Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Miracle Muckrakers shocking the world!

Concord -- Friends and colleagues, it’s hard for Your Humble Correspondent to know where to start, so wonderous has been the Muckrakers’ recent turn of events.

It wasn’t so long ago the doubters (hello, DeLoach) had the ‘Rakers not even making the playoffs. How you like us now?

But here the Muckrakers are, sitting in the Sweet 16 awaiting Sunday’s play after going 3-1 in a weekend (after an 0-1 start) of nerve-wracking, nail-biting, high-pressure postseason action the ‘Rakers, nor the world, will soon forget.

The postseason surge got off to a stumbling start with no indication of the glories to come. On Saturday morning the ‘Rakers got out of bed and slept-walked to an 11-4 loss to Crossroads, who may have clinched things with its pregame prayer. The church-league team must have appealed to the proper saints because the Muckrakers looked exhausted from their run to make the playoffs. Plus the Muck-and-Grinders took the field with just eight players, surely a recipe for disaster.

Well, the saints of softball must have regretted Game 1, because the miracles began to pile up in Game 2. Again fielding eight in the Saturday evening affair, the ‘Rakers quickly found themselves down 11-4 to the Hairy Eyeballs. But the Muckrakers kicked it into gear and found their good groove again, scoring 21 runs over the game’s last four innings and running away with a 25-20 decision to the non-bald orbed ones.

Mat Petersen showed Hairy Eyeballs (we just can’t stop saying that name) how an MVP plays, driving in seven runs and scoring five, all while pitching in place of the employed Dave Taxier. Chris Wagnon and Randy Striegel each drove in three runs, and Dave Alcorn, Striegel, Luke Abbott and Chace Bryson all had four hit games. The ‘Rakers rapped 27 hits for the game in poking their fingers directly in the center of the Hairy Eyeballs (OK, I’m done with that).

That game alone was miracle, enough, but no, it was far from over. Finally fielding 10, the ‘Rakers massed early Sunday to take on Dirty Dozen. But again, things looked grim for our Local Heroes, as they fell back 9-1 after four frames.

But then, evoking the comeback ways established vs. the Hairy Eyeballs (so I lied) the ‘Rakers came roaring back for seven runs in the fifth, touched off by Wagnon’s leadoff single and following safeties from Mike Yurkus and Randy Striegel, and Peterson’s two-RBI double.

Also instrumental was an excellent ‘Raker defense, including a fine catch up against the fence down the left field line by Bryson.

The ‘Rakers finally pulled even in the bottom of the seventh, thanks to a two-run rally including Striegel’s sacrifice fly to plate the speedy Wagnon to tie it at 13-all.

Then, in the ninth, came the ‘Raker play to end all ‘Raker plays. Cal football has The Play, the ‘81 49ers have The Catch, and the ‘Rakers now have The Run.

Here’s the scene, Chilly-bean: Two outs, bottom of the ninth, bases clean. Mike (Happy Camper) Gale draws a walk. Pretty innocuous so far, agreed. Then Bryson launched his epic flare down the right-field line. The first baseman couldn’t get it. The second baseman couldn’t reach it. It was out of the right fielder’s grasp. Suddenly, Gale sprouted rockets on his cleats and he tore off on a determined romp around the bases, almost as if pro beach volleyball player Kerry Walsh, who wears one mean bikini, was waiting for him with open arms at home plate. Gale roared home and beat the throw and just like that, 14-13, game over. Happy Muckrakers stormed the field, and it was decided then and there: this is a team of destiny.

All that did was set up a Sunday evening tilt against the Bat Boys. And the Muckrakers were again up for the challenge. This one was accomplished with less drama and was more methodical, and the ‘Rakers were self-satisfied to come away with the 16-7 win to remain alive in the Big Dance. No, the ‘Rakers did not rest on their laurels, and no, there was no emotional letdown for this heady group. The Muckrakers were handicapped with having only nine players but they brushed that concern aside, riding a big seven-run third to victory. The undermanned ‘Rakers compensated with another top-notch defensive showing, including Yurkus’ leaping catch of a line drive at second. The three-man outfield had lots of ground to cover, and cover it it did. Abbott was quite the busy man in center, and he partrolled his zone efficiently. But all the ‘Rakers were throwing leather around like they had no cares in the world.

That’s what happens when playoff time becomes miracle time.

NOTES: The playoff fun continues on Sunday at 4:05 on Field 3. What started as a 50-team tournament is down to the Sweet 16. A Muckrakers victory would send it into the next game, at 6:25 on field 2.

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