Matt Burkhartt | Staff Photographer
Trey North of the Cops team runs to first base in a game against the YAC Pac last Monday.
While all the attention seemed to be focused on the Amphitheater, the Hall of Philosophy and Bratton Theater during Week Seven, a dramatic performance was also playing out on Sharpe Field. Four teams in the men’s league contended for softball supremacy in a week long bout of comebacks and generational rivalries.
When all was said and done, though, the Cops reigned victorious, beating out the YAC Pac, the Slugs and the Arthritics for their second consecutive championship title.
The double-elimination playoff week began last Monday with one major upset between the rival Arthritics and Slugs, and an impressive yet one-sided offensive competition.
Ultimately, the Slugs could not get the bats working and fell to the Arthritics 11-4.
Immediately following this game, the YAC Pac and the Cops took the field. The Cops could not be stopped from behind home plate, sending nearly every shot to the outfield and even over the left-field fence, giving the YAC Pac the occasional much-needed out. In a single inning, the Cops put up 14 runs and routed the YAC Pac with 31-2 victory.
On Wednesday, the second round of the playoff presented back-and-forth battles. The Slugs, aiming to get back in their groove against the YAC Pac, came out fired up and gained a quick lead. But an excellent defensive effort on the part of wildcard Lily Nagle from the Lakers of the women’s league in left field kept the game close. In the seventh inning, the YAC Pac got too close for comfort and put up five runs.
“This game was a little scary,” said Jeff Miller of the Slugs. “We went a little flat in the last few innings, and the YAC Pac made a great comeback. We started making errors, and they started hitting the ball.”
The YAC Pac’s youth caught up with them in the end, allowing the Slugs put it away with a 13-9 victory. The YAC Pac’s fortitude was not defeated, though.
“No one wants to see a grown man cry anyway,” said Skyler Zarou of the YAC Pac.
The Cops and Arthritics then upped the ante.
Setting the tone in the top of the first, the Cops put up six runs. The game quickly turned into an offensive barrage on both ends after the Arthritics started answering back.
“It may not have been the best game for pitching, but both teams hit the ball really well,” said Tyler North of the Cops. “It was a close game from beginning to end, which is always a lot of fun.”
After matching each other run-for-run in a contest of wits, poise and brawn, the Arthritics couldn’t top the Cops and lost 24-21. The Arthritics took the loss in stride and were ready to take the same tenacity into the tiebreaker against the Slugs.
“We didn’t allow falling behind to knock us out of the game,” said Paul Ritacco of the Arthritics. “We were resilient. It was one of the best games I’ve ever seen the Arthritics play.”
After the women’s championship on Thursday, the stands stayed at full capacity to watch the rival rematch between the Arthritics and the Slugs.
The Arthritics kept their composure, following two five-run innings for the Slugs, and found their defensive game. After the fifth, the Arthritics seemed to find their rhythm, holding the Slugs to one run for the rest of the game. The Arthritics squeezed by with a hard-earned 22-18 win.
“We switched some guys around in the field and fell into our groove at the plate. That move changed the dynamic of the game,”said Mike O’Brien, captain of the Arthritics.
Although disappointed over the three losses this season, John Chubb and the Slugs were all smiles after the game. The teams shared a few cold beverages and plenty of laughs.
“I have no complaints. We had an outstanding season,” Chubb said. “I love the guys I play with. There are no better people in the world. That’s what makes Chautauqua softball so great.”
Minutes after the Arthritics’ win, the conversation turned to the approaching championship game.
“I’m rooting for a good game,” Chubb said. “If I see one like the last game between the Arthritics and the Cops, which was one of the best games I’ve seen in 10 years, I won’t be disappointed.”
During Friday’s championship game, the Cops seemed to be the more comfortable team. Having been in this position just last year, they had their sights set on the title.
In the first three innings, the Cops’ pitching held the Arthritics to only four runs, and their bats put five on the scoreboard in the second inning.
By the fourth inning, the Arthritics started making defensive stops, holding the Cops to only three runs. Still, the Arthritics weren’t able to climb out of their offensive hole until later in the game. And when the Arthritics started hitting, so did the Cops.
“The Cops really hit the ball well in the last inning to put it away,” Ritacco said. “Until then, we were pretty much hanging with them. We just didn’t have the same level of hitting we had in the past few games.
In the end, the Cops pulled away from the Arthritics and clinched a 20-11 victory for their second championship. The Cops’ offensive force earned them the No. 1 seed, but, according to Salva, bats alone did not secure the title.
“We have a hard-hitting lineup, but we also had great pitching and fielding this game,” he said. “That’s been our mantra this year, and I’m glad we were able to get it done. The Arthritics played great. This season was great.”
Despite the loss, the Arthritics were far from displeased.
“This was one of the best seasons the Arthritics have ever had, but it’s one of the best all-around seasons I can remember,” Ritacco said. “Everyone had fun and was generally excited to be here. We get to play a game we love in a place that’s so special with some of our best friends. That’s what it’s all about.”