Friday, September 24, 2010

2010 is officially the year of the Magical Flying Unicorn

Despite the ignominious second to last game of the season, this year has been a year of firsts for the Magical Flying Unicorns. Our first championship, our first number 1 seed, and the first time I have ever seen anyone doubled twice off of 2nd base in one softball game.

One game does not summarize the overall accomplishments of a year. We should not reflect on the abortion of a game put forth by the team this last Tuesday. Let the ugly fetus of our fall championship hopes get sucked up the collective vacuum of our memories and leave only the good memories behind.

Remember Vicki sliding in the mud at first base in the craziest game ever and not T-Bear lamely hobbling after ground balls like a 60 year old man who needs his cane. Remember the shock on CNA’s faces as we slammed the door shut on their perfect season with a stunning 10-7 win instead of the disbelief on our faces when we were down 15-0. Remember Smores making that final catch against Tank U and our #1 fan Javi dancing jubilantly with a fountain of beer instead of Legend crossing home plate as the center fielder caught a routine fly ball.

Remember Turk buying $300.00 of shots at Cactus instead of everyone bailing after a 17-4 dismantling. Remember Juice streaking home with the winning run off a Sparky RBI single instead of seven runs scored in a row in the first inning on countless errors. Remember two double header sweeps in a row done in impressive fashion instead of the cockiness of CCAO at our expense. Remember the 179 feet of baseline that the Legend was safe on during his notta home run instead of the one foot where he was out.

In a world full of “what have you done for me lately,” we can look past the recent ugliness and savor the great season we had. As a matter of fact after going down 15-0 we finished the game beating CCAO the last couple of innings 4-2, so pat yourself on the back for winning the last three innings of last week's game.

We had a phenomenal year. After sweeping the playoffs in the spring after a lackluster regular season we then had an impressive fall season grabbing the #1 seed. It seemed that championships and $585.00 grew on trees for hungry unicorns until 7 batters scored in a row last Tuesday.

The truth is championships are elusive no matter what the sport or on what level the competition is at. I can give two examples of the fickleness of championships in the softball world.

After the championship last year Juice sent me an email and said he had never won a championship before and has played softball for 15 years. A player of his talents one would think he has a living room full of first place trophies.

In my ’12 in league our team won three championships in a row dating back two years ago. This year we have equally talented players and lost in the first round of the Spring league and lost in the championship of the Summer league.

In the summer league we were 7-0 and beat most teams by crazy scores of 18-4. In the finals we got off to a 7-1 lead after the first inning. We only scored 1 more run the rest of the game. In the last inning we had runners at first and second with nobody out trailing 9-8. If we plated those two runners it would have been a walk off championship. Instead, darkness fell and a line drive caught by the shortstop turned into a triple play to end the game as the runners at both first and second pulled a Russ.

The year of the Unicorn is not over either. On October 23 the The Magical Flying Unicorns will cap off the 2010 softball campaign with the party of the century. When Unicorns celebrate, they celebrate hard, so I anticipate being hungover until the New Year after that one.

Congrats Unicorns on a great season.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Magical Flying Unicorns sweep their way into the playoffs

The Magical Flying Unicorns swept their way into the playoffs with two impressive double digit scores against good teams. CHA and TNT are two teams that we have gone up against for years. The first game was CHA. We defeated this team in the semi finals two falls ago to set up our first championship effort. We lost in the finals 3-2 that year.

The key to the victories on Tuesday were big innings and of course Pitch and defense. We started off the first game with four runs in the first thanks to big hits by Turk and Bassmaster after the usually reliable T-Bear (don't forget to click on the T-Bears) started off the game with a fly out.

We broke out in the second inning in a big way with 8 big runs. New Unicorn Gina showed shades of Sparky with a lead off hit. T-Bear followed with a double. Both Unicorns scored on a double by the red hot Turk. Legend and Bassmaster followed with doubles and the route was on. Everyone got into the act as Ruben singled and scored as did Smores. Jackie-O also scored and Gina finished the inning the way she started it with a single. Two hits in one inning. Great job Gina.

Our usual top notch defense was really suspect. Fortunately, this team did not have the bats to take advantage of our errors. One error was wiped out by a 4-6-3 double play after a wayward throw by the Legend. Awesome job by Bassmaster for starting the twin killing. Another error by Bauer was almost erased by another double play as T-Bear started what should have been a 6-3 double play, but it just turned out to be a 6 unassisted fielder’s choice (for those scoring at home) as 3 dropped the ball.

In fact, 3 (the code for first baseball scorecard lexicon) dropped four balls. After the fourth drop it was time for management action. For those that know Bauer they know that she is feisty, proud, and ornery. Yelling at her, or really anyone for that matter would not be effective and replacing her would not work as although Bassmaster could play first we are better defensively the way we are.

