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.