Slugs take out the Pounders to return to men’s softball championship circle

Thunderstorms bookended the men’s softball championship game on Monday, though it probably would not have prevented the Slugs and Pounders from duking it out on the diamond.

The 14-13 Slugs victory secured the team’s first championship since 2012 and its 15th team championship dating back to 1990.

“It was great,” Jeff Miller said as his team celebrated near the pitcher’s mound. “For me, honestly, I think it was the defense. We made very few errors, and we made a lot of plays.”

The defensive sentiment carried throughout the Slugs after the match had concluded, set heavily in their conservative play of minimizing errors and capitalizing on offensive momentum.

“I think we just played solid defense the whole time,” said John Chubb, captain of the Slugs. “We got the first out in seven of the nine innings. I think that was a huge difference because that put a little pressure on them. A couple of times, we got the next out after that. The Slugs have always built their game on defense. It’s slow-pitch softball — everyone’s going to get hits. It’s defense that makes a difference here.”

A Slugs-Pounders matchup brought together both a storied club that routinely has collected championships and a chain-link-fence gang of locals that regularly smoke cigarettes on the sidelines and cackle from the bench.

“It goes to show that any team can show up and bring great players to the game and compete,” said Mike O’Brien, commissioner for the men’s league. “For all the Chautauqua teams, it’s hard to keep the same bodies all year, and you have to keep recruiting. What’s nice about a local team is that they’re all here and they can stay very consistent. Even in just one season they can get a very consistent team with good players.”

Leading up to the championship, regular season and playoff games were played to seven innings with a 1-1 count to start each at-bat. The final game would be as official as slowpitch softball can be, reaching a full nine innings and a clean pitch count with every new batter.

The Pounders took an early lead, racking up two runs in the top of the first, resembling the play of the 38-run performance they had against the Arthritics in the first round of the playoffs.

In the bottom of the first, the Slugs’ Nate Chubb would bring in his father, John, with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first to bring the score to 2-1.

After a scoreless second, the Slugs showcased their defensive capabilities, especially when right fielder John Houghton caught a routine fly ball, which he then fired to first base to tag a runner out for the double play. Greg Miller would tie the game at two apiece for the Slugs in the bottom of the third.

Storms loomed over right field, and light rain fell throughout the third and fourth innings, but play would continue. Though wet conditions could have factored into the game, solid fielding from both teams prevented any team to run away with the game in its early stages.

An inside-the-park homer for the Slugs tied the game at three runs at the bottom of the fourth. With two outs, the Slugs loaded the bases, but were foiled by a Pounders left field catch.

The Slugs would run away with the fifth, racking four runs to turn the tables in favor of the home team, 10-5.

Two innings later, the Pounders would fire back with a commanding seven-run inning that put them ahead 12-10.

“When they beat us in the bottom of the seventh we were like, ‘Holy cow, these guys are for real,’ ” John Chubb said. The Slugs would respond with a run in the bottom of the inning to narrow the lead to one.

Pounders captain and pitcher Erik Tarr walked two batters in the bottom of the eighth and Nate Chubb had two RBIs to bring the Slugs ahead 14-12. Though the Pounders would score in the top of the ninth — causing the Slugs’ Jeff Miller to be noticeably more hesitant in throwing his infamous floater — he would throw out a Pounders’ batter on first to end the game.

Tarr and the Pounders were hoping to steal a championship away from the Slugs, but attributed the loss to some chaotic play down the stretch.

“We made some errors and didn’t hit the balls the way we should have,” Tarr said.

Though the Slugs have built a dynasty in the men’s softball league, John Chubb celebrated with the talent of other league teams in mind.

“We’re not going to win every time, but I know we always have the ability to win,” he said. “I was excited to be here again. You never know when you’re going to be in the championship again and this one felt good.”

The next stop for the Slugs next season is winning game 300 — a benchmark that is only one victory out of their reach.