I figured the best option would be to make fun of her in front of everyone. That would get her pride up and piss her off and make her focus. I went over and comically inspected her gloves for holes as something had to be wrong with it. Of course she got angry and after that she focused and did not drop a ball the rest of the game. In fact, she was a star in the second game.

Photo caption: Agent Bauer looked more like Agent Soriano in beginning of the first game

There are certain plays in a game that really take the wind out of the other team's sail. In this game it happened when their very capable lead off dude hit a line drive up the middle. Our 35 year old Pitch showed reflexes of a 20 year old and like a cat scooped up the ball on the short hop and threw it over to Bauer (who finally caught one). This demoralized the other team and although we never scored another run after the second inning, we did not need to as we ended up winning 12-5.

I love the fact that T-Bear went 1-4 and we not only won, but we won convincingly. Usually when the leadoff hitter gets only 1 hit it does not bode well for the rest of the team. Thanks Unicorns for picking up my poor offensive performance.

It was on to play TNT. This is a team that has been a thorn in the side of the Unicorns for 3 years. In our inaugural fall season we lost to them 14-13 in the first round of the playoffs. We lost to them last year too by one run and I think we lost to them in another season by one run as well. We have only beat them once and that was last fall. They just beat the undefeated team, so it was apparent that they were still good.

T-Bear started off with a double and scored on a Turk sacrifice fly. Even when the sizzling Turk gets out he contributes. We went out meekly in the 2nd and 3rd, but we kept TNT scoreless for the first two innings.

TNT is not a team that hits the crap out of the ball, but they are very talented at hitting them where they aren’t. Their girls are also well versed in placing the ball in the gaps. They showed off this talent in the bottom of the third inning and scored 6 runs. We did not play our best defense in this inning, but we did not play our worst. There were a couple of hits that just barely went off gloves for base hits. That is what TNT does when they score runs.

After being down 6-1 after three innings T-Bear really thought this game was lost. We had only scored 1 run in the last 8 innings and it was doubtful that we could keep up with TNT considering we were already 5 down. Then the Unicorn offense awoke with a vengeance.

The top of the fourth not only saw us catch up to TNT, but we passed them with 8 big runs. We had consecutive hits and all of those Unicorns scored. The highlight of the inning was a two run triple by Bassmaster who blasted a line drive right up the gut of the defense and it kept rolling. Jackie-O also smashed a line drive double right down the line in the middle of the hit parade.

Not only did we score runs, but we also held TNT after the 4th inning. Since TNT pulls the ball it really puts pressure on the right side of the infield and they responded. Bauer made a nice play on a ground ball and made an unassisted out and also had an unassisted double play after catching a line drive. Jackie-O continued her solid play as rover and caught several balls out in center and Pitch and Bassmaster continued her solid play at second. Turk also shrugged off early season catching woes and made a great play on a sinking liner. Legend made two nice throws at third in the later innings to help seal the game and Bauer held on at first.

Speaking of sealing, the Unicorns came through with a ton of insurance in the top of the 7th. Six more runs put the Unicorns up 15-8 and put the game on ice. The Unicorns showed great offensive production with two huge innings. T-Bear, Turk, Legend, Bassmaster, Ruben, and Smores all had 3 hits.

Another proud Unicorn is Bassmaster who has been in a little bit of an offensive slump this year although she has been great with the glove. After our last game T-Bear encouraged her to fire up her hitting. She did this with a vengeance in this game with five hits including some huge RBI in some of our most productive innings.

The Unicorns are currently tied for first place with the team that we play next week. Although we know that seeding does not mean much, but it would be nice to be the #1 seed. We have never been the #1 seed, so it would be another feather in our horns.

See you on Tuesday Unicorns.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Magical Flying Unicorns sweep a double header

The Magical Flying Unicorns sweep a double header and are now 3-1 as we are already more than halfway through the season. Last week we split a double header with an 18-2 victory over POAs who were one of the worst teams I have ever seen.

Their female shortstop actually had a decent glove, but it is ridiculous to go down to one knee in the infield. That is a maneuver done in the outfield in little league. Their pitcher was so bad that she was somewhat effective. However, her defense could not catch a ball, so we killed them.

The next game was one of those games we should have won, but two great plays by their right fielder kept us from tacking on key insurance runs and the second catch from winning in walk off fashion in the 8th inning. We have gone on an impressive run lately, and we were bound to lose a game, so no big deal. If we play them again we will be motivated to win and we should have confidence knowing that we can win.

The first game this week featured a rematch with the Norc Cobras. We played them the first game of last season. We beat them 10-6 thanks to a Juice grand slam. They were horrible last year and were lucky to score 6 except that we gift wrapped them 5 unearned runs.

I have to say they are much improved and scored 4 runs in the first to take a quick lead. There were no errors either as they got lucky with some well placed hits.

