Oliver and Company roars in extra inning to claim top men's spot at season ending softball tournament
At least on paper, Oliver and Company shouldn’t have needed extra innings to beat Outsiders in the final game of the Nome Softball Association’s end-of-the-season tournament. After all, they earned the number one seed at Friday night’s game of the men’s bracket at South Satellite Field by having taken care of their three pool play opponents by a combined total score of 54-29.
“We knew we were going to be missing some boys,” said first baseman Irv Barnes as he explained that Oliver and Company started the championship game with three less than the regulation ten players. “We had to be strategic. When we came up we knew we only had seven guys, so me and (starting pitcher) Shae (Oliver) were talking and we said if we win the coin toss we want to bat first.”
Typically when a team picks, they choose to start the game in the field, allowing them to be the last batters in the seventh and final inning. Due to being shorthanded, Oliver and Company’s atypical plan was to start on offense, build a lead, and rely on their stingy defense the remainder of the game.
The tactic worked well early as they finished the first inning in front by the score of 8-3. “We were fortunate to go through our line-up twice (in the first inning),” said Barnes.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Outsiders, fueled by three runs from Jade Greene and Matt Mitchell, chipped away at the margin until they held a 16-14 lead in the fourth inning. They, too, would give up their lead, and the teams finished the sixth frame tied at 19 apiece.
In the seventh inning, Oliver and Company batted around for the third time, bringing Alex Roy, Oliver, Jon Wongittilin, and Mark Schroeder across the plate. Their plan to start the game with bats in their hands looked to be effective, as they established a 23-19 advantage with only a half inning to play.
Outsiders needed to rely on their most experienced players to mount a comeback. With veterans Dave Barron, Wilson Bourdon and Troy Miller leading the way, they closed the gap and sent the game into extra innings. “We were plus four and we were like, ‘Let’s try and close this out’,” said Oliver. “But the next thing you know they were getting base hit after base hit.”
Shortstop Jeremy Luce led off the top of the eighth with a hard hit double for Oliver and Company. Barnes followed that with a towering home run to left field. Six of their first eight batters hit doubles. That was followed up with a single by Barnes and a triple by Wongittilin. Nine of the first ten players to step up to the plate scored, and before Outsiders could figure out what hit them, Oliver and Company had built a 32-23 lead. Thanks to the stellar defense of Luce, who caught the last two outs, Oliver and Company kept the score unchanged, allowing only an Outsiders’ single in the bottom of the frame.
After the game, Wongittilin said that Barnes home run was the spark the team needed to finish off the game. Oliver said the two-run shot was the home run of the year.
“It’s tricky,” said Barnes of playing softball in Nome during the summer. “You get nice weather, people want to be berry picking, or camping or fishing. So all year we have been battling trying to play with a full team.” Even though they have played with as few as six during the regular season, Oliver and Company concluded the year with a 13-3 record.
Quality Auto nips Dredge 7
The season ending tournament is a true double elimination. Since the Dredge 7 Inn Vincible gals had lost to Quality Auto in pool play, they needed their game opening 9-8 victory on Friday night at North Satellite Field over their biggest rivals to force a second game in the championship round.
Dredge 7 built on their game one momentum by scoring four of the first five batters in the first inning of game two, and added a pair of runs in the third inning. At the same time Quality Auto couldn’t get their potent offense on track, and only pitcher Jenny O’Connor came across the plate in the first three frames. Quality, however, got on track in the fourth inning by scoring five times and tied the game at 6-6.
Dredge 7 left fielder Katie Bourdon led off the top of the sixth with a single, and used two errors by Quality Auto to score. While they could only muster one other base runner, Dredge 7 had retaken the lead at 7-6.
Quality Auto looked to be delivering the decisive blow in the bottom half of the sixth. Rae West led off with a triple, and scored on an RBI single by Bev Tran. Mandy Ellanna walked and was moved to second on a single by Rhonda West. Lena Danner was walked to load the bases, and Marci Smith singled up the middle to score Tran and Ellanna. O’Connor provided 2 RBIs with a single, as Danner and Smith scored. After O’Connor scored on an error, Quality Auto was sitting on a 12-7 lead. All they had to do for a championship celebration was to hold Dredge 7 to four or fewer runs in the top of the seventh.
Dredge 7 would not go away quietly in the top of the seventh inning. A pair of walks to Sandy Martinson and Chrissy Piscoya to open the frame gave Weez Walcott a chance to drive in a few runs. Her shot to centerfield was bobbled, allowing both base runners to make their way across home plate, and suddenly the score was 12-9. Before Quality could register three outs, Walcott, as well as the next two batters, Allison Johnson and Leslie Cannon, scored to tie the game at 12-12.
Needing just one run to win, Bev Tran started Quality Auto’s bottom half of the inning by getting a single. Dredge 7 used Ellanna’s ground ball to force Tran at second for the first out, and then recorded a fly ball from Rhonda West for the second out. Danner drew a walk to give her team runners at first and second. It seemed fitting that shortstop Smith, who had helped her team all day with her slick fielding, would be given the chance to be the offensive heroine. Although Smith’s ground ball remained in the infield, third base coach Jerry West sent Ellanna from second in an attempt to score. Dredge 7 catcher Paula Davis momentarily had the ball after tagging the runner, but somehow it came loose, allowing Ellanna to score, giving Quality Auto the 13-12 championship win.
After the game, members of both teams mingled and acknowledged the fun rivalry between the two. Dredge 7 first baseman Josie Stiles, a long time participant in Nome softball, said that the two teams had played a game with the final score of 43-37. “We won that one,” she said. “I've never been in a game like that, or heard of a score so high.”