Fat Jacks and Millenia in a Brawl For It All....
Fat Jacks and Millenia Salon & Spa met recently for the 2008 Easton Women's Softball League Championship in a best 2-out-of-3. Millenia won the regular season in the National league with a gaudy 17-2 slate. Records like that have usually been reserved for the Flynn's and LJ Zucca Jags of the Easton Women's League for many years as those two teams have dominated for many years until recently.
Hecktown/Last Call had the best regular season record in 2007 and Morici's won the 2007 playoff championship after losing early in round #2. Morici's then went on a playoff run for the ages and came all the way back through the loser's bracket and beat some very good teams along the way and then double dipped Last Call in the Championship.
This time it was Millenia, who hadn't lost since late June, facing Susie Kerbaugh's Fat Jacks squad that again posted double digits in wins for the 2nd consecutive year. This year's 14-5 regular season copped them an American League Championship and a berth in the EWSL 'World Series'.
Game #1 in this set was all Millenia all the time. Millenia slowly pushed across 10 runs little by little while Fat Jacks could not muster anything. One of the leagues best pitchers, if not the outright best, Nancy Muniz had everything working in the opener and shut out Fat Jacks and the game ended after 6 innings due to the 10-run rule.
Pitching Makes a Difference...Fat Jacks Steals Game Two 5-4
There are those who don't think pitching makes much of a difference in Slo-Pitch Softball. However someone who has played on the men's side for many years and the man who has umpired every league championship for the last few years since he has been in the league, Scott Farrell, begs to differ "Obviously it is only Slo-Pitch and there is only so much you can do as a pitcher but ask teams who don't really have a reliable pitcher and walk their way to losses what they think" added Farrell "Nancy doesn't have to throw 14 feet high to be successful. She moves the ball around and maybe most importantly, fields her postion."
Fat Jacks has a quality pitcher of their own in Holly Paetzell. She has been dealing her backhanded "Church Street Spinners" successfully for many years for Coach Kerbaugh and it has helped FJ to many a win over the last few years. "Up and In" is the ever popular phrase that Catcher/emergency SS Kerbaugh has made famous over the years and it has matriculated around the league and Paetzell definitely listened in Game #2 as she tried to keep things up and in and with the help of her improved defense in the OF, was able to hold Millenia to only 4 runs.
Kelly Snyder anchors things down in LF for Fat Jacks and FJ was aided this year by the addition of all-everything Crystal Epright-Aungst. The former Hunterdon Central Star can play every position, including pitch which she would have to do in Game #3, but she mainly helped out the Jacks by playing LCF the majority of the time. The right side of OF in this championship series for FJ had a much-improved speedster Stephanie Guzman and longtime Jack, Jen Strouse. Both played well in this series.
"I still need to work on groundballs in the OF as I got some bad hops and let the ball get away from me once or twice" said Guzman who caught everything in the air hit her way in this series "but I've tried to improve on flyballs and I think I've done that." The team defense that also features Danielle Hendershot at 3B, Jen Grube-Robertson at SS, new addition in '08 Jen Stull at 2B and longtime Jacker Melissa Yobe at 1B. Sammy Uliana is a good hitter for FJ who filled in at many different positions during the course of the season and during the Finals including playing SS and 3B in Game #3.
With their backs against the wall in Game #2 and down 4-2 heading into the Bottom of the 6th, the American league champs would not go gentle into that good night. They got loud and got rowdy led by the voice of DH/C Diane Timberman and pushed across three runs and held on for dear life in the Top of the 7th. When the final flyball settled into Aungst's glove in LCF for the 3rd out, it meant everyone had to come back the next night for a 1 game winner-take-all scenario.
Defense Wins Championships...The Salon Gals Are Stylin'
It was a gorgeous Friday Night at Hackett Park and a near record crowd was on hand, at least in terms of the EWSL. They came from near and far as regulars from the Fat Jacks bar were on hand and many friends and family of the Salon gang were also on hand to watch the final duel as well as many members of Morici's,LJ Zucca and Delahanty's.
Al Cressman, who has coached the Flynn's women team for many years in this league, also doubles as 'grounds crew' for the league. After heavy rains on Wednesday of the past week and with many other places postponing their games due to wet grounds, "Big" Al had the fields in stellar condition for Games 1 and 2 of this Championship series and the field for Game #3 looked immaculate. One could not have asked for a better setting.
"The time and effort Al puts into these fields is amazing" said LJ Zucca pitcher Donna Riegel who has been playing in the league since 1976 "We are lucky to have him and hopefully most of the rest of the league appreciates what he does for us."