T-Bear (as always click on the links and give the coach some love) led off the game with a walk and scored, and Turk plated Pitch to cut the lead in half. After the four runs in the first, our defense and Pitch took over. The rest of the game felt like a game of catch between T-Bear and Agent Bauer.

Thinking back on it I don’t think there was one play where I had to move. All were routine grounders hit right to me. The only one I moved a little bit on was the last play of the game where Bauer made a fantastic stretch to end it. This is a testament to the unhittability of Pitch's arc. The opposition can only weakly hit it to short.

The offense chipped away at the lead and then took it and never looked back. T-Bear and Turk paced it with perfect games including a home run by Turk.

The only thing that slowed the Unicorns down was the umpire. This guy was in no hurry. In between innings he briefed their mini me on how to fill out a score card. I think he also gave him the history of keeping score from the Stone Age all the way to electric score cards and now the internet.

The first lady of unicorns hurt her pretty little leg following an at bat, but gutted out the remainder of the game. In fact, she made a great catch and double play as rover with a hurt quad. We might have to change her nickname to Butkus after that display of toughness.

The next game was a much tighter affair against Hagan’s Heroes. We actually got them in order the first two innings, and I was thinking this could be a perfect game, but they got a hit in the third, so the press conference for Pitch was canceled.

Jackie could no longer fight the injury and gave way to Pitch Jr. Pitch Jr. promptly grounded out for her first at bat, but it was a productive out. T-Bear sailed around third and it was an RBI in Pitch Jr.’s first at bat.

The game remained tight and Pitch was giving me a heart attack with a number of 3-1 counts on guys. Not once though did she give in on the 3-1 count and create an automatic walk situation. Great control here as automatic walks will kill you in close games.

It was 3-2 going into the later innings when Hagan’s Heros launched their secret weapon. Their girls started to bunt. Unfortunately, they failed to read the league handbook, which states that bunts are illegal. The ump in fairness let them have a do over and did not even call a strike on the bunt attempt. He could have called her out.

In response the Heroes went with secret weapon number two. They campaigned a ruthless war of the whine. They bitched and moaned, they cried, they sobbed, they complained, and it was not just the coach, but the whole team.

A second bunt was called and again he fairly let her hit again, and they intensified their sobs. It finally worked as the ump had a defeated look on his face and waived a white flag. The Unicorns took note and played shallow for their weak hitting ladies.

3-2 is not a very safe lead and fortunately Turk came through with what turned out to be the winning run with a 6th inning home run. They scored again in the bottom of the 6th and then Smores came through with some huge insurance to put us up 5-3 going into the bottom of the 9th.

We were up two runs last week and allowed them back into the game where they eventually won, but not this time. We got the first two critical outs before they got a hit. Then one of their ferocious bunters came up.

Sure enough she pooched a little soft liner to third that went through the Legend’s legs. Normally T-Bear is apprehensive to grab anything that emerges from in between the legs of the Legend, but there was no time to ponder this thought and I picked up the ball and threw to Bauer to end the game and seal the double header sweep.

The real key of the week harkens back to the drinking performance from Ruben, Turk, and T-Bear. Many Unicorns immediately bailed and left a heavy burden on the livers of the remaining trio of Unicorns. New Unicorn Gina helped out with a few, but it was the three aforementioned players that drank tall and set us up for victory in this week’s double header. This bodes well for next week as we once again were the last to leave Grant Park, and we also had decent participation at Cactus.

I have some very sad news to impart. After a long and lengthy softball career including one Unicorn championship and one runner up and three other softball championships, T-Bear's shorts are finally going to be laid to rest. Say a prayer for a pair of shorts that had an amazing career. In five years it will sure to be a first ballot softball hall of fame inductee.

See you next week.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Magical Flying Unicorns fly away with the Lord Grant Park trophy

The Magical Flying Unicorns fly away with the Lord Grant Park trophy in a tense 9 inning affair that had the Unicorn nation hearts fluttering. Speaking of the Unicorn nation, it was great to see an actual Unicorn nation at the game. The fan turnout was incredible. It was a small sea of pink gathered together to root on our lovable team.

Photo caption: The Unicorn nation replete with pink, beautiful girls, and even banners

We had mothers, fathers, daughters, husbands, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, ex-co-workers, ex cons, ex wives, landlords, former Unicorns, mistresses, and of course we had Javi the #1 fan of course. There was a time when #1 fan was because he was our only fan, but we now have a significant following live, on facebook, and even twitter.

Photo caption: #1 fan Javi with trophy, T-Bear and Smores

Special thanks to Morgan for the awesome photos (she is our official Unicorn photographer), and Gene Bass for being official Unicorn score keeper. We even had banners and several hot chicks that turned out to watch. We are becoming as popular as the Cubs, but we actually win.

