Thursday, June 26, 2008

KM 1: Game 8 -- Many Shining Stars in rain-soaked 11-9 defeat

Down 10-0 early on a miserable night in the elements (muggy, mosquitoes & the eventual downpour), KM1 showed the grit & determination of a team about to make a playoff run.

Unfortunately, the opponent's lead proved to be just too much & we fell to 2-6 overall as a result.

A rough start defensively & at the plate resulted in the large deficit we needed to overcome.

Many teams would have folded & taken the mercy killing....but not KM1!!!

Thanks to Niki "Lights Out" Weber on the mound, who came in for the now permanently retired (YES!!) Bo after the 2nd inning & down 8-0, only giving up 3 runs the rest of the way.

As good as Niki pitched, the game ball went to Steve Cairns. He was our offensive catalyst, going 4-4 & I think scoring 3 of our runs. Steve also made a tremendous running catch in a late inning to hold the opponent in check. I think Steve is going to leave the jeans at home from now on....:)

As Niki said "Take the jeans off him & he's a different guy." Don't worry Todd, she was referring entirely to his softball game....:)

Speaking of tremendous running catches, how about Jill Bracken!!! From my viewpoint behind the plate, that was one of the most impressive things I have seen all season...Jill RACING at a dead sprint into RC & snaring a sure gapper that would have scored at least 2 runs.....SWEET!!!

Another great catch by Tina "The Bear Killer" Schmitz. Chiropractic's best hitter Bear had already crushed 2 balls, plating 5 runs & with a homerun & a triple. On his third trip, he crushed another one, but Tina had it lined up all the way & squeezed it to end another rally.

Bear certainly had my number on the mound, but my wife is way out of his league.

The bright spots didn't stop about:

Steve Korb's blast down the LF line late in the game & brilliant basecoaching.

Viggy's mammoth drive for his 3rd inside the park 3-run homer of the season.

John beating out 2 sure outs with great speed down the line.

JJ steady once again @ the 2nd sack & also a great hit down the LF line.

Jen's crushing hit to LC & solid defense all over the field.

Jo's mammoth blast....oh wait, I mean the shortest hit in history...I think the ball went 2 inches....but seriously, Jo was her usual stellar self at the Hot Corner.

Bo finding his calling heckling the other team behind the plate....he's more annoying than the chick from Old Man's Team...I can't wait for Niki to pitch again!

Bo & Tina will be on vacation next week, but I think our other 5 girls will be there & Bill & Todd should be back.....Go KM1!!!

6PM against O'Brien's Market....Jo has the can beat them!!!

playoff run....Playoff Run....PLAYOFF RUN!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

KM1: Game 7 -- Old Man's Team gets revenge

Bill and Nikki perform under the watchful eye of the umpire.

That one dreadful inning got us again.

In a very competitive game, Old Man's Team came back late & took down KM1 11-8. The game started tight & finished almost the same, but we just didn't have enough....enough hits at key times....enough solid defensive plays....enough good pitches....just not enough.

But we still had fun and here were a few highlights (& lowlights):

-- How about Tina's sweet running catch early in the game & nearly an even better one late....I have full confidence next time she'll make that play!

-- How about Jill's sharp liner down the 3rd base line for a hit? Very impressive!

-- How about Viggy's second inside-the-park homer in as many games to get us on the board in the first?

-- How about Niki and Steve Korb's hook-up to pick-off a runner at second?

-- How about Bill walking the lead-off hitter? In many years, I can't remember this ever happening.

-- How about me lobbing in several picture perfect pitches only to have them be crushed into oblivion by the team in red?

-- How about Old Man Frank & the world's most annoying catcher strking out two hitters who have never struck out before? They shall remain nameless. :(

So we stand at 2-5. Next week, we get a chance for our own revenge at 6 pm against Chiropractic Unlimited, who beat us 12-10.

To my knowledge, Todd & Bill will be out. Anybody else? If everyone else can make it, that will give us 6 guys & 6 girls.

