Moms look to defend title, Arthritics hope for upset in softball championship games

Rachael Le Goubin | Staff Photographer
Max Behler from the YAC Pac prepares to throw the ball back to infield during the first round of softball playoffs against the Cops at Sharpe Field Monday.

As the summer’s schedule winds to a close, many Chautauquans have noticed the seasonal programming begin to heat up with climactic events. Softball at the Institution is no different.

With the women’s and men’s championships on Thursday and Friday, respectively, softball on Sharpe Field is rapidly approaching its boiling point.

The Moms are the reigning champs of the women’s league and have long held that title, ousting the Lakers, Belles and typically any competition that comes their way. All-stars like center fielder Susie Davis and the mother-daughter McCauley duo of Lynn and Laura have helped the Moms put up big numbers and build a respectable record this season.

The Moms’ years of domination may quickly come to a close on Thursday, though, as the undefeated Batgirls look to keep their streak alive. According to Mark Altschuler, commissioner for the women’s league, the Batgirls are “young and hungry” and have strong leadership at the helm.

“Rae Zarou at shortstop has just been dominant this year and a pleasure to watch, but the Moms, in the playoffs, have been outstanding all around and play true fundamental softball,” Altschuler said. “This championship promises to be competitive and exciting. It will be one for the books.”

The Moms and the Batgirls look to etch their names among Chautauqua softball legends at 5 p.m. today at Sharpe Field.

Immediately following the women’s championship, the men will take the field for their final playoff game before a double-header championship at 5 p.m. Friday. This year, a new double-elimination playoff format is sure to put pressure on the Arthritics, Slugs, YAC Pac and Cops, making each game more thrilling than the last.

Rachael Le Goubin | Staff Photographer
Tyler North, of the Cops, rounds second as another of his teammates runs for third. The Cops beat the YAC Pac, 30-2. In games that ended too late for this edition, the Cops were set to play the Arthritics Wednesday, and the Slugs were set to play the YAC Pac.

“This is the first year we have had double-elimination games and the first time we’ve started with a 1-1 count,” said Altschuler, who also pitches for the Arthritics. “It really adds to the excitement and pleasure of the playoff games.”

On Monday, the Arthritics and the Cops advanced with hard-fought wins over the Slugs and YAC Pac, respectively, moving on to the next round with 1-0 records.

The Arthritics came to play on Monday with dynamic enthusiasm and concentrated precision, finding all the gaps, running the corners strategically and gobbling up nearly everything the Slugs hit their way. The Arthritics showed no signs of stiffness and were able to put 13 runs on the board. Mike O’Brien and Preston Reeve served a steel trap in center field, and the team’s pitching was near perfect.

“Mark [Altschuler] pitched a hell of a game,” said Paul Ritacco, shortstop for the Arthritics. “Anytime you have a pitcher that forces the other team to hit right to your fielders, you’re going to win the game.”

Collectively, the Arthritics gave up only four runs.

“It took us three or four innings to settle down,” said John Chubb, who plays right-center field for the Slugs. “It was a 4-4 game after that, but we just didn’t come ready to play. It was one of the most frustrating losses we’ve ever had.”

Although the Slugs were disappointed with what they considered an uncharacteristic effort, they’re looking forward to a chance for retribution in the coming games. Fantastic efforts from players like Dave Anderson in left-center may give the Slugs the boost they need to get back in contention.

“The Slugs have a long history of putting themselves in a hole and roaring back,” Altschuler said. “They may still do that.”

Despite a considerable victory, the Arthritics still face the formidable Cops in the next round. On Monday, the Cops showed no signs of weakness as they routed the YAC Pac 30-2.

Although Skyler Zarou and Max Behler did their best to hold back the force in the outfield, the Cops’ sticks could not be stopped. To get back in the race, the Club kids are “looking for a David-and-Goliath kind of performance” in the coming games, according to Derek Chura, who stands on the bump for the YAC Pac.

The Cops are confident going into the remainder of the postseason but do not take their opponents likely. Their only two losses on the season came against the Arthritics and the Slugs. Last year, the Slugs nearly came back to take the title in a close championship game.

“We have a lot of home run hitters and not a lot of base hitters,” said Cops shortstop Tyler North. “Everyone is swinging for the fences instead of just trying to get on base. That can get us sometimes.”

Although the scores are never a sure thing in Chautauqua softball, on thing is certain: Sharpe Field will have no shortage of drama these next two days.