Photo caption: Our official score keeper Gene Bass with Legend and the trophy

T-Bear was uncharacteristically tardy and got there just in time to open up a beer take a swill and head over to hear the ground rules. I am so tired of listening to the dumb ground rules. We are made to hear the same boring speech 18 times a year. I feel like a bored kid in class as my eyes wander around the field. I usually use this time as an opportunity to check out if the other team has any hotties. What was great about today is we had great eye candy in our cheering corner. Yay Unicorn nation.

Photo caption: the hotties of the unicorn nation and Bauer's boyfriend

The game began with a bang from the Unicorns with three straight hits from T-Bear (don’t forget to give T-Bear some love and click on him (don’t worry it is no virus)), Jackie O, and Turk. Legend followed with a hit and gave the Unicorns a two run lead after the first frame.

Photo caption: Jackie O gets another early hit to lead on the Unicorn attack

In the second, Juice induced a walk and took Bauer with him on the automatic walk rule, and it looked like we were in business. Smores got a hit and the Unicorns were up 3-0. Unfortunately, Bauer ran us out of the inning at 3rd base. I take some of the blame as I waived Juice home and was preoccupied with him scoring. Then I looked up and I saw Bauer and her massive mammaries barreling toward me and I did what I always do when this happens and stared in wonderment. I should have snapped out of it and held her at second, but that is easier said than done. Anyways, it was beginning to look like the past two games where we tacked on runs in almost every inning and shut down the opponent enough to win.

Photo caption: Smores with another RBI

It was not to be that easy however as after that we did not score again until the 9th inning. Inning 3-8 was a mirror of our season from week 2 to week 6 minus the forfeits. The score card through the middle to late innings were a wasteland of GOs and FOs, which is scorecard jargon for ground outs and fly outs. We had one inning we went 1,2,3 and three other innings only four Unicorns batted.

We lost 3-2 in the finals to Risky Business two years ago, and I felt pleased that we outdid our offensive effort in that game by the third inning, but without more runs it was inevitable that they would score and they eventually tied it up. A few Unicorn miscues helped them out. Despite our errors, we stayed poised and made quick work of most of their females and even some of their males.

Photo caption: The Legend at third base

Special shout out must go out to Agent Bauer at first base whom might eventually lose her nickname in favor of the name “stretch.” First base is one of the most important positions in softball. Many outs are recorded there and it is also important for first base to stop bad throws from going out of play in order to keep the runner at first in order to maintain a force option at second.

Photo caption: Bauer at first

She did her job with panache this year and I felt that any ball in her vicinity was an automatic out. This was apparent in this game as she even came off the bag a couple of times to either stop the ball and on one play catch it and tag the runner. She also caught one scoop.

Photo caption: Bauer coming off the bag at first

I believe it is the first basewoman’s job to catch everything from the knees to maybe a foot over the top of the head. It is the job of the fielder to throw the ball in that vicinity. Any throws made outside this area are not expected to be caught and when they are it is a bonus. Bauer made all the catches within the zone and exceeded expectations with a few outside of it.

As a shortstop when I have confidence in my first basewoman I throw the ball better. I make throwing errors when I question the abilities of the first basewoman because I try too hard to make the perfect throw. This is when I tend to short hand the ball. Thanks to Bauer she has made me a better player, and I hope to throw it to her for years to come.

Photo caption: Bauer at first. This is not a stretch, but a contortion

A softball game is either one hour or seven innings. After six innings the score was knotted at three. This put us in a great disadvantage as we were the away team and the home team always has last ups. All they needed to do was score one measly run in the 7th or 8th inning and the game was over and championship won in walk-off fashion.

Photo caption: Juice makes a nice running catch

The 7th inning went without incident as both teams meekly went down without much of a threat. The 8th inning is when things got interesting. In the top half of the inning Turk led off with a hard grounder to 3rd and I think they made one of the few errors for them in the game and threw it away. Turk was on second with no outs. He advanced to third on a ground out by Pitch and then Legend hit a ball far enough to easily sacrifice Turk.

However, instead of tagging, Turk jumped the gun. I am convinced there is a colony of ants at third base that insert themselves into player’s pants at key junctions of the game. This is the only explanation here. They jumped into Turk's pants at the critical moment and he jumped off the bag prematurely. Turk had to return and then could not advance. This could have proven costly and almost did.

Photo caption: Pitch throwing some deadly arc

The next half-inning will go down in Unicorn lore forever. Tank U got three consecutive hits with well placed balls that barely eluded Unicorn fielders. They had the bases loaded and nobody out. Most times in softball this will lead to three maybe four runs, and all they needed was one and game over. All they needed was a long fly ball, a well placed grounder, or even a swinging bunt would have been sufficient.

Instead they did nothing with the opportunity. First girl up popped out to T-Bear. Then a dude tried to go the opposite way, but popped out to shallow center. Smores fired it home and an alert Bauer corralled the ball and stopped the runner at third from advancing. Then their weakest hitter grounded to T-Bear and the Unicorns magically escaped.

