Throw the records away; this is one game, winner take all. Top seed or bottom, all it counts for is who will get the chance to bat last. If you want the crown, you’re going to have to earn it, take it from your opponent. They won’t be scared, they won’t back down. Both teams belong here and they know it, but only one can be crowned the champs.
That was settled Sunday night, as 5-3 Slingers took on the 7-1 Gobblers at Mama Johnson Stadium in Hoboken. The Gobblers took a convincing 9-5 victory in their only regular season matchup. However, Slingers is a veteran group that has played together for a long time. They know what they are capable of, and they certainly were not going to go down without a fight.
And fight they did. On a cold night, the Slingers batters came out on fire. They’d score 5 runs over the first two innings of play and ultimately took a 7-1 lead into the bottom of the 5th. The Gobblers, however, were the top seed for a reason. You knew it was only a matter of time until the bats woke up and this became a game. In that bottom of the fifth, they would plate 4 runs, capped off by a Bobby Bailey homerun, to cut their deficit to a mere 2 runs. Slingers, however, would not take their foot off the pedal. They’d score 4 runs over the next 3 innings, with an 11-6 lead going into the bottom of the 8th. Time was running out for the best team of the regular season. They needed to cut into the lead if wanted to keep hope alive. Bailey would come through again, this time with a bases clearing double that just missed clearing the fence for a grand slam. Slingers would stop the bleeding there, though, and head to the 9th with a lead. The Gobblers defense did their part and shut down the opposing offense. Slingers now had just a 2-run cushion going into the bottom of the 9th. A lead-off double and a walk put that lead in jeopardy. After a fielder’s choice, Jenna Kulback came through with a clutch single. However, poor baserunning hung the lead runner out to dry and she would be tagged out between home and third. Down to their final out, Rob Kushner smacked an RBI single to reduce the deficit to just 1 run, with that tying run on third base. However, that’s where the runner would stay. Jason Orr strikes out the final Gobbler batter and seals the win and the championship by a score of 11-10.
Despite those efforts from The Gobblers, including top performer Bobby Bailey, Slingers put together a total team effort on both sides of the ball. They took advantage of some uncharacteristic miscues by The Gobblers defense and baserunning, and made the most of their own baserunners despite being outhit 21 to 14. However, walks issued by both teams’ pitchers did even out the number of baserunners 25-25. Slingers saw contributions up and down the lineup, with every batter reaching base at least once. They saw 3 hitters go .600 or better. Lauren Canonico went 2 for 2 with 2 walks and a big RBI in the 8th. Ryan Hall went 3 for 4 with a double and a team-high 3 RBI’s. Jason Orr went 3 for 5 with two big hits late in the game. He homered in the 6th and led off the 8th with a tone setting triple, which would turn into the first of 2 game-deciding runs in the inning. He definitely helped his cause on the mound. James Amadeo and Joe Rockhill uncharacteristically combined for just one hit, and it was a single in the 9th. However, both contributed in other ways. Both accounted for an RBI and were walked once. Despite not hitting the moonshots we’ve become accustomed to, Rockhill had some great jumps on fly balls and showed off the cannon in left center, giving The Gobblers hitters fits. Amadeo also made some excellent stops at shortstop to inhibit the opposition’s run production.
The result? A total team effort from Slingers earns them another championship. Congratulations to both teams for excellent seasons, and congratulations to the resilient Slingers for putting together a complete game despite the elements and a daunting opponent. The only question left for both teams, same time next year?
Congratulations to the 2017 Fall Jeff Bagwell Division Champs - Slingers!!!