were to be handed our first defeat of the year. Part of the reason was our roster formation. In the co-ed league, an equal number of men and women must be on the field at all times defensively. If only 4 ladies can make the game, we must play with an 8 player defense. Typically this means 3 outfielders and a first-and-a-half baseman in the infield. The Nightcrawlers found themselves in such a position on Tuesday night.

Even with these odds against the team, the group fought valiantly. Nutcan.com starting the scoring off with a 5 run first inning, and retired the Nightcrawlers in order in the bottom frame. This included a near home run by the Nightcrawlers’ veteran Mark Schueller that was caught on the warning track. In the second inning, Nutcan scored 5 more runs, and put the Nightcrawlers to bed with relative ease in the bottom frame. A Nightcrawler pitching change was made in the 3rd inning, and Nutcan was done in on 4 pitches in the top of the frame due to some ace. Then the Nightcrawlers’ bats came alive.

Schueller started a 4 run inning with the year’s first inside the park home run.  Moments later, Nightcrawlers rookie Andy Plank hit a triple with a shot down the right field line, driving in a run. Two more runs would come in. In the 5th inning, the Nightcrawlers stared off quickly, and loaded the bases. In fact, all of the baserunners were lady Nightcrawlers. Unfortunately, the Nightcrawler men let these ladies down, and the team would score just one run in the top of the 5th. In the bottom of the 5th, the Nutcan group added just enough runs to defeat the Nightcrawlers by the ten-run rule.

Although the offense was not quite enough to keep the game alive, we also had many memorable moments in the field. Paulette Edgar snagged a fly ball in right field and recorded her first putout as a Nightcrawler. Mark Schueller made an amazing basket catch after running a high fly ball down all the way from deep center field to just beyond second base. Josh Zeug also caught an inning-ending line drive back to the mound to close down the 3rd frame. And of course, rookie first-and-a-half-baseman (or is it first-and-a-half baseWOMAN?) Kelly Frasier performed wonderfully all game, making more than a few scoops in the dirt, and an unassisted force-out in the 5th.

While it’s sort of a manager’s job to help the team win, I typically get enough joy out of our finer moments to call each season worthwhile in its own right. On Tuesday night, this was made easy. The team has enough returning players to keep our strong sense of neighborhood alive, and we’ve got enough shirt-tail friends (read: outsiders!) along for the ride to keep us all honest. And we’ve got two more chances at Nutcan.com to exact whatever vengeance this group of players seeks.

Next week, we play an 8 o’clock game against an opponent that has been historically quite formidable in the Valleybrook group. Until then, this is your neighborhood skipper, signing off.

Joe Thielen is an Account Manager at a local software company, a guitar player in a few local bands, and the manager of the Eastside Hill neighborhood softball team.

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