Looking ahead, on July 2nd, we play O’Brien's Market at 6pm. Tina and I will be in Petoskey on vacation. Anyone else? Just curious, with only 2 days before the holiday.

Looking even further ahead....Dave & I will be putting out the info for the Labor Day Weekend tournament. It's only $120 per team, so I am sure we can put together at least 1 team, if not two.

As Viggy ordered, I will be practicing my pitches all week so I can admirably replace Bill. See everyone next week!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

KM2: Game 7 -- Showing CTL-ALT-DEL some mercy

I’m not sure CTL-ALT-DEL even saw it coming.

An inspired Know Mercy 2 bounced back from its worst defeat by unloading on a friendly but overmatched team from the third division, flexing its offensive muscle and flashing some nice leather in an 18-5 pounding.

It really wasn’t even that close, with CAD scoring all five of its runs with two outs in the next-to-last inning of the mercy win.

Know Mercy staked out a four-run lead in the first, then blew the game open in the second with six runs.

After tacking on two more in the third, the team essentially announced the game was over when Aaron “Bombardier” Dunham launched an over-the-fence grand slam, part of another six-run frame.

Just about everybody had a moment of glory worthy of hanging on the fridge for all to enjoy.

Let’s start with Amy Fox, who hit the ball hard all last week -- but right at someone. That wasn’t a problem in Game 7, with Amy lashing four hits in five at-bats. Amy also was stellar playing third base. And she had some neat slides, too.

Casey Munger was under the weather, which meant she was only spectacular – four runs scored in five at-bats. Imagine if she was feeling better? Thank you, Casey, for toughing it out when you were feeling low.
Rob Ferguson designs buildings for a living, but he was a one-man demolition crew, with three hits in three at-bats, and came around to score each time.

Our other Rob, Mr. Mirque, was just as good, with three hits in his three trips to the plate. His lovely bride, Cindy, got on base and scored a run, too.

The Norrises also proved to be a dynamic duo. Jamie took a break from pitching to patrol the outfield, making some nice plays. He also boasted two hits an a run scored. The Amazing Venta used her fabulous wheels to get on base three times, crossing home once.

Stacie Rylance passed on a soccer game for a game where she could use her hands, too! Robbed in the first inning, Stacie later smashed a sweet hit.

Our secret weapon was Mike Gillis, a Grand Rapids Press co-worker who heard about how much fun we were having and wanted to join in. Mike opened his bag of tricks on the mound – despite injuring his shoulder earlier in the week, preventing him from throwing over hand.

Steve Kutz hit the ball hard in two at-bats, but was denied when CAD fielders defended well.

The Chipper Skipper leads the team in one category – getting thrown out at the plate. Alas, he might also lead the team in walks and stretched a hit into a double.

The pounding put Know Mercy 2 at 4 wins and three tough losses, and looks to add to the win column against JHL Lawncare, another new team, in a 6 p.m. contest next week.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Alumni news: Running, biking and swimming with Brian Cunningham

Brian Cunningham

I know a lot of people are wondering why Brian Cunningham isn’t patrolling leftfield for Know Mercy this year, and why Heiki hasn’t been spotted in the stands cheering us on.

They’ve been training hard for Ironman events, and didn’t believe Bo and Dave when they suggested that coed softball was by far the best training for such things. Instead, he’s logged more than 2,000 miles on his bike, roughy the distance of four Aaron Dunham homers.

Here are some action shots from a half-Ironman even in Florida in May. That's not to be confused with a full-Ironman, which you can watch in the movies without sweating.

Heiki Cunningham

KM1: Game 6 -- Total team effort downs Norman Family Dentistry

With a key theme of having fun, KM1 played a spirited game tonight, getting contributions from everybody for a come from behind 7-6 win in 8 innings over Norman Family Dentistry!

We started off strong in the top of the 1st....with two outs & Bill & I on base, Viggy launched a drive over the RF's head for 3-run inside the park homer & a 3-0 lead.

