The top-seeded Blazers and defending champion Highlanders will decide the men’s Island Softball League championship for the second consecutive season after claiming game three semifinal victories Monday night at Veterans Park.
With lightning crackling through an eerie pink glow in the darkening sky, the accompanying thunder was a mixture of Mother Nature and the Blazers’ bats, which pounded out 18 hits in a 17-1 win over the Brewhas.
The first blast came from Blazers shortstop Mike Mussell, who led off the game with a home run. The Blazers added five more runs in the first inning and eight in the second, with Pat Rolston, Andrew Williamson, and Wes Halkyard each knocking the ball over the fence.
Blazers pitcher Ben Madeiras tossed a three-hitter and carried a shutout into the fifth inning before Tim Millerick slugged a homer to get the Brewhas on the board.
In the nightcap, the thunder and lightning gave way to a steady drizzle as the third-seeded Highlanders rolled past the No. 2 Whitecaps, 13-7.
The Highlanders scored in every inning save the sixth, and did their damage playing small ball for base hits, with a few timely doubles and triples mixed in. John Mazza hit an RBI single in the first inning and Aksel Cooperrider followed suit in the second.
Evan Sosa cut the lead in half with a deep sac fly in the home half of the second, but Matt Kurth doubled in the third and Nainoa Cooperrider hustled out an infield hit in the fourth to put the Highlanders up 4-1 before Luke Brewer and Luke Bettencourt hit back-to-back doubles to get a run back for the ’Caps heading into the fifth.
The fifth inning was a slugfest, with the teams combining for 10 runs. Jock Cooperrider, John Mazza, and Matt Kurth all collected RBI singles. Mike O’ Donoghue swatted a triple to score Kyp Cooperrider before getting thrown out at the plate, and Russell Hodson batted in another run to put the Highlanders up 10-2.
The Whitecaps fought back with a four-run rally, and closed the gap to 10-6. Cody Brewer, Alex Bettencourt, and Zach Coutinho knocked in the first three runs, and Luke Brewer tripled to score the fourth.
Evan Sosa led off the ’Caps sixth with a solo homer just inside the right field foul pole to make it 10-7, but the Highlanders added three more in the top of the seventh. Matt Kurth ripped a leadoff double, Kyp Cooperrider followed with another two-bagger to score Kurth and came home on an errant throw to third. Aksel Cooperrider drilled a triple off the fence, and scored the Highlanders’ last run on a Russell Hodson sac fly.
The Highlanders closed out the game with a slick 4-6-3 double play, their second dp of the night.
The best-of-three championship series gets underway Wednesday night at Veterans Park. Game two is Thursday, with game three, if necessary, scheduled for Monday night. All are 7 pm starts.