NLB Spiel 18, Sep. 13, 14

Challengers 0410040018164
Bandits 0010005672
W: Kovac, Ku. L: Meyer, M.

Challengers dispose of Bandits 18-6, move to Semis

In Game 2, the Challengers jumped on the Bandits early and erased all hopes of an upset. In the top of the second (bizarrely, the Challengers were the visiting team for this game, despite having the best record in all of NLB - ask our genius Commissioner about this one), Lehmann and Sarmiento led off with back-to-back walks. After Sato was called out on a highly dubious third strike (more on that later), a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third. Michel Romang drove both runners home with a single, taking second on the throw. That brought Alex Gordon to the plate for his first play-off AB - having been unceremoniously benched in the first game (complete with glove and hat throwing tantrum upon hearing the news). After taking a two-strike pitch that was WAY too close to take (and probably a strike, to be honest), Gordon fouled off the next offering before lining a double down the third-base line, scoring Romang. After a wild pitch sent Gordon to third, Kovac lofted a fly into short right that was caught by the 85 year old man playing in right-field (all ages approximate). Lacking any fear of Nussbaum Pere's arm strength, Gordon tagged up and scored from third, making it 4-0 Challengers.

The Challengers put the game away in the next inning, finally delivering one of its patented 10-run outbursts: Juan led off with a single, took second on a passed ball, then stole third. Falcone snapped out of his first-game funk and drove in de la Rosa with a single, taking second on an error by the centerfielder. Lehmann followed with an RBI single of his own, and then moved to third on consecutive wild pitches. After Sarmiento walked and stole second, consecutive wild pitches allowed both Lehmann and Sarmiento to score, making it 8-0 Challengers. A walk to Sato was the last straw for the Jona starter, who was pulled in favor of a reliever. The change didn't help: Romang reached on an error by the shortstop (the previous pitcher), sending Sato to third and bringing up Gordon - brimming with confidence after his earlier double. Unfortunately, the confidence didn't help: after having a pitch that literally bounced on the plate called a strike (ok, it ALMOST bounced), Gordon worked the count full before taking a called third strike (that in hindsight I really should have swung at since the guy had been calling that pitch a strike all day). As I walked back to the dugout, I looked back at the umpire and kind've arched my eyebrows a little, no big deal - or so I thought. Suddenly, the umpire started yelling, What are you looking at? What are you looking at? I mean, what was I supposed to respond with at that point? A prematurely gray-haired man who has difficulties recognizing the strike zone? And here I thought that the Swiss were supposed to be relaxed. I hadn't even said anything! Anyway, the rest of the inning proceeded as follows: Wild pitch, Sato scores, Romang to second; Kovac walks, Azuma singles, Romang scores, Kovac to third; Wild pitch, Kovac scores, Azuma to second; Two more wild pitches, Azuma scores, de la Rosa to second; Infield fly (second out); Sato singled, de la Rosa scores; Romang singles, Lehmann scores; Gordon grounds out to first, leaving the bases loaded AND accounting for TWO outs in one inning! But don't worry, I commemorated the event with an appropriately length list of f-bombs and other assorted expletives, so we're all good.

At this point, the Bandits hadn't even been through their entire order yet, whereas the Challengers had already batted around three times. The Bandits got the lead-off runner on, courtesy of an error by new first-baseman Ryan Koley, who opted to use his kneecap as opposed to his glove to try and stop the ball (it didn't really work). Koley did field the next chance cleanly, recording an out at first, but his throw to second was too late to get the lead runner. After a wild pitch moved the runner to third, a shallow fly to right field gave Romang a chance to show off his throwing arm. Unfortunately, Koley held the relay throw for too long, and the run scored (to be fair, the guy was probably going to score anyway but I had promised Ryan that I was going to savage his defense in this write-up - he's been getting a little too cocky about the Seahawks lately - and I don't want to be unreliable).

The Challengers added to their lead in the top of the fifth: With one out, pinch-hitter Andreas Rudisühli struck out, but reached first on a passed ball. A single by Gregg Zingg put runners on first and second, before Andreas stole third. Romang followed with yet another RBI single, making it 15-1 Challengers. After Gordon followed with a walk, Kovac singled to score Zingg and load the bases. An RBI grounder by Azuma forced Gordon at third, but scored Zingg, making it 17-1. Chinea singled to re-load the bases, before Koley came to the plate for the most amusing (from the Challengers' perspective) play of the game. Koley hit a little dribbler down the third base-line, and took off for first. Normally, the third baseman would wait for the ball to roll foul before touching it, this ending the play. Not in this case. Instead, the Jona third baseman STOPPED the ball from rolling foul, picking it up just before it reached the foul line, and then holding the ball while the runners each advanced a base. Whatever - looks like a line-drive in the box score. 18-1 Challengers.

The next 1.5 innings were uneventful, with the exception of a tremendous catch by Romang in left, who ran down a deep fly after having initially broken in on the ball. With the score 18-1, the defensive focus began to drift a bit, leading to a forgettable bottom of the 7th for the Challengers: With Kovac on in relief of Azuma, the Bandits put the first two runners on with back-to-back singles, before an infield fly left the home team down to its last 2 outs. It would be a little while before either one was recorded however. The number nine batter hit a short fly to right, which should have been the second out, but Zingg approached the ball as if he were swatting away a swarm of bees, and the ball ticked off his glove and went behind him allowing a run to score. The next batter followed with a single, which brought in another run, making it 18-3 Challengers. Another single - caused by Koley's inability to get back to the base on-time, loaded the bases, still with just one out. Kovac rebounded by striking out the next batter for the second out, but then forced home a run with a walk, making it 18-4. A throwing error by Chinea at third allowed two more runs to score, before another Koley error loaded the bases. Finally, Kovac notched another strike out to mercifully bring an end to the game, an 18-6 victory.

The C's will next head out to Sissach to play in the Semi-finals against the Frogs.

by Alex Gordon