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Softball Report, July » Nutcan.com: 11, Eastside Hill Nightcrawlers: 9

Submitted by Editor on July 13, 2010 – 9:09 pm | Print or Email »No Comment

by Joe Thielen, manager | The Eastside Hill Nightcrawlers very nearly pulled out a dazzling upset against Nutcan.com on Tuesday night (June 29). Down to 8 players again, the Nightcrawlers mustered all they could in run production, defensive prowess, and team spirit. Josh Zeug, fresh off of a thumb injury, joined Joe Thielen on the bench, and with his wonderful scorekeeping abilities, allowed Thielen the freedom to employ all his mental faculties toward team motivation.

The night started off with the neighborhood team nearly forfeiting the game, as the Nightcrawlers found themselves one lady short to start the night. Nutcan.com was kind enough to provide a female catcher and accept an out in the 2nd inning to make up for the shortcomings on the Nightcrawler side.  Thankfully, in the top of the 3rd, the Nightcrawlers were at (nearly-full) 8-member strength again, and the Nutcan team was relieved of their duties in propping up the game. The neighborhood team would play with three outfielders and a compromised infield, featuring a floating shortstop, a third baseman, and a first-and-a-half basewoman.

Nutcan.com started the scoring with one run in the second inning, but the Nightcrawler defense held fast for much of the game.  This included several great plays by an infield seemingly built for high-pressure situations.  Phil Garvey and Doug Loechner once again played impeccable defense, and Kristina Lyberg filled in well for an injured Kelly Frasier.  In the bottom of the third, with the bases loaded, a crucial 1-6-3 double play ended the inning, as Ken Symanski, Loechner, and Lyberg combined to close out the frame.  Kasey Schmidt also made several key plays in left field on fly balls drifting in the deceivingly potent summer breeze.

Nutcan would score two more in the 4th, and then it was time for the Nightcrawlers to mount a comeback. Mark Schueller knocked in the first run with a triple in the 5th, and Loechner drove in two more in the top of the 6th to tie the game at 3 apiece.  Symanksi once again pitched a gem for the first 5 innings, pitching for contact and propped up by the team’s solid defensive efforts.  Comparisons were made to a young Barry Zito among several members of the crowd of Thielen’s scattered thoughts.

What was beginning to look like a pitchers’ duel broke wide-open in the last two frames. Nutcan.com finally got the better of Symanksi, and struck for seven* runs in the bottom of the 6th with several well-placed grounders between the gaps. Thielen and Zeug could only sit on the sidelines in bewildered silence as the inning dragged on. At that point, Nutcan looked to have the game in the bag since the offense from the Eastside Hill lineup had been quiet all night.  Once again, though, the Eastside Hill team proved to be down, but not out.

The Nightcrawlers would mount a sustained comeback of their own in the 7th. Thielen’s workman-like approach to the comeback proved to be nearly successful. “We need 7 runs, kids! Let’s get the first 3 and then worry about the other 4 after that!” bellowed Thielen.  The Nightcrawler offense responded in kind, tallying two runs almost immediately on a clutch Mark Schueller triple into left field. “Ok, guys, we need another run now!” boomed Thielen once more.  With that, Nightcrawler Phil Garvey scorched a double into left field, scoring Mark. Loechner would go on to drive in Phil, and the Nightcrawlers would bat around to Schueller. Schueller responded with a triple off the wall, clearing the bases and bringing the Nightcrawlers within two runs. Loechner beat out a grounder to drive in Mark for the final run of what would eventually be a 6-run inning. Alas, the neighborhood team simply ran out of outs in the end, and the Nutcan team would walk away the victors after a hard-fought match.

*It should be noted that Nutcan.com incorrectly reported a 7-run bottom of the 6th to the home-plate umpire, which, in official terms means the Nightcrawlers lost by one run. A later review of both team’s scorecards indicate that the Eastside Hill team actually lost by two runs, 11-9. Regardless of the outcome, Thielen was happy. “Really, I would have felt a little bad if we had pulled it out there. They spotted us a player for the first two innings, and then they reported a mistaken run tally in the 6th. Winning would have felt a little wrong somehow on both counts. They are a good bunch of folks, and it’s always a pleasure to play them – we match up well.”

Joe Thielen is the manager of the Eastside Hill Nightcrawlers, and occasionally experiences bouts of righteous indignation for dubious reasons.

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