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After spirited run, Rockers fall in final to Maple Valley
Heading into postseason play with the league’s top seed and a nine-game winning streak, the Mercer Island Rockers appeared ready to take the Puget Sound Senior Coed League softball championship. But after a spirited tournament run that included a final-inning comeback win, the Rockers fell in the title game Thursday, Aug. 7 to reigning champs Maple Valley, 16-11.
After sweeping through the first two rounds and taking an 11-game winning streak into the final, head coach Alan Anderson said it was a tough end to an otherwise special season.
“We were really injury-free all year until today,” he said, noting the Rockers lost outfielder and leadoff hitter Lee Hochberg to an achilles injury, outfielder Larry Kirchner to a hamstring injury and saw starting pitcher John Weinberg take a line drive to the chest.
Both the Rockers and Maple Valley had only one loss heading into the tournament, with both teams responsible for the other’s lone blemish. They squared off for two games Thursday, with the first for seeding and the second for the championship. Maple Valley won the first matchup 13-9, though Anderson used the game to shuffle his lineup and played people out of position. Still in the Rockers’ two games, the Rockers’ coach thought he saw early jitters befall his team.
“In the first couple of innings of both games, it was error after error. Then we settled down and came back,” he said. “Unfortunately, we can’t do that against Maple Valley. They’re too good.”
It was a different story for the Rockers in the games leading up to the tournament final. Mercer Island opened tournament competition with a 13-10 win over Sumner, followed by a 13-12 thriller over Seattle, a game that saw the Rockers overcome a five-run deficit in the game’s final inning.
“We went into the bottom of the sixth, which would be the last inning, down 12-7. We got three hits, an out, a couple more hits and another out. The bases were loaded with two outs and we got a hit that drove in runs 11 and 12 and tied the score,” relayed Anderson. “It was one of those things, a very remarkable comeback, especially with two outs.”
Despite falling in the title game, Anderson said his team had one of its better seasons in recent memory this year. He noted that a softball team’s success had a lot to do with the talent level of both its male and female players, and he had much praise for the women taking the field for the Rockers.
“It’s our women that are by far the strong part of our team,” said Anderson. “You have to play three women at all times and in our first two tournament games, we were playing six women. Our three and four female hitters were putting the ball over their heads.”
While there’s always player turnover in between seasons, the Rockers head coach said he hoped he’d see everyone return for next summer’s campaign, though he knows one reason or another always seems to creep up. “There’s always something that happens in the nine months we don’t play. We are seniors, you know,” he quipped.
For those who might be interested but unsure about the commitment, Anderson offers the invitation to take the field, even if only for a little while.
“Everybody come out. If after a couple a weeks you can’t do it anymore, at least you’ve thrown the ball around for a few weeks and relived some of the old childhood memories. We’re always looking for players and it is a lot of fun.”