Moms take home third straight softball championship

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Photos by Lauren Rock

Grant Engle | Staff Writer

Box score

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H
Lakers 0 0 3 0 0 3 0 6 16
Moms 5 4 0 5 0 1 15 23

After a long, hard-fought season, it all came down to this: one game, one winner, one champion.

The Chautauqua women’s slow-pitch softball league championship hung in the balance Tuesday when the Moms took on the Lakers.

The winners would have their team name immortalized on the champions’ plaque in the Sports Club. The loser? Well, they would probably go out for ice cream or get some dinner after the game and try again next year.

The Moms had clinched a spot in the championship game during the weekend. The Lakers won Tuesday’s 5 p.m. game against the Belles, a team full of veteran softball players.

Was this the changing of the guard? Was this the year a team of teens and tweens rose through the ranks and knocked off the two-time defending champion Moms?

The Lakers sported white tank top jerseys with the team name across the front. The team had no use for numbered uniform. Instead, a pirate face and the exclamation “Aaaaaargh,” adorned the back of the youngsters’ gear.

The Moms wore their traditional baby blue T-shirts. Soft and elegant, non-threatening but authoritative — everything a mom should be.

The game started promptly at 6:15 p.m. As the higher seed, the Moms were the home team. The Lakers batted first, and the team cheered as the leadoff hitter entered the box.

The first pitch of the game was a hot shot to the shortstop. The fielder made the shoestring catch with relative ease.

Two Lakers reached base with base hits, but two more groundouts left runners stranded at second and third, and the Moms took the plate with the score still tied at zero.

As the Moms readied themselves for their first at-bat of the championship game, one of the team’s leaders, Kathy Chubb, made the first tactical move of the ballgame.

“John,” she shouted from the bench toward the grandstands.

Her husband looked over to her, as she smiled and pointed toward third base. John was keeping score and in the middle of eating a peach, but he realized immediately that his wife was asking him to step in as the third base coach.

“I’m eating,” he half-heartedly protested.

But, as any smart husband would do, John hopped up and trotted to third base. The Moms then had a seasoned Chautauqua softball veteran guiding them on the basepaths.

The Moms started the inning with two singles. The next hitter blasted an RBI double. After a few more base hits, the Moms left the inning with a 5-0 lead.

The Lakers’ energy seemed unaffected by the Moms’ big first inning, but their bats were still ice cold, and they went 1-2-3 in the top of the second.

The Moms used solid singles and aggressive, savvy base running to put up four more runs in the bottom of the second, and the lead was stretched to 9-0 going into the third inning.

The Lakers had a look of desperation. The game was in danger of getting out of hand if they didn’t start knocking in runs.

The inning started with a leadoff walk. After another Laker hammered a double, both runners were driven in by Hayley Grabner, who blasted a triple into left-center field. The next batter connected with a single to score the third run of the inning.

After two and a half innings the Moms led the Lakers 9-3, but the youngsters had rejuvenated themselves with timely hitting.

The Moms went quietly in the bottom of the third, and a momentum shift would be on the horizon if the Lakers could put up more runs in the fourth.

However, despite two runners reaching base, the Lakers were unable to capitalize, and the Moms escaped the inning unscathed.

When the Moms stepped in the batter’s box in the bottom of the fourth, they had a look of determination and confidence. The team, which came into the game with nine championships in their illustrious history, was primed to strike and put the game out of reach.

The Moms put up another five runs in the inning to push the lead to 14-3 with three innings left. To the untrained eye, the lead was insurmountable. But, in a mid-game interview with Kathy De Windt of the Moms, she said there was still a lot of softball to be played.

“You never know what’s going to happen, believe me,” De Windt said. “They could come back. They have good wheels.”

In the fifth inning, the Lakers couldn’t cut into the lead, and the Moms couldn’t extend the lead. The game went into the sixth inning 14-3, and time was running out on the Lakers’ Cinderella season.

In the top of the sixth inning, the Lakers’ shortstop and team leader Grabner remained confident as her team took the plate.

“We’re going to make it a nail-biter,” Grabner said. “We’re only going to score 10 this inning, and we’ll save the last two runs for the last inning to win.”

The lefty shortstop’s confidence was contagious, but her prediction fell a little short. The Lakers were only able to score three runs before the side was retired, but the girls felt like they were in striking distance, down eight heading into the final inning.

A defensive stand was crucial to the Lakers’ chances of making a comeback. As the young women took the field, they yelled the battle cry they used all season.

“Yaaaaargh, matey,” they cried, while holding their index fingers in the shape of hooks.

The energy and bravado of the Lakers couldn’t stop the Moms from putting up one last insurance run as the crafty veterans used clever base running and slap singles to perfection one last time.

Heading into the top of the seventh, the Lakers trailed, 15-6. They needed clutch hitting and a lot of luck. The girls hardly looked like a team that was staring at defeat. They chatted and laughed on the bench, but a championship was not in the cards for the plucky underdogs this season.

The side was retired in order, and the Moms celebrated their 10th championship overall while completing the rarely seen three-peat.

After the game, the Moms commended the young Lakers on their skill and dedication and said they expect more tough matchups for years to come.

With another season of Chautauqua women’s softball in the record books, the veterans reign supreme once again. But with the young athletes starting to reach their physical prime, a changing of the guard may not be too far away.