Bill gave up a single run in the bottom of the 1st, but then shut them down for the next 2 innings. We managed a single run in the 2nd & 3rd, but couldn't plate any in the going into the bottom of the 4th we held a 5-1 advantage.

Norman's got some key hits & plated 4 runs to tie it, then took the lead in the bottom of the 5th 6-5. We could have been defeated, but NO....that's when everyone dug down, stayed positive & came off the ropes fighting. Again, everyone contributed & here's how:

Bill - got on base & of course stellar pitching as usual

Jen - sweet catch of a pop-up to squash an early rally

Eric - game-tying RBI & a key assist at 2nd base in the last inning to nab a speedy runner

Jo - Good work with the bat & an absolute vintage GEM at 3rd...snaring a hot shot & firing to.....

Niki - Who made a great stretch to nab another speedy runner (also great hustle on the basepaths)

Viggy - The big home run to get us started, but also some nice work with the glove

Steve Cairns - legging out 3 infield hits to keep innings alive & solid outfield play

Tina - some good hustle on the basepaths & a key catch of a deep fly ball to stop a rally

Steve Korb - great play all around with the bat, the glove & agressive base-coaching late

JJ - great work with the stick & STELLAR communication in the outfield

John - also great hustle down the line to beat out throws & another highlight yet to come....

So down 1 going into the top of the 7th....Steve Cairns gets on base AGAIN & with great hustle scores to tie it at 6 after a base hit by Eric (I think). The defense then shut them down in the bottom to force the extra frame.

Top of the 8th, with 1 out, Steve Korb gets us going with a solid double to LC. Then with 2 outs & my heart in my throat (I can admit that now), I hit a seeing-eye single down the RF line, plating Steve to take the lead....then of course was my vintage yet not-so-graceful pickle play for the final out going into the bottom of the 8th.

Needing 3 outs, Eric & Bill (I think) made quick work of the first 2. They then got the tying runner the winning run steps to the plate & drives a high, deep fly ball to RC.....John Hall had it tracked all the way & made the play for the final out!!!

Once again, solid pitching, great effort by everyone hustling out ground balls, hitting the cutoff quickly, great communication & awesome baserunning (except for my pickle). We did all the little things necessary to win a close game.

Our record now stands at week we get Old Man's Team at 6pm on Ada 1...the team we "mercied" in Week they are going to want revenge!! We will be up to the task & have some more fun just like tonight.

KM2: Game 6 -- Spanked by O'Brien's Market

As soon as I saw our Game 6 opponents, I knew KM2 was in trouble. New sponsor, same Lena Lou and their collection of bruisers. It's never easy to be on the wrong side of a spanking like that.

But enough wallowing, I say! You don't get to be the Chipper Skipper by staying down in the dumps for too long. Shake it off, my friends!

We shall now look at the bright side, lifting high our glasses that are happily half-full!

--- On the bright side, no one got hurt!

--- On the bright side, their rather large and dorky first and third baseman wore a t-shirt with sleeves. He usually wears a tank top that exposes ALL KINDS of nasty back and underarm hair and holds the bat waaaaay over his head. Not only does the catcher get grossed out by the middle of the game, people all the way in the UP start getting a little testy.

--- On the bright side, Aaron didn't break anyone's car in the parking lot with a mammoth blast. He made some sweet catches in left.

--- On the bright side, The Amazing Venta got on base AGAIN by using her wheels and scored one of our runs.

--- On the bright side, Rob and Cindy were back! Yea! And Rob had a sweet double in the last inning.

--- On the bright side, Casey legged out a hit and scored in the first inning, and made some sweet catches, all after a draining 17-marathon performance by her Rams, leading them deep into the playoffs. Congrats, Casey!

--- On the bright side, Jim Boles returned and did what he does best - ripping line drives.

--- On the bright side, Anne Marie continues to hit, taking a big base in the first inning.

