Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pitching and defense drive Know Mercy to championship game

Sometimes the first inning can set the tone for the whole game.

GE started Wednesday’s semi-final playoff -- part of the Schnitz Ada Grill Playoff March -- game with runners on second and third and two out, and one of their top guns launched a bomb to deep, deep left field. If that drops, the team easily takes a 2-0 lead and Know Mercy faces digging out of deep hole.

But instead Steve Korb charged deep, going all Willie Mays v. Vick Wertz on the batter, a phenomenal catch that seemed to suck the wind out of GE.

Know Mercy responded in the bottom of the frame with Nick Rodammer leading off with a double Schnitz, then scored when Aaron Dunham smashed a Schnitz through the hole, scoring Nick, who arrived at the plate with a dramatic and dusty slide-dive.

That’s all the team would need, using remarkable defensive skills and Mike Gillis’ pitching prowess to power a 7-0 victory over a very good GE team that had already beaten Know Mercy twice this season.

And it’s a good thing Know Mercy was flashing leather because the 90-degree heat was sopping the strength from the team bats for most of the game.

After the first inning run, the team was quieted until the fourth, when Steve Cairns led off with a Schnitz and scored when Niki Ferguson launched a double Schnitz.

The game broke open in the next frame, when then team’s two youngest players set the stage. Andrew Murray worked out a one-out walk and moved to third in dramatic fashion when Halle Ulerich smacked a double Schnitz.

Steve Kutz then brought two runs home with a Schnitz, as did Melissa Ferens. Then Nick and Aaron again teamed up to put a lucky No. 7 on the scoreboard.

Meanwhile, the defense was in shut-down mode. Chad Zollman, pairing again with Niki and Casey at short and Jamie, Nick and Michael Mulligan at first, was relentless.

One GE batter managed a walk, only to be snuffed out at third by Hannah Ulerich.

Lost in the excitement was a great game by Venta Norris, who not only legged out a Schnitz but made a fine play, racing out from behind the plate to scoop up a ball and follow with a strong throw to first.

All that action sets the stage for next week, when Know Mercy appears in the finals.

The team is already assured second place, but a triumph at 7 p.m. — or in an 8 p.m. game, if necessarily — would allow the team to bask in the glory.

Schnitz Ada Grill Game Ball: Presented to Mike Gillis for spinning a shutout on the hottest day of the year, with both great pitching and fielding.

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