Highlanders, Blazers in men’s softball finals

Championship series begins tonight at Veterans Park.

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Blazers fans, along with players Wes Halkyard, Jeff Wingo and Andrew Wiley, celebrate Mike Mussell's home run in the sixth inning. – Ralph Stewart

A new champion will be crowned this season in the men’s Island Softball League.

The four-year reign of the Hurricanes came to an end Wednesday night at Veterans Park in a 20-10 loss to the Blazers, who swept the best-of-three semifinal series, 2-0.

The ‘Canes four successive titles matches the Brewhas, who twice accomplished the feat, first from 1994-1997 and again from 1999-2002.

The second-seeded Blazers broke open a 9-9 tie by scoring seven runs in the sixth inning. Mike Mussell drilled a three-run homer to deep center, Billy Panek and Andrew Williamson each hit doubles, and Josh Cotterell hustled to grab three bases on a long line drive. The Blazers sealed the win and the series with four more in the seventh on a Panek sac fly and Wes Halkyard’s home run.

Early on, the Blazers did their damage with multiple singles, scoring five runs on five hits in the top half of the third inning to take a 6-0 lead.

In the home half of the third, with Joel Rebello and Keith Crossland on base, James “the Hammer” Rebello lived up to his nickname and clubbed the ball well over the fence in right field to slice the Blazers lead in two.

Blazers second baseman Billy Panek made it 9-3 with a three-run shot in the fourth, but the Hurricanes answered with six of their own to tie it. Joel Rebello brought in half of them with a round-tripper to right-center.

Ronnie Miske had a perfect night at the plate for the Blazers, going 3 for 3 with three singles, two walks, and five runs scored. Keith Crossland was none too shabby for the Hurricanes, finishing with two doubles and a solo homer.

Defensively, both teams had web gems. Blazer Andrew Williamson made a spectacular grab in left, putting his arm up in the darkness to snag the ball while running at the fence and falling to the ground, and Jonas Lukowitz had a pair of stellar tumbling, sliding catches in left-center for the ‘Canes.

The evening at Veterans Park started with the top-seeded Highlanders and No. 5 Whitecaps completing their suspended game from Tuesday night, which was halted by rain.

The ‘Caps carried over a 10-8 lead through four innings, but the Highlanders did all the scoring in part two, reeling off nine unanswered runs to claim a 17-10 win and a series sweep.

John Mazza singled to lead off the fifth inning, and scored along with Matt Kurth, Kyp Cooperrider, Jeremy Scheffer, and Mike O’ Donnell. Todd Hitchings, Jock Cooperrider, “Johnny Mazz,” and Kyp crossed the plate in the sixth to complete the damage.

With the league’s top two teams moving on, the best-of-three championship series begins tonight at Veterans Park, with the first pitch at 7 pm. Game two is scheduled for Monday, also with a 7 pm start.