--- On the bright side, Steve added a nice poke and scored. On his last at-bat, the other team thought he was Aaron and told all their outfielders to stand back at the fence.

--- One the bright side, A-Fox hit the ball really hard.

--- On the bright side, we're still not a losing ball club even after dropping two games in a row.

--- On the bright side, D-Fox scored a run and made an all-out effort at short, leaving his blood on the field. At least we think it was his blood.

--- On the bright side, Mary Kovac came out to play and did NOT take a throw off the noggin. Again.

--- On the bright side, Dan and Rob F. and Stacie are due to return next week! Yes!

--- On the bright side, new friend Jill Marsh came out the play and made a nice catch of a fly ball. We might see her again.

--- On the bright side, Jamie filled the stand with some fans and had some nice strikeouts.

--- On the bright side, we're looking at a special batch of slump-busting cookies next week.

--- On the bright side, Chipper Skipper actually hit the ball out the infield -- finally -- and worked out a walk.

--- On the bright side, next week we're playing a team called CTL-ALT-DEL. That's not even a name! Horrible.

--- On the bright side, there might be TWO secret weapons unveiled next week.

--- On the bright side, next week's game is at 7 p.m.!

--- On the bright side, we can shake off this beating and go back to kicking butt, taking names and getting back our winning record. I feel bad for the other team. But not that bad.

KM2: Game 5 -- Old Man's Team ends winning streak

After winning three close games in a row, it was inevitable Know Mercy 2 would eventually end up on the other side in a tough battle, falling 11-10 to the Old Man's Team.

Tough game, especially since we played most of it short-handed -- and had the umpires been sticklers, we would have been forfeit victims.

The aspects of our game that sparkled so brilliantly last week against Know Mercy 1 were not quite as sparkly this time around, and we squandered an 8-3 lead to fall in a time-shortened contest.

Which is not to say there were not some outstanding achievements, and we'll get to those in a second.

But first, how about the absolutely shocking, shocking incident where the Old Man's Team captain accused us of cheating? Of all the low-down, under-handed, shameful accusations! I'm insulted.

If I were going to cheat and use a player from Know Mercy 1, do they really think I would start yelling "Amy! Amy!" from the moment she pulled into the parking lot? Would I be so brazen? So stupid?

Of course not. I'd quietly send someone out to the outfield, call her "Player X" and act like nothing was out of place.

Speaking of which, next week we have an even earlier game, at 6 p.m. instead of 6:15 p.m. I discovered that Jill, one of our newsroom desk aides, is a softball player in search of a team and keeps her gear in her trunk -- just in case. "Just in case" is next week, because we can't be in such a situation again. She's very nice, and I'm sure you'll like her.

Now, on to the highlights!

Dan had a monster game, going three-for-three and scoring three runs and also flashed some sweet leather at short.

Aaron also went three-for-three and launched a bomb that cleared multiple cars in the parking lot. Next game, I'm parking in Thornapple Kellogg and taking a cab because no car is safe!

But the amazing Venta proved that you don't have to hit the ball into the next area code to get on base. She worked out a walk, then twice used her wheels to drop the ball sort and leg out the hit. Very impressive.

Dave Fox also made a spectacular return from his West Coast adventures, scoring two runs.

There's no way Anne Marie could top her incredible game last week. But she still showed how to swing the bat, with two hits and two runs. Keep it going!

Steve nailed a liner to get on base and made a fine catch in the outfield.

Casey had two hits, scored a run and was her usual Casey-self at two infield positions.

Rob is money in the bank! Three hits in three at-bats.

Jamie again had to contend with an umpire's moving strike zone. And it was most glorious to see him getting a called strike three on the Old Man's Team coach after his ill-fated accusations! Take that!

Stacie showed great restraint in not slugging Dave, who was dancing around the parking lot as she counseled a diabetic on her cell phone.

Et tu, Nitro? The Chipper Skipper was lost at the plate, but made a very nice scoop in the dirt while playing first.