Photo caption: One of those well placed balls eluded the rover

The inning deflated Tank U and sparked the Unicorns. Juice led off the next inning with a hit and was followed by another hit by Smores. First and third with one out and guess who stepped up at the plate? Did I say “the inning ‘sparked’ the Unicorns earlier in this paragraph? Us literary types call that foreshadowing. Up to the plate stepped Sparky, who is becoming as big of a cult figure as the Unicorns themselves. The crowd yelled “Sparky, Sparky, Sparky.”

Photo caption: Juice starts another rally with a base knock

I initially penciled in Sparky to replace Jackie-O in the second hole, but then changed my mind and put her in the ten spot. I did this because I knew she would have an opportunity to influence the game more at the tenth spot than the second spot. Once again, T-Bear’s strategy turned magical and up came Sparky at the time when the Unicorns needed to ignite their offense.

Photo caption: Sparky sits on the bench and patiently waits her chance to change softball and Unicorn history

All she needed to do was place a ball where the speedy Juice could score. She came through and achieved what Tank U failed to do in the 8th. Juice flashed home quicker than T-Bear can squeeze an orange at Big Bowl, which is not saying much because it is kind of a slow tedious process. Let's try that again. Juice flashed home quicker than you could pour a glass of orange juice in a small glass. He touched the plate right as the ball arrived and was called safe in a bang-bang play. The difference in the game was we had a spark and Tank U did not.

Photo caption: Our star Sparky

T-Bear must pause and give a special shout out to our ump. This ump in this game used to hate us. At least it seemed that way. He made a controversial call that ended our championship run two years ago, and he seemed to always give other teams the close calls. He has done a 180 degree turn and given us the magical calls this year. We have worked our magic on him.

Photo caption: Tony the once much maligned up now a Unicorn favorite and Bauer making another stretch

Back to the action: Sparky stopped in mid stride to first and threw her hands up and screamed “YES.” “Sparky, “ I yelled, as I was first base coach, get to the bag and then celebrate. Fortunately Tank U was too busy arguing the call to notice Sparky’s solo celebration and she was able to resume her run to first with a game changing play. T-Bear than collected his fourth hit of the game with a well placed ball right down the first base line and the score was now 5-3.

Photo caption: T-Bear drives in the last run of the game for the Unicorns

In the bottom of the ninth they got a base hit to lead off the inning. Then a fly out or pop up made it one out and a runner still at first. Then a line drive was hit to the Legend and he had the runner off the bag and an easy out to end the game. It would not be that easy though as the dreaded third base ants once again made their appearance and jumped into the Legend's pants. Russ got too antsy and fired it outside the range of Stretch (Bauer). The guy got to third and the game continued. Another hit made the score 5-4.

Then a ball was hit to center and if it dropped they would tie the score. The ball seemed to hang in the air forever as it moved in slow motion.

Photo caption: This is how the ball appeared to T-Bear at short as it hung in the air forever

Smores made a beautiful running catch and smothered it with his marshmellowy body. The celebration was on. Go crazy Unicorn nation go crazy. Tank U went home and the Unicorns stayed and partied. After coming so close two years ago and not even making the playoffs last year with a revamped team it was especially gratifying to win it all this year.

Photo caption: Smores that big lug made the game saving catch

Another big shout out needs to go to Pitch. I cannot believe I barely even mentioned her name at all in this write up until now yet her name was behind every word as we are nothing without our Pitch. If Sparky ignites us then Pitch is our engine. Her excellence is so constant that we sometime forget how great she is. Pitch proves with her 570th career win that pitching and defense wins championships, but pitching is the egg and defense is the chicken and offense is the mash potato and gravy, or something like that. Tank U actually out defended us, but we out hit them barely enough to win, and of course we had a secret weapon in our Sparky.

Photo caption: Pitch is our team MVP for every game and every season

Great game by Smores in the outfield and behind the plate as he was on base three times, made the game winning catch, and several other nice plays. Juice is like a second lead-off man. He has great instincts on the base paths and his base running was an integral part of our win. He also made a great running catch late in the game.

Photo caption: When Juice gets on he usually scores

The Vicki/Sparky combo in the tenth hole got on base three out of four times. Sparky yet again got a key hit when we needed it most. In fact, all season Sparky and Jackie O came through with some timely hits.

Photo caption: Jit taking a rip

A question I got asked many times during the night is “did I ever think we would have won the championship?” The answer is "yes, of course." Not only did I think we would win, but I knew we would win. After the first practice Smores and I came across a macabre scene. Three dead squirrels were squashed on Columbus and the sole survivor of the family, one of the babies lay quivering on the shoulder traumatized from witnessing the horrible deaths of mother, father, and brother.

