NLB Spiel 10, Aug. 10, 14

Challengers 22332214123
Mustangs 001300445
W: Lehmann, N. L: Hubler, I.

Challengers 14, Mustangs 4

PSYCHED UP: Challengers Offense Comes to Life, Overwhelms Mustangs

I always find the first of the weekend games to be the more exciting of the two. On the one hand, it's entirely possible that consuming a hot dog or hamburger in the three to four minutes we have between games (all times approximate) leads to a feeling of sluggishness. On the other hand, it could be the added excitement of the particular adventure activity I always get to play when arriving at the field, which is loosely entitled will I make it to the bathroom in time or won't I?. One of the downsides of that activity is that most of the fields do NOT have the same sort of luxurious facilities as Heerenschuerli does...I mean Thun doesn't even HAVE facilities, let alone luxurious ones (for the record that is NOT why I missed those games). In Embrach, the situation is unique: There are nice bathrooms, BUT you have to go inside a psychiatric hospital to use them. People have different ways of getting themselves mentally prepared for playing. Don't judge me.

Anyway, on Sunday the Challengers took on the mighty Mustangs of Embrach...or at least they used to be mighty until half the team quit and joined the Barracudas' NLA team (not sure what happened there...maybe it was because of the proximity to the Psych Ward). Times are a bit tougher for the Mustangs these days. Instead of being able to turn to Roger Savodelli (who is a much better pitcher than he is an umpire...yeesh), Embrach instead trotted out a lady-hurler whose velocity was actually rather similar to Bob Feller..if Rapid Robert were still alive and asked to throw today. To be honest, there was some slight concern that the pitches would be SO slow, that certain Challenger hitters would lack the patience to avoid popping out or swinging over the ball (not me though---the slower they throw the better chance I have to hit it!). As it turned out, there was no need to worry.

The Challenger bats got to work early and often, helped along by shoddy Embrach defense (although to be fair, when you play on a field that can best be described as undulating, you're entitled to a certain amount of slack). Yusuke Azuma got things started with a walk and two steals, and came around on an RBI single by Carlos Nepomuceno. Following a stolen base and a single by Juan de la Rosa, the Challengers again managed to score a run on a muffed infield fly, this time hit by Renzo Falcone. Unfortunately, the Challengers left the bases loaded and had to settle for a 2-0 lead.

In the second, left-fielder Alex Gordon got things started with a walk and a stolen base before Kurt Kovac singled him over to third. After Kovac stole second, Nepomuceno drove a Sac-Fly to center, increasing the lead to 3-0. De la Rosa followed with a booming double, driving in Kovac and making it 4-0. That lead doubled in the third: Gregg Zingg singled with one out, and took second when an error allowed Michel Romang to reach first. Gordon drew his second walk of the game, loading the bases for Kovac, who reached on yet another Embrach error, bring Zingg around for a 5-0 lead. Azuma singled to score both Romang and Gordon, and a fielder's choice by Nepomuceno made it 8-0 after three.

After mowing 'em down in the first two frames, Nick Lehmann faltered a bit in the bottom of the third, giving up 3 hits and a run. Things could've been worse, but Lehmann picked a runner off first after a lead-off single. No matter: the Challengers got that run back plus two more in the top of the fourth. Sarmiento led off with a single and a steal, Zingg followed with a walk, and Romang again reached on an error by the third-baseman. That loaded the bases for Gordon, whose last 5 plate appearances resulted as follows: Walk, HBP (ankle...kinda hurt), HBP (elbow...didn't hurt, barely grazed my arm hair), Walk, Walk. In all honesty, I could've simply left my bat on the bench, as those (unofficial) AB's contained a total of zero swings. Gordon quickly worked the count to 3-0 (ok, I just stood there and let the pitcher throw crap), before it ran full at 3-2. At that point, the following thought ran through my mind: I consider myself a relatively enlightened individual, and I'm all for equality between the sexes. Nonetheless, if I struck out with the bases loaded against a young lady in a baseball game, I would have no choice but to dig a hole under the tarp and live in it...or admit myself to the psych ward, either way. After barely - and I mean barely - fouling off the next pitch, Gordon ripped a single into leftfield, scoring Sarmiento for a 9-1 lead. What happened next is a bit unclear, as the scoresheet has Romang and Gordon pulling off a double steal that I definitely don't recall. In any event, Kovac reached on an error (the third baseman was having a terrible time), which scored Zingg (10-1), before a PB during Azuma's at bat allowed Romang to score to make it 11-1.

To their credit, Embrach mounted a bit of a rally in the bottom of the fourth, taking advantage of poor Challenger fielding. After a lead-off walk and a steal, Lehmann induced a comeback for the first out. Inexplicably, however, de la Rosa threw wildly (and that's being charitable) to third in an attempt to get the lead runner. The ball bounced down the left-field line, and the runner came around for the Mustangs' second run. Nick came back to strike out the next batter, but unfortunately the ball got past Azuma allowing the runner to reach first. After a passed ball put that runner on second, Adrian Chinea was unable to come up with a fly ball in left putting runners on first and third. The comedy of errors continued when Lehmann threw over the head of de la Rosa at first, which allowed one run to score, and the others to reach second and third. Although one further run came across on a fielder's choice, Nick managed to limit the damage to three runs.

The Challengers scored four more times, tallying twice in both the fifth and sixth innings on a combination of hits, walks and errors (Romang and de la Rosa each had RBI doubles). A brief moment of humor came in the top of the 6th: With the score 15-4, Zingg turned to the bench and informed the team that we were shutting down the running game. Of course, no one told Falcone, who had reached first on an error, and was promptly thrown out trying to steal second (for those of you wondering, no he did not slide...although he DID slide during Wednesday's game against the Barracudas. Must've been the position of the moon or something). Embrach had no more fight left in them and went down quietly in the 5th and 6th, leading to a 15-4 mercy-rule win for the Challengers.

by Alex Gordon