And a special thanks to Nikki Ferguson, who, despite her condition, was moments away from stepping into the batter's box so we could avoid a forfeit.

And let me say: I LOVE THIS TEAM. You guys are wonderful to play with and be with and I feel blessed that I got to meet some new friends and got to know others better. Win or lose, I'm having a ball and I hope you are, too.

KM2: Game 4 -- Hanging on to top friendly rivals

My only regret is that I have but one game ball to give to my team. Because there were so many special performances in last night's 6-5, six-inning defeat of Know Mercy 1.

It appeared something magic was happening when we held KM1 to just one run in the first inning -- a time when we usually dig a deep hole.

But the shovels were cast aside, as we added two runs in the second and four in the third, then kept the powerful Know Mercy line-up to tack on just one run in the its third and fourth frames and two in the top of the fifth.

The defense was simply amazing -- crisp and clean.

Then the umpire announced the game was to end in the sixth inning -- a surprising call considering the next teams scheduled to play were nowhere near ready. And KM2 responded by shutting the door, preserving its third straight win -- all of them nail-biters.

Anne Marie Bessette earned the game ball with the performance of her life: Two doubles, two runs scored, a base hit and an outstanding snag of a rocket grounder fired by Brian Vigna.

A second game ball would go to Jamie Norris, who matched Bill Bush -- among the best hurlers in the league -- pitch for pitch, showing command through the entire game. His clutch double in the second inning brought
home a run.

Then a share of that ball also goes to Dan Eby. Dan shot a certain double down the line in his first at-bat, only to see it erased by a diving stab by Todd that can only be described as thievery of the highest order. Dan returned the favor by climbing an invisible ladder -- the only possible explanation for the height he achieved -- to snare a
line drive.

Dan and Angie Bond-Patton, playing third, simply locked down the left half of the infield, forcing KM 1's bashers to try and spray the ball in other directions.

The dymanic duo of Casey Munger and Aaron Dunham do so well so often that we take their magic for granted. Aaron had a double and a triple and Casey had three hits and a run scored. Simply stellar!

The same goes for amazingly consistent Jim Boles, who again had two hits in two at-bats and scored a run.

Then you have Rob Mirque playing with a sore back and still smacking two hits, starting the big four-run rally that pushed us over the top.

Steve Kutz did not plow over wayward fielders this week -- but legged out a hit and came around to score.

Chipper Skipper Dave Murray can juggle softballs. He showed off this talent when he was supposed to be playing left field. Maybe he should take the Nitro with him when he heads out to the green spaces.

Venta Norris and Cindy Saum were flawless in right field and behind the plate.

And a round of applause for our friends at Know Mercy 1. That game was so well-played that it could have gone in either direction. We tip our caps to our very worthy opponents.

KM2: Game 3 -- Walk-off win drills dentists

If Know Mercy 2 has a strategy, it would appear to be lulling opponents into complacency by spotting them 10 or so runs in the first two innings, then quietly chipping away at the lead and crushing their hopes and dreams in the final frame.

For the second straight week, the team rallied from a deep deficit. This time Norman Family Dentistry felt the sting, with a four-run, seventh-inning charge capped by a walk-off home run by Angie Bond-Patton.

The game marked the debut of the new team bat, "Nitro," plucked like Excalibur from the sale rack at Dunhams. Painted shiny blue with menacing flames, the lethal thunderstick no doubt struck fear into the opposing pitcher.

Alas, it didn't appear that way at first., with the dentists drilling Know Mercy for nice runs in the first two innings, eventually working their tally to 12 by the last inning.

With a chill in the air and raindrops gathering momentum, Know Mercy accepted their final opportunity needing three runs to tie the game. And there was little reason for optimism after Dan was upended at second base and fine play from the shortstop deprived Casey from her customary place on-base.

But Jim Boles launched one of his patented drives, and Stacie worked her way on base. That left the Chipper Skipper at the plate in a clutch situation for the second week in a row. Brandishing the dangerous Nitro, Dave poked a double into right-center, scoring Jim.

