Sunday, August 1, 2004
By Jack Schaub
The StewDoggz are once again the Medford Lakes Men's Softball Champions. Successfully defending their "back to back" titles, they now own a "three-peat" with their third straight championship. It's only the fourth time that's been accomplished in modern league history. For the third consecutive year, the 'Doggz did not lose a game in the playoffs, extending their playoff unbeaten streak to 12 games.
Waiting for the 'Doggz in the final of the winners bracket was the league's newest team, #2 seed Chico's Bail Bonds. The two division rivals split their regular season match ups, which were decided by one and two run margins, so another close game was in order. Assembled in the off season for the sole purpose of beating the StewDoggz, Chico's was only able to give them a scare. But what a game it was. After failing early to cash in on a few chances with men on base, the StewDoggz still held a 7-2 advantage in the middle of the fourth inning. That was when Chico's decided to make a game of it. They tied the score in the bottom half, and then a back and forth battle ensued until they held a one run lead going into the last inning. Faced with their greatest adversity in any playoff game the last three years, the StewDoggz were caught in the unfamiliar position of playing from behind. But when the pressure is on, so are the 'Doggz.
After "intentionally" walking deep threat Dan Schaeffer to lead off the seventh, "Big Al" Alan Anton made Chico's pay with an opposite field homer into the trees in right. "Hot Sauce" Billy Sutphin homerun made it back to back by stroking one into the woods as well. After tacking on another four runs, now the 'Doggz were in the lead, and Chico's was chasing a six run deficit in the bottom of the seventh.
After getting their first two men on base, Chico's potential rally was thwarted by StewDoggz shortstop Jared "J-Rod" Coughlin. Making the play of the year, playoff co-MVP J-Rod made an unbelievable on the run, over the shoulder, diving catch of a blooper, and then fired back to second base to get a double play. One out later, the StewDoggz advanced to the finals with a 17-11 victory.
As the 'Doggz relaxed, marinating under the sun, they watched the remaining teams left battle it out for the right to meet them in the championship. Not surprisingly, it was Chico's Bail Bonds earning themselves a rematch of their earlier classic against the 'Doggz. But as Championship Sunday came, so did the rain, putting the finals in jeopardy of being postponed. Determined to get the game in, with the help of some others in the league, the two teams worked hard on Brooks Field to get it playable. Unfortunately, Brooks was a lost cause, and the game was moved to Shawnee High School instead.
The game itself was almost a non-event, as Chico's looked overwhelmed by the pressure, while the StewDoggz felt right at home playing for a title. The 'Doggz jumped right out on them with a five-run first inning, and had a 10-0 lead in the middle of the fifth. Chico's showed no signs of life, and in fact had trouble even getting the bats off their shoulders. Remembering that StewDoggz pitcher/coach Scott "Big VooDoo Daddy" Kentrus had trouble with the strike zone in the windy conditions during their previous match up, it appeared that Chico's was trying to put the pressure on him to throw strikes in this game. And throw strikes he did. Without walking a batter, and running only one 3-ball count all game, the Big Voo struck out three, all looking. To make matters worse for themselves, Chico's, midway through the game, changed into their new "Chico's 2004 Softball Champions" t-shirts, thinking it might give themselves a boost. After getting a good laugh, the StewDoggz made quick work of the "pretender champions", and it now looks like Chico's bought themselves a bundle of $10 wash rags. Assuming they learned a few lessons from the seasoned champion StewDoggz, maybe Chico's will eventually get to live down the criticism they've brought on by their shenanigans. Until then, the 'Doggz reign supreme.
Other StewDoggz not previously mentioned, but who made significant contributions in this year's playoff run were: All Star leftfielder Mike "Larry" Collins, best outfielder in the league: Brian "B.A." Anton, play me anywhere infielder Brian "Sweaty" Kerstetter, 1B/DH Craig Kenderdine, catcher "Animal" Aaron Harty, All Star outfielder Brett Summerville, and co-MVP 3B Zach Magulick who went 12 for 14 with 10 RBI's in the four playoff games. Unable to play in this year's playoffs were "Iceman" Danny Nixon and former Cy Young and MVP Bryan "LivDogg" Livingston, both of whom will be back on the field next season. And next season is one in which the StewDoggz will try to make history by equaling the league record of four straight championships. The 'Doggz would like to thank Commissioner Tom Wiker and assistant Joe Urban on all their hard work running the league this year (even though they play for Chico's). And to the rest of the league which is full of good times and great people, the StewDoggz say thanks to you as well. GO 'DOGGZ!!!!!!!!!!!
Photos by Mark Fletcher