Team falls to Auburn No. 1 during finals
By Matt Phelps
Mercer Island Reporter
This has not been a normal season for the Mercer Island coed 50-and-over softball team the Rockers. The usual domination that the team has come to enjoy each year disappeared with injuries and defections. But the team, playing its strongest softball all year, placed second in division II during the league’s championship tournament held at Game Farm Park Aug. 6-8.
“We finished strong and it’s something that we can build off of for next season,” said the Rockers head coach and starting pitcher John Weinberg. “People on the team got used to their new positions and playing with each other. Losing seven players [from last year] is not an easy transition.”
Mercer Island finished the regular season with a record of 6-18 but went 3-2 during the tournament. The Rockers beat Des Moins 7-6 during the first round despite trailing 6-3 entering their final at bat. But four runs during the bottom of the seventh gave Mercer Island the game and confidence.
“It lifted the entire team up,” said Weinberg.
The momentum carried over into the second round as the Rockers pounded Kirkland 22-2 for their largest point total and margin of victory all season.
“I was amazed,” said Weinberg. “I thought that Kirkland was the better of the two teams.”
The two victories put Mercer Island in a strong position to make the finals. But the Rockers’ raging offense, which has been up and down all season, was put to sleep by the pitching and defense of Auburn No. 1. The 10-3 loss put Mercer Island in a loser-out game against Federal Way Aug. 7.
But the Rockers were determined to get another shot at Auburn No. during the finals as they defeated Federal Way 16-1. The win gave Mercer Island new life but they would have to take two consecutive games from Auburn No. 1 during the championship on the oppositions home field. Not to mention the Rockers’ distinct disadvantage on the field.
“We had to play with just 10 players,” said Weinberg. “We did quite well despite the handicap.”
The Island team pushed the home team to the limit but came up short 14-10 to finish division II tournament play.
“I don’t think many people expected us to get this far so it was a good ending,” said Weinberg, who announced after the tournament that he will step down as the team’s head coach next season but stay on as its starting pitcher. “After three years of coaching I think it is best for the team. It is hard to do both.”
Weinberg is just the third head coach of the team in the nearly two decades of play. This year was only the third time the team has not been in the division I championship game.
“We have been pretty spoiled because we are always in the top division,” said Weinberg. “But Auburn was the better team this year.”
Weinberg hopes that the team will get three of its biggest bats back next season and rebuild the Rocker dynasty.