Third time was definitely the charm for the Hogs on Monday.

The perennial Goulding Park Slopitch League bridesmaids captured their first playoff championship in a long while — and made up for back-to-back title game defeats — with a 23-19 victory over the Hustlers in as an exhilarating and well-played final as you're going to witness.

The two heavyweight batting lineups traded body blows right through to the final inning, with each side being blanked in just two frames. The Hogs, however, were always able to keep the Redshirts at arm’s length and enjoyed their largest lead, 17-8, in the fifth inning.

Up 19-14 heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, the Hogs tacked on four more runs — the key hit being a bases-loaded, and bases-clearing, double to deep left by Rob Kroll — that looked like it might be enough, especially with the bottom of the Hustlers order coming up in the top of the ninth.

But not so fast. After Adam Savage made the first out, Chris McGee and Ron Simon followed with singles and a hobbled Matt Savage walked to load the bases. Kieran Kennedy lashed an opposite-field single between third and short to plate two and Michael Greenberg then crushed a three-run homer to right-centre to pull the Hustlers to within four. Still with just one out.

The ever-dangerous Blayne Bunting then stepped in and looped what looked like a sure Texas League single into shallow centre. But Hogs shortstop Shaffin Datoo got an alert break on the hit and, with an acobatic leaping grab, reached up and snared the ball for the second out. It was one of the game’s payback moments as Bunting had made at least a few simimlar highlight-reel catches in left field during the game and in the Hustlers’ semi-final win earlier in the night.

Datoo, fittingly, then wrapped up the title for the Hogs, when he cleanly fielded Carl Simon’s hard grounder and — Lord knows what must have been going through his head at that precise moment, softball and championship in his hand — made a perfect throw to Jayson Brumm at first for the final out.

The unofficial MVP of the championship game, however, was Kroll. The veteran catcher went 5-for-6 with a game-high eight RBIs — twice blasting doubles over the head of the left-fielder who had been playing him shallow. The first time came in the fifth inning with Bunting in left and it drove in two. One might think the speedy, athletic Bunting would have been reminded of that hit when Kroll stepped in with the bases drunk in the eighth. Unfortunately, outfielder Matt Savage pulled a hamstring (while trying to beat a forceout at second) forcing him to play catcher. Bunting had shifted to left-centre and it was Greenberg, moving over from right-field, who watched Kroll’s crucial drive sail over his head.

It was yet another payback moment for the Hogs as Greenberg had spent all night tormenting them at the plate with three monster home runs — probably some kind of championship game record — and drove in seven.

All in all, though, it was a contest worthy of its championship game label, with both teams bringing their ‘A’ games at the plate and in the field.

Sadly, we couldn’t say the same for the defending-champion (I guess we can finally stop saying that after three years) Trappers who, after playing perhaps their best game of the season the week before to upset the Hosers, reverted back to their old ways against the Hustlers in the early semi-final. The Hustlers won it 16-1 — yes, 1 — with the Trappers once again displaying an inability to string hits together or play tight outfield defence.

The game was actually closer than the score would indicate as the Hustlers outscored the Traps 10-0 over the final three innings. Kennedy pitched a solid game for the winners replacing the absent Columbus Leo, while his replacement at short, McGee (normally a third baseman), did his best Kieran impersonation in both games, snaring a few line drives and ranging into the outfield for an over-the-shoulder grab on another occasion in the nightcap.

So that wraps up the summer of 2019 for the GPSL, a transformative and often unpredictable season that will be remembered for, among other things, outfield sprinklers and a dark South Diamond. Oh, and that we ran out of pizza after having to throw out the equivalent of two party-size pies the year before.

But league management has made it a priority this winter to try and get the use of both diamonds again next season. Commish Joel Colomby says he will be sending out a mass email, updating in detail, what’s hopefully in store for 2020.

Stay tuned.


Individual category winners for 2019 (from left) Kieran Kennedy, Shaffin Datoo, D.J. Gregor and Joe Lauria.

An unusual and, at times, frustrating summer of 2019 comes to a close on Monday night for the Goulding Park Slopitch League when it stages its season-ending doubleheader that culminates with the crowning of its championship team.

The Hogs, who finished in first place during the regular season, earned a bye into the 9:30 p.m. championship final by hanging on to edge the Hustlers 18-16 last Monday. It was the fifth time these evenly matched team had met this season and the win gave the Hogs a 3-2 edge in wins.

For the Hustlers, that means they take on the upstart Trappers in the semi-final game (7:45 p.m. start), likely feeling somewhat comfortable in the fact they easily handled the three-time defending champions in their three meetings during the regular schedule, but perhaps also wary of the fact that the 2019 cellar-dwellers are 10-1 in their past 11 playoff games, including a decisive 23-11 win over the Hosers last Monday in the first elimination game.

Last Monday also saw the league hand out its yearly individual awards, accompanied by too much beer and too little pizza.

Hosers' D.J. Gregor took home two trophies after league the league in homers and RBIs this season. Hogs' Joe Lauria took home his award as the on-base percentage champion, an honour he earned by beating out Gregor on the final week of the regular schedule. Also, Shaffin Datoo of the Hogs and Hustlers' Kieran Kennedy both grabbed trophies as co-leaders in the runs category.

The career year/most improved award went to Hustlers' long-time warrior Ron Simon.

And the big trophy presentation of the night went to Alex Moyano, who was feted with the third annual Brant Snow Commitment Award. Battling one injury or another seemingly all season for both the Hogs and later the Hosers, Alex never missed a week, even when he was physically unable to play.




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