Photo caption: Key mid season acquisition Bassmaster

T-Bear knew right then and there that it was an oracle handed down from the Unicorn gods. The three dead squirrels signified three losses and the squirrel that survived symbolized hope, survival, and staying alive. This is what we did and all we had at certain times during the year when our offense sputtered and we lost close game after close game that we should have won. However, I knew that fate and destiny was on our side and as long as we stayed alive we would eventually succeed.

Photo caption: Victorious Unicorns

The hope was sometimes dim, but we survived and kept fighting and never died. If I would have told of this oracle sooner it may not have come true and others may have thought I was crazy or maybe even drunk, so I am only coming clean now. Congrats Unicorns and thanks for the great season and for being magical.

Photo caption: T-Bear gets a beer cooler shower while holding the magical flask

The celebration was as epic as the game, but I am unfit to be the author of that post as I remember little. Thanks to Turk for the shots at Cactus and thanks Sparky for once again saving the season and being the only one cognizant to take home the trophy.

Photo caption: Turk with a trophy and shots for all

Photo caption: Marie, Legend, and T-Bear doing the Unicorn pose with the trophy

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Magical Flying Unicorns win the biggest game ever and advance to finals

The Magical Flying Unicorns win the biggest game ever and advance to the finals taking out the undefeated number 1 seed CNA. Sometimes the final game is not the biggest. The history of sports is full of examples of semifinal games that were much bigger than the championship.

The U.S. 1980 hockey team is a perfect example as the famous game against Russia was not the gold medal game. It was not until they beat Finland that a spot in history was secured. Winning a big semi game can make the final even tougher as it is natural for a team to have a letdown after a big win. Therefore it is important for the Unicorns to focus that much more this coming Tuesday.

The game started inauspiciously with two outs in a row by T-Bear and Bauer. It looked like it was going to be a 1-2-3 inning and no runs. Not a good way to start a softball game. However, the unicorns rallied. Turk, Pitch, and Legend got consecutive hits to plate a run.

Then the Bassmaster got up with two ducks on the pond and delivered a huge two out hit getting two RBIs. This would not be the last time two and Bassmasster will be uttered in the same sentence. Another highlight was a slide back to second which jarred the ball loose from the fielder. CNA went into full out whine mode on this one. What is it with the Unicorns that turn other grown up teams into little babies?

CNA’s lead off dude was soon on second and they were threatening. A pop up was hit to T-Bear. He flipped it to Bassmaster who missed the ball allowing the guy back to 2nd who was in danger of being doubled up after straying too far.

Did Bassmaster cry and hold her head in shame over the missed ball. Hell no, in fact redemption came immediately with a ground ball to our star 2nd basewoman who tagged the runner and fired to 2nd and got a double play keeping the runner at third from scoring.

This would be a theme of the game. Normally when Unicorns screw up it leads to more screw ups and big innings and close losses. We seem to either win big or not at all. We always fall short in the close games. Not today though as after every mistake someone would step up.

CNA was undefeated and the number 1 seed and they would not go quietly. They scored 4 runs in the 2nd to take a 4-3 lead. The Unicorns tied it in the 3rd with another Bassmaster RBI and took the lead in the 4th. T-Bear made two outs to start the game, but got back on track with a single scoring a run in the 4th and ending up at third thanks to an errant CNA throw. Bauer then drove him in with a sacrifice fly.

Pitch was in her usual form, although she did walk a guy with two straight balls, which led to an automatic walk by the following girl. She made up for it though by striking out a dude with an arc that actually reached the same height as the Buckingham fountain. When it finally landed, I think the pitch sailed in the air for 2 minutes, the ump screamed strike three. This was another instance of the Unicorns minimizing mistakes and keeping the bleeding to a minimum.

The game stayed tight as the Unicorns and CNA traded runs. We gave away two runs on catches that could have been made and went into the 7th with a precarious one run lead. I could easily imagine them scoring two runs in the last frame in walk-off fashion and being disappointed again with another 1 run loss.

However, the 7th inning became are bright shining moment and when you are pink and a unicorn there are many moments bright and shiny, but not as pink, bright, and shiny as this one. Once again Legend led the way with yet another hit. He has been 8-9 in the last two games ever since his epic nickname redeeming Unicorn home run heard around the world that saved us from possible playoff elimination.

Legend smashed another base hit. Then came the play that sealed CNA’s fate. Bassmaster hit a fly ball to the outfield and Legend was in danger of being picked off for a double play. In fact he strayed too far and was most likely an easy out if the throw was online.

Instead, the outfielder air mailed the throw and in this league an overthrow leads to two bases for some strange reason and instead of two out and nobody on it was one out with Legend at third. Once again this decision from the ump led to a cacophony of CNA whines, sobs, and cries. If we would not have scored in this inning the game would have gone into extra innings.

Juice then came through with a big base hit, every hit is huge in the 7th with a tiny one run lead. With two outs Smores also came through with a huge hit scoring Juice. It was now 9-6 as we were getting much needed insurance.

