The rubber match in the men’s summer softball final drew some 200 people to Veterans Park in Vineyard Haven last Thursday evening. As usual in the last few years, the playoffs came down to the Highlanders and the Hurricanes.
On Monday, the Highlanders had prevailed, 5-4, holding off a Canes rally in the bottom of the seventh to go up, 1-0, in the series. On a drizzly Wednesday evening, the Highlanders got the jump early, but the Canes came back to win, 9-7.
The Canes got the early jump on Thursday, scoring three in the top of the first. The Highlanders responded with one run in the bottom of the inning, and they picked up another in the second. As in the first two games, Harrison Holmes (Hurricanes) and Danny Merry (Highlanders) were the pitchers.
A scoreless third inning finished with the Canes up by one, 3-2. They went ahead, 4-2, with one run in the top of the fourth, but the Highlanders came back strong, scoring three times to take the lead, 5-4.
The Highlanders scored three more in the bottom of the fifth, thanks to home runs by Eric Soikelli and Russell Hodson, to take an 8-4 lead. They added two more in the bottom of the sixth, including a solo shot from first baseman Joe Merry, and it looked like the Highlanders had the game in hand.
Not so fast. A misplayed pop-up in shallow right field opened the floodgates for the Canes, who could suddenly do no wrong, while the Highlanders seemed to tighten up. Before three outs were recorded, 10 Canes combined to manufacture 7 runs and a resulting one-run lead. Matt Goethals had the big hit of the inning, a ground-rule double, with critical help from Ken Magnuson and Patrick Rolston.
The Highlanders went quietly in the bottom of the 7th, touching off a rousing celebration among the Canes. Final score: Hurricanes, 11 – Highlanders, 10.