Game #3 would be a struggle for Fat Jacks as they would be without their starting pitcher Paetzell. Her and her fiance` would be on their way to Ocean City, MD for a weekend softball tournament. However as far as pure pitching goes, Fat Jacks may have the best #2 starter in the league in Aungst. There is of course much respect for Morici's as they have Marge Wildrick and Barb Reilly-Fallon who usually alternate games so they could both be considered #1 starters as far as that goes.
Aungst, along with Millenia's Muniz, are the best defensive fielding pitchers in the league and "Epps" (as she is commonly known around the league) has pitched for many years in this league so the actual pitching itself was not that much of a problem. There can be little doubt though that Paetzell's bat was definitely missed in the line-up as she hit anywhere from 2nd to 5th during the course of the year. The fact that Aungst had to come out of the OF and SS Grube-Robertson had to go out to LCF did not help matters. JGR was very good in LCF but when any team has to shift so many people around for a Championship game, it can't be all good.
The fact is that none of that though should take anything away from a tremendous Millenia effort. They would've been favored to win the 3rd and deciding game regardless of who was pitching for FJ and when they bolted out to 4-0 lead after 1 inning, considering the Jacks had only scored 5 runs in two games in this series, things did not look good for the Freemansburg Avenue faithful.
Millenia added one on in the top of the 3rd to make it 5-0 and then Fat Jacks went to work in the bottom of the frame as with two on, Grube-Roberston drilled a laser towards LCF. The ball somehow skipped away and Robertson ended up on 3B. 5-2 Millenia. A Sac Fly by Uliana plated JGR to make it 5-3. Fat Jacks repeated the process in the 4th as another rocket of the bat of Aungst, who was 3-for-3 in the game, went towards LCF and should've been just a single but another Millenia mistake had her standing on 3B with one out.
A Sac Fly off the bat of Kerbaugh made it 5-4. That however would be as close as Fat Jacks would get. The artists formerly known as "Reds" went into lockdown mode. Millenia had been waiting 7 years for this moment and they were not about to "curl up" and "stylishly" let this one slip away so after some early game jitters, the Salon & Spa crew relaxed and settled down.
A very solid infield that featured Toni Shreve at 3B, longtime Reds/Millenia girl Valerie Bauer at SS, Kristin Joseph at 2B and Nicole Mandarino at 1B didn't let anything through. A solid OF all year was highlighted by LF Michelle Meier. The switch-hitting Meier hit from both sides of the plate in the Championship Game and played stellar "D" out in LF throughout the course of the season with many catches that would've made SportsCenter's 'Top 10' plays of the day.
She may not have the experience of other quality LF's in the league like Flynn's Julie Duffy, Morici's Jill Fuduric nor the arm of Last Call's Amanda Sterner (then again not many do), but she can flat out go get'em in LF and now she has a championship ring. She was definitely one of the many reasons Millenia was much improved.
"They're just very deep and well balanced" added Farrell who umpired the third and deciding game "there's no automatic outs in their line-up and they normally don't give away extra outs defensively. That's key in any softball game."
Offensively they got key hits from Melissa Rowbottom, Christie Acquino, Pam Vlasaty and Terri Materna as they got 1 in the 5th to make it 6-4 and then blew the game wide open with a 4-spot in the Top of the 6th to make it 10-4 and there were a lot of good buddies on the Salon sideline. They had taken a game that was bit 'hairy' and gave themselves a 'permanent' lead that was too big for FJ to overcome.
They put the finishing touches on this one when fleet-footed Bethany Plumber scored all the way from 1B on a short single to RCF with two outs in the top of the 7th to make it 11-4. Danielle Hendershot homered to deep LCF to start the home half of the 7th for Fat Jacks but it would be their last hurrah on this night.
When the final line drive was snatched out of the air by 3B Shreve, it was party time on William Penn Highway. The Salon girls were 'stylin' as they had captured their first ever Championship 11-5. They said themselves that they were often bridesmaids and members of the wedding party many times when it came to the EWSL but they were never the actual brides. They can now consider themselves married.
Yes there will be a 10-team playoff over the next week or so but unfortunately many teams either cannot make it due to injuries and vacation and not all teams will be at full strength for many of the same reasons so although playoffs are always a good thing, it can be referred to as a little 'watered down' in this case. That is why many people considered this the real Championship. The two best teams record-wise from each division going at it in a best-2-out-of-3 for all the marbles. The Salon Girls had an appointment for a Championship. They didn't miss it. (AP Wire - Shake-n-Bake McBride of the Pennsylvania Beacon-Journal )