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Rocker redemption: Two wins against Seattle gives Mercer Island the title
By Matt Phelps' email='Matt.Phelps@mi-reporter.com
It was fitting that Mercer Island's coed 55-and-over softball team, the Rockers, met Seattle during the postseason tournament's championship game Thursday at Game Farm Park in Auburn. After all, the Rockers had chased and caught Seattle for the regular-season title, but eventually lost by the tie-breaker rule of runs scored.
The Rockers finally overcame Seattle in a definitive fashion by winning two consecutive games to take the postseason tournament championship. "This was just two outstanding teams going head-to-head," said Rocker Ted DeCampo. "We knew it would go back and forth but we played our best." Mercer Island looked to run away with the tournament title during the first three innings.
"It was like Yogi Berra said, Deja vu all over again,'" said Mercer Island head coach and starting pitcher John Weinberg. "They came back on us twice this year and this was no different." The Rockers pounded the ball during the third and fourth innings after scoring one run in the first.
With two outs during the second inning, five consecutive hitters reached base. An RBI double off the bat of Mercer Island's David Vetter and a two RBI single from Weinberg gave the starting pitcher something to work with on defense.
The flood gates erupted with runs for Mercer Island during the third inning. An RBI triple by Rocker John Mueller into the center-field gap started the scoring barrage. Rocker Jackie Roberts reached base on a throwing error, which scored Mueller from third base. Larry Patelli provided the biggest hit of the inning, game and season. On a one-and-one count, Patelli hammered the ball deep into the right-center-field gap. As the Seattle outfielders scrambled for the ball, Roberts chugged around the bases with Patelli on her heels. As Patelli rounded third, the relay throw came flying past second base and skipped to the plate. Patelli touched home just before the ball reached the catcher for an inside-the-park home run.
"I thought that maybe it was a triple, but I kept hearing (DeCampo) yelling run hard,' so I kept going," said Patelli. An eight-run lead is not usually big enough for a win in softball and Seattle got back into the game as a result. The Rocker defense gave up its first run in the third inning and a home run during the fifth inning. Seattle cut the lead to 8-5 during the sixth inning on a two RBI double.
"I didn't think that we had a chance for that three-run lead to hold up," said Patelli. "(Weinberg) hasn't allowed a walk in almost a month and our defense was great today." Mercer Island took the three-run lead into the bottom of the seventh and final inning, but Seattle managed to bring the tying run to the plate with two outs. A blast to center field began to drop as Roberts ran in to catch the final out of the season.
"My heart was really beating," said Roberts. "What a way to end it. I was dreaming of catching fly balls last night. This feels like vindication for us." Seattle began the tournament with a 25-4 thrashing of Kent while Mercer Island beat Kent 9-4.
"This team has had a lot of heart and spunk this year and it showed over the last few days," said Weinberg.
The Rockers met Seattle during the semifinals and beat their rival 8-5 to send them to the consolation bracket, where they fought back to the championship game.
"Every game we played against them this year was a barn burner," said Rocker Doug Glant. "Our women players have been the difference all year long." Mercer Island finishes the season with the tournament title and a 24-3 record. Last year the team was 28-0 during the regular season but lost the postseason tournament to Tukwila.
"This is more fun than winning the league title," said Patelli.