Then came the moment we all knew would happen. It was time for Sparky to come through and ignite us to victory. That she did with a hit up the middle that the midfielder was unable to corral the ball cleanly and an aware Smores beat the force at 2nd.

T-Bear was now up with a chance to make them pay for their errors. Finally he was able to place a ball down the first base line scoring Smores. Unfortunately, the inning ended there with Legend interference at third base. He was the third base coach.

Apparently Sparky came off the bag and made contact with the coach, so she was called out. I did not see the play, but I have a couple of theories on what transpired. One theory was that Sparky got scared at third base, women sometimes do, and came off the bag and needed a hug from Legend.

Another possibility is we all know Sparky’s propensity to wander off the bag into la-la land. It is like she is already drinking post game margaritas and she loses focus on where she is. Perhaps Legend knew this and shook her to wake her up from her reverie. The most obvious reason was she just wanted some Legend love and saw that big lug right off third base and she could not control herself.

We may never know what actually happened over there, but we were up 10-6 going into the final inning. Things looked good as long as we kept our composure.

The first guy hit a sinking liner to right field. Juice got a great read on the ball and made a shoe string catch for the all important first out. Then a looping liner was secured by T-Bear for two outs. The game was in the bag now. Only one more out to go.

CNA temporarily delayed the celebration with a prodigious home run to make it 10-7. The next pitch was grounded up the middle and it was snatched by Pitch who made her patented underhand throw to Bauer and the game was over. I could think of no better way to end our biggest victory ever as we have seen this type of out over and over again thanks to the great pitching and fast reflexes of our star pitcher.

The celebration was on as the Magical Flying Unicorns made an improbable run to even make it to the playoffs overcoming diabetes, pulled hamstrings, inconvenient work schedules, Tiger games, an ugly team wide mid season offensive recession, and even a bee sting to come back and make the playoffs and knock of Goliath.

This game was great because it was a true team victory as everyone contributed. Pitch won career game 567 and the Unicorns make their 2nd championship.

The guys hit like guys and the girls contributed too. During our mid season coma the guys got a lot of heat for going 1-4 and 0-4, but the girls were not doing much either. In this game everyone hit well. Turk was 3-3 with a walk, Legend, Juice, and Smores were all 3-4 and T-Bear was 2-5.

The girls were equally competent with Bassmaster getting 3 two out RBIs early in the game that were huge, Pitch was on base twice, and the Jackie/Sparky combo was 2-4. Jackie hit a beautiful shot down the third base line and Sparky came through like she always does when we need it most despite the Legend hug.

The post game celebration was raucous with team shotguns and T-Bear partied with three generations (his dad and his mean an ornery Ole Granddad, although the unicorn flask has a way of calming my granddad).

Post game shout outs go to T-Bear who crashed both parties. He drank with the Cactus club crowd and the renegade Unicorns that defied protocol and bolted north. This could could lead to fracture with some teams because the team that parties together wins together. However, the Unicorns are lucky to have T-bear with a strong will and liver who bridged both party locations bringing team peace and stability.

Go Unicorns.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Magical Flying Unicorns produce with wings and horns against the wall

Photo caption: T-Bear psyching up the troups while Pitch throws another strike

The Magical Flying Unicorns came up big when it mattered and with our horns and wings against the wall. We were in fourth place with a 2-3-1 record, but two teams were on our tail with 2-4 records that could have tied us with a loss against the Wells Fargo Big Hitters. Fortunately, alls wells that ends wells when we played Wells Fargo.

The offense finally came out of its mid season coma with an 18-2 pounding that turned the Wells Fargo Big Hitters into the Wells Fargo Whiners. I think they referred to T-Bear as Steve Spurrier or Tom Osborne, two coaches famous for 66-0 trouncings in college football.

I hate to run up the score, but you can never have enough runs in softball. I was part of a team that was down 12-5 going into the last inning. We scored 17 runs in the last inning and held on to win 22-17. Also, runs are the tie breaker, so I did not want to take any chances. Also to the second power, I wanted as much at bats for our team as possible. I thought about batting lefty my last at bat or purposely grounding out, but then Bauer would not have had another at bat. I have learned that the more at bats we have the more productive we are in future games, so I swung away and got another hit. Sorry Wells Fargo whiners about that.

Photo caption: Agent Bauer fielding a throw from T-Bear. I always hit her in the chest, I find it an easy target.

Not only did the offense come to play, but so did the defense. Our defense is always centered around Pitch, who won her 547 career Grant Park softball game. She would have had a chance at a shutout if it was not for the ump whom was too busy flirting with Jackie O, can’t blame him for that, to yell “batter up.”

Photo caption: Jackie-O concentrating on the ball - Our secret weapon in buttering up the umpire

The game started with a triple from T-Bear, who safely was able to land at third base without injuring himself thanks to weeks of stretching and tiger balm. It is a bitter disappointment that not one female Unicorn has offered to massage T-Bear's hamstring back to health, but even without this aid T-Bear is near to 100% health.

