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Rockers beat Seattle, but get rocked in 7th - Defensive collapse sours a victory, might cost title
By Matt Phelps
The Rockers went undefeated to win the regular season title last season. This year, the Island's 55-and-over coed softball team had to fight to stay in the race.
The Rockers completed a season-long comeback Thursday with a 13-11 victory over Seattle at the Park on the Lid. The win pulls the Rockers even with Seattle, as each team has three losses on the season. Both teams had one game left to finish the regular season on Tuesday (after Reporter deadline); Seattle has a makeup game Thursday against Renton as well.
``We have now won 13 in a row,'' said Rocker coach and starting pitcher John Weinberg. ``We should be able to win our last game, but it will be interesting.''
The victory over Seattle was smooth until the top of the seventh inning. The normally sure-handed Rocker defense stumbled after earning two outs with two runners on base. The next seven hitters reached base, either on errors or single base hits, to score six-consecutive runs.
Normally, the scoring barrage would not mean much since Mercer Island held on for the victory, but league rules state that the tie-breaker for the regular season championship is the number of runs scored during the regular season if two or more teams finish with identical records. Seattle finishes the season outscoring Mercer Island in head-to-head games 36-34, hence holding the tie-breaker.
``We didn't exactly put the closer on at the end of the game,'' said Rocker John Mueller. ``But we had great defense for six innings.''
The Rocker offense began the game by loading the bases with three consecutive walks. A base hit down the third-base line by Mueller scored two runs to give Mercer Island an early 2-1 lead. The hit was a precursor to the scoring by Mercer Island. Seattle played every Rocker hitter the same, with the left fielder standing well off the third-base line.
``Some of the guys have excellent bat control and when they play the shift, they just go for it,'' said Mueller.
In contrast, Mercer Island played with outfielder Ted DeCampo on the line, which resulted in key outs.
Mercer Island extended its lead to 5-1 entering the top of the third. Seattle got two runs back in the inning, but Rocker Doug Davis matched that number with a two-RBI double during the bottom of the fourth. Davis finished the game going 3-for-3 with three RBI.
``I knew that we had to beat them to have any chance at the league title,'' said Davis. ``We want to go into the tournament with just the three losses and this one was big.''
Seattle hit the ball well during the fifth inning. A key defensive play against one of Seattle's best hitters, who hammered the ball to center field, ended the rally with runners on first and second. Rocker Doug Glant recovered the ball and threw it to Mueller at second base, who threw it to third to get a tardy runner coming into the base for an out.
DeCampo caught a fly ball down the third-base line for the final out of the fifth.
The bottom of the sixth was the Rockers' best at the plate. Pitcher and coach John Weinberg hit a grounder to the second baseman with the bases loaded. The ball snuck through the player's legs and rolled into right field as two runs scored. The play was a part of a seven-hit rally that sent five runners, the maximum across home plate that included a RBI triple by Donna Mihailoff.
``Donna has really made a difference for the team,'' said Davis.
Mercer Island's season-long comeback almost ended July 26 against Tukwilla, but four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning gave the Rockers a huge 8-7 victory.
``We had to go so hard the entire year to catch Seattle that is will be interesting to see how we play in the tournament,'' said Mueller. ``We need to sharpen our hitting a little.''
The Rockers will begin post season tournament play Monday at Game Farm Park in Auburn. The tournament will culminate on August 11 with the championship game.