Hurricanes win fourth straight men’s softball championship

'Canes extend dynasty to six titles in seven years with sweep of Highlanders.

The Hurricanes, with the score of the championship-clinching game behind them, pose after winning their fourth straight title. –Ralph Stewart

The Hurricanes blew through the men’s Island Softball League playoffs like a force of nature, sweeping three series and six games to clinch their fourth consecutive championship with a 12-7 win over the Highlanders Wednesday night at Veterans Park. All told, the ’Canes have won six titles in the past seven years, which is a dynasty to reckon with.

The Hurricanes started slowly in early June, splitting their first four games, gained strength as the season wore on, and hit their peak in the playoffs, outscoring opponents 97-41 to finish with an 18-4 record.

The Highlanders, meanwhile, came into the postseason with the best regular-season record at 14-2, which included two wins over the Hurricanes: a 9-8 classic on June 29 and a 22-1 blowout on July 24.

In the postseason, the Highlanders swept the Mermen and survived three tough games with the Brewhas before running into the second-seeded ’Canes in the finals.

The Hurricanes got off to a devastating start in the championship series opener on Monday night with 10 runs in the first and third innings en route to a 25-6 win.

Wednesday night, in the clincher, the ’Canes again jumped on top quickly with a 7-0 lead, through timely hitting, solid defense, and by ruthlessly capitalizing on their opponents’ mistakes. The Highlanders were jittery on defense throughout game one, and committed three errors in the first two innings of game two. The ’Canes took full advantage of their opportunities. James Rebello knocked in brother Joel and Keith Crossland with a two-run single, and Harrison Holmes batted in another run, giving the ’Canes a 3-0 lead after one.

The Hurricanes retired the Highlanders in order in the top of the second, then added four more runs in the home half. Ben Ciciora led off with a single, and Billy Jackson got aboard on an error. Keith Crossland hit a deep fly ball to center to drive in the first run. Joel Rebello, James Holenko, and James Rebello followed with three straight hits and an RBI apiece.

The Highlanders had to respond quickly to stay in the game, and they did. Taylor Ives and Jason Breau singled to start off the third inning, and Owen Maloney scored Ives to put the Highlanders on the board. With runners at the corners, John Mazza earned an infield hit RBI. Ryan Kurth hit a two-run double to center and Jeremy Scheffer crossed the plate with another run as the Highlanders cut the ’Canes lead to 7-5 and sent a bleacher full of partisan fans into a frenzy.

Resolute, the Hurricanes absorbed the pressure and put up three runs in the fourth. Billy Jackson and Joel Rebello sandwiched doubles around a Bob Sprague single, with all three coming home to score.

Jeremy Scheffer and Ryan Kurth earned RBIs in the Highlanders’ fifth, but the ’Canes countered with a two-out rally in the sixth, yielding two runs, courtesy of a James Holenko single and James Rebello double.

In the seventh inning, down to their last out, the Highlanders threatened, but Hurricanes shortstop Bob Sprague sealed the championship by snaring a vicious line drive and completing the 6-4 double play.