Photo caption: T-Bear getting ready for a hit

It is always nice to get a run early and Bauer cracked a grounder to short stop for run number 1. Turk followed with a home run as he almost killed the first basewoman who wandered into the base path. Good call by the ump who was able to disengage himself from Jackie-O in time to twirl his fingers for a home run.

Photo caption: Turk lines up a home run

One-two-three was the way the defense put down Wells Fargo Whiners for the first couple innings. Infield shined thanks to Pitch who instead of giving up home runs and line drives was able to get their guys to hit ground balls to short and third and T-Bear and Legend were up to the task.

Photo caption: Legend fields a ground ball while Ichiro, the rover, roves and Turk looks on

The Unicorn line up continued to tack on runs one and two at a time. Legend lived up to his name and was unstoppable at the plate. Ever since his home run heard around the world last week to save us from a loss he has found new found confidence at the plate and has saved his name from being downgraded to the Myth or the Rumor. T-Bear reserves the right to change nicknames at a moment notice as he is the one in control of the line up sheet where official nicknames are recorded.

Photo caption: Not sure if this is Legend's home run or just a typical arc on a Pitch pitch (I know for sure it is not Sparky's second hit)

After scoring a run here and there in each inning and only giving up two thanks to a misunderstanding by the ump, the outcome of the game was still in doubt as the Unicorns were leading 8-2. The offense then erupted with key hits by everyone. How did this come about? In the 4.5 inning T-Bear inserted the sparkplug into the game (aka Sparky). She got two hits including one that went a whopping one foot and still might be rolling. We do not ask Sparky to supply the muscle, just the spark and her insertion into the lineup set the Unicorn lineup on fire.

Photo caption: Sparky supplies the drinking spark also

Before you know it, it was 18-2 and grown adults were turned into whining children crying about running up the score and T-Bear taking extra bases. It is not easy receiving a season’s worth of pent up Unicorn offensive frustration. Even Smores, who has been hitting like a marshmellow of late, got into the act with several hits and a wonderful slide back into first base. It helped that Wells Fargo inserted the only pitcher older than Jamie Moyer into the lineup that was serving up meatballs.

Photo caption: Smores uses Legend's shirt to help him break out of a mid season slump

Kudos go out to the whole team. The guys do what guys do and that is hit the ball with authority. T-Bear and Legend (the Ozzie and Kenny Williams of the Unicorns) were a collective 11-11, Turk hit a home run, and Smores and Juice each got big hits with the bases loaded. I know why we call Juice Juice now as he loves to hit the ball with the bases juiced.

Photo Caption: Juice concentrates then pounces on the ball sending it into right for more RBIs and more whines from Wells Fargo

Bassmaster continues to do everything asked of her. Tell her to play third base and she responds, tell her to play second and she responds, tell her to hit the crap out of the ball and she does it, tell her to take a walk for the team and she does it, tell her to go out and buy a gallon of milk and she does it in 5 minutes thereby giving kids access to their favorite beverage all night. Way to be so versatile for the team.

Photo caption: Bassmaster on base yet again

Ichiro played a mean game of rover. Not one ball was hit to her, but can you blame Wells Fargo for trying to avoid Ichiro in the outfield? Her presence caused them to either hit to T-Bear or try and hit it farther and fly out to the waiting Smores and Turk.

Photo caption: Ichiro is so fast she is a blur of action

Bauer finally looked like the agent we know and love. She played a flawless first base and started to hit the ball with authority. She got a base hit and a key RBI and also hit the ball hard each time up.

Photo caption: Agent Bauer patrols her domain at first base

Jackie-O did a wonderful job of buttering up the ump. She also ran hard to first and broke up a double play and later scored. She also continued to hit the ball with authority. Great job first lady of unicorns.

Photo caption: Jackie-O crushes the ball then hustles to first

Pitch was a machine out there and having her at the helm gives me confidence that we can beat the undefeated CNA next week. She also ripped the hell out of the ball down the third base line late in the game that elicited a few more tears from Wells Fargo

Photo caption: Pitch showing of her softball multi talents

Stevie Ray Vaughn and Stevie Wonder are not superstitious, but T-Bear is. I actually wore the same shirt I wore to the last game a couple of years ago when we had a similar had to win to get in the playoffs scenario. It is not hard for me to remember as my wardrobe is very limited. Because of my superstitions, I am going to keep everything about the line up exactly the same for next week. Good news is we play the undefeated CNA at field 11, which is the scene of last week's slaughter.

Thanks to Greg and Morgan for keeping score and taking the amazing photos that complimented this blog. As always, feel free to click on the blue T-Bear links for more snippets of my writing.

New to this blog and the names confuse you, click here to reference the nicknames.