But Angie knows no pressure. She drove a bomb through the rain over the right-fielder's head. In came Stacie, in came Dave with the tying run -- and in came Angie, ahead of the throw and presenting a glorious walk-off victory.

A team can't roar back from such a deficit without great contributions from everyone. Individual highlights include:

Rob Ferguson had two big hits and scored twice.

Fox Family: "A-Fox " sparkled at third base, snaring a vicious line drive, sidekick "D-Fox" had two hits.

Jamie Norris again showed outstanding command on the bump and remained composed after some defensive lapses forced him to work deeper and deeper.

Jim Boles had two hits and scored two runs, which is so predicable that I was tempted to write it in the scorebook before the game even started.

Anne-Marie Bessette and Venta Norris traded off catching duties in fine fashion, with Venta even providing a vocal fan section and Anne-Marie working her way on base.

Casey Munger had two big hits, and sidekick Aaron Dunham drove a triple so deep that people parked beyond left field no doubt contemplated moving their cars before his next at-bat.

Steve Kutz didn't need a Nitro to frighten, Woe to the infielder who wanders into his path, as one battered shortstop learned.

An outstanding effort all the way around!

KM2: Game 2 -- The best game ever!

Now, the day after, it can be told that there were people in Know Mercy 2 senior management who were not completely optimistic about the team's chances for Wednesday's game.

After all, we had only two women players, and four men.

Luckily, the injured Rob Mirque offered to gut it out so we'd have five guys. Super Sub Mary Kovac offered her services. Then, a shadowy, mysterious female known only as "Player X" slinked into the picture to give us just enough players to take on a decent St. Matthew's Monsters team.

So, with a patchwork roster and soggy field, the KM2 stepped up to the plate and quickly smacked out three runs. But the Monsters responded by finding the open spaces in the outfield and taking advantage of some mud-soaked infield hits over the next two innings, seemingly stacking up run after run.

Many teams would have thrown in the towel, accepted the inevitable mercy defeat and wallowed in self-pity. But visiting KM-1 coach Bo Schmitz put an end to that, shouting "You're only down 8-3. You can win this!"

A rallying cry was born. The defense shut down the Monsters, with the middle infield combo of Dave Fox and Mary Kovac scooping and tossing. Pitcher Jamie Norris showed great control and nabbed runners -- allowing the Monsters to tack on just one more run for the rest of the game.

Then the offense kicked in. Dave Fox and Jim Boles launched line drives, Venta Norris and Cindy Saum worked out key walks. Rob, despite a promise to just stand at the plate and hope for a walk to avoid further injury, hacked out a hit. "Player X" was doing all kinds of things that we shouldn't talk about, lest we draw attention to her. Look away.

Amy Fox, fresh from covering the Obama rally, arrived mid-game and promptly got on base. Mary Kovac forced a big error and even took a ball to the head, raising a welt that rivaled the pitchers mound.

With the game tied and bases loaded, up stepped coach Dave Murray. Know Mercy veterans know what happens when Dave is up in a clutch situation. People keeping score start writing "infield pop-up" in the book even before the pitch is thrown.

Maybe it was Bo's new bat. Maybe it was the cookies. Maybe it was the shame of the usually glass-half-full Chipper Skipper being unoptimistic before the game.

We might never find out why, but we do know that Dave launched a triple over the head of the centerfielder, clearing the bases. And then got thrown out at the plate. But we won't talk about that part.

Now up 12-9 in the last inning, the newly energized KM-2 went into shut-down mode, denying any further runs and chalking up the team's first win of the year. Yes!

Special thanks to Mary, who came out, played well, played hard and took a shot off the noggin.

Special thanks to Rob, playing through pain when he shouldn't have.

Special thanks to Bo for coaching, keeping score, bringing the bats and keeping us focused.

And special thanks to the mysterious "Player X," without whom there would not have been.