The Blazers won their first men’s Island Softball League championship with a 15-11 victory over the Highlanders Thursday night at Veterans Park, sweeping the best-of-three series 2-0 and exacting sweet revenge over the defending champs. The Blazers were hot, coming off an exciting game one 24-15 win Wednesday night, after rallying back from an early 8-0 deficit.
The final play of game two on Thursday will likely be talked about for years to come.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, with the Blazers up by four runs and the Highlanders down to their last out, Kyp Cooperrider stood on third base and Mike O’ Donoghue on second as Russell Hodson stepped into the batter’s box and launched the ball deep to left. Blazers outfielder Pat Rolston backpedaled and fell through the mesh fence, landing on his back in the darkness with ball in glove. With the championship clinched, his jubilant teammates charged into the outfield and beyond the fence to retrieve their hero and help him to his feet.
“This guy told me I had plenty of room,” Rolston said with a laugh, pointing at teammate Andrew Williamson after the game.
The Catch capped off a remarkable championship series for Rolston, who finished with four home runs (two in each game), a double, and a single in eight at-bats.
The Highlanders got off to a big start in game one, but the Blazers had the bats going quickly in game two. Wes Halkyard drilled a three-run homer in the first, and the Blazers tacked on three more runs in the second and third innings before Mike “Moose” Mussell hit a three-run blast out of the yard in the fourth.
Down 13-5 in the fifth, John Mazza, stage name “Johnny Mazz,” gave the Highlanders the spark they desperately needed by muscling a three-run homer to right field. Before the inning was over, the Highlanders plated three more runs, and cut the deficit to 13-11.
After a scoreless sixth inning, Billy Panek hit a two-run dinger over the fence in the top of the seventh to give the Blazers some breathing room.
The 26 runs scored in game two notwithstanding, the final game of the men’s softball season had no shortage of web gems. Kyp Cooperrider’s acrobatic catch over and beyond the fence to rob Ronnie Miske in the second inning was no less spectacular than Rolston’s, but timing with the stuff of legends is everything. In the home half of the second, Blazer third baseman Wes Halkyard ended the inning with a diving stab and putout to second. The glovelights kept coming … John Mazza played a tough hop in shallow right, did a 180 from his knees and threw to first for a putout; Luke Nagle caught a laser at second and doubled up the Highlanders in the sixth; Russell Hodson made a super grab at the hot corner in the top of the seventh, and Blazers pitcher Ben Madeiras snared a vicious comebacker off Nainoa Cooperrider’s bat to record the penultimate out of the ballgame, which proved to be a fitting prelude to the incredible ending.