Thursday, June 12, 2008

Still Holding On

Greenburgh, N.Y.--Residue of freshly-cut Skoal tobacco cans, Redman chewing tobacco, bags of sunflower seeds, water coolers, bags of ice, half-empty bottles of Gatorade and a sixer of cold beer sit on the tangential dirt, behind the backstop at Greenburgh's Rumbrook Park.
It’s still just a few weeks into the annual Greenburgh Arc Pitch Men’s softball league, but the debris is as solid an indicator as any. Softball has officially arrived.
In an old-school setting loaded with throwback players still holding on to their glory days, the Hastings-Based H-town Bangers rolled to a convincing 18-12 victory over the Greenburgh-based BMW Bimmers June 9.
The Bangers, behind a roster that's littered with old-world (and some fossil-like) recognizable names, wrapped an arsenal of hits en route to scoring their first signature victory of the 2008 campaign.
Selflessness, mindful-awareness on the field, and a shrill, enthusiasm-dripping brand of team cohesion helped Hastings stamp the pulsating win.
The win catapulted the Bangers (3-3) to third place in the league. After a rugged start entailing an ugly 20-10 loss, the team has progressed to the middle of the pack after winning back-to-back games.
Elmsford-based Pete’s Saloon currently resides alone in first place. With a competitive core of former and current collegiate players and a deep arsenal of firepower, Pete’s Saloon has been flawless throughout the opening six-game slate.
Keith Fagan, a Hastings-bred slugger who starred at wide receiver at Western New England College, got the victory on the hill for Hastings.
Fagan, 40 years young, went the distance on a scintillating 85-degree evening.
The team's elder statesmen who's acclimatized to slow-pitch softball, Fagan yielded a compilation of hits but surrendered just four earned runs.
The Bimmers, who capitalized on a pair of fielding gaffes to surge ahead early, scored six earned runs on the night.
A pair of runs staked H-town to an early 2-0 bulge, but the game was deadlocked at 8 at the top of the fourth inning.
That’s when the Bangers broke the game open. Their bats woke up and the hitting avalanched in what turned into the game-changing inning.
Charlie Berger jump-started the fireworks with a three-run jack that disintegrated into the firmament.
After coming up empty with a big, healthy cut on a high-arcing pitch, Berger launched a 1-2 offering well beyond center field.
“I took a great strike, the (Bimmer pitcher) threw me the ball up-and-outside and I just drove it right to center, over the guy’s head,” explained Berger, who also parked a three-run homer later in the game.
Outfielder Brian Martin and Tim Braig cushioned the lead by clubbing a pair home runs, and the hitting onslaught was prolonged by Noah Berger’s two-out double. Noah Berger went three-for-four on the night.
Charlie Berger sprinkled his teammates with praise. He lauded them for coming out on full cylinders, redeeming themselves after a couple of costly errors.
“We took off after that,” said Berger. “As a team, we don’t get down. These guys have a lot of heart. There was never a point where we thought we were going to actually lose the game.”
Berger, who helped construct a similar team which was thoroughly blood-lettered in last year’s Irvington league, feels that the slow-pitch brand of baseball is more suitable to the Bangers, many of whom fashioned solid baseball careers in their heyday.
“We have an insane amount of talent, hitting-wise,” said Charlie Berger.
“We’ve got guys that were studs in Section 1 when they went to high school; we have a kid, Neal Rosengren that plays in a wood bat league that’s extremely competitive. One of our team leaders, Keith Fagan, played almost professionally. He played for money, traveling throughout the country playing softball years ago.”
Fagan went 2-for-2 at the dish, drawing a walk and scoring a run on a sac fly. An assistant football coach at New Rochelle who lives for summer softball, Fagan has pitched all but one inning for the Bangers this summer.
While their opponents from Route 1 were enthusiastically immersed into the action, cheering each other on after nearly every strike at one point, they had no answer for the Bangers. The hot bats continued to ratchet up the score.
While the league may be lower-tier in terms of this summer’s softball competition, Berger feels the team has all the ingredients to make their mark.
“We’re on the rise,” he said. “Everyone is finally home (for the summer) so we have our full squad on hand.”
He continued, “There’s a lot of firepower. If one guy doesn’t hit the home run, the other guy will. Everyone is hitting on full cylinders and picking each other up. If I make a mistake, my teammate is going to pick me up. We’re there for each other. It’s a nice situation.”