Friday, July 08, 2011

Muckrakers Smacked Around by Bay Sluggers

CONCORD -- They say all good things must come to an end, and so it was for the tough-luck Muckrakers, who saw their record-setting five-game regular-season winning streak snapped in a 12-7 loss to the Bay Sluggers on Thursday night on Field 4.

The Men of Muck, managed on an interim basis by Dave Taxier, just didn't git-er done with the bats, mustering just seven runs, their second-lowest output of the season. Defensively, there was a play here or there that could have been made but wasn't. It wasn't an awful defensive showing by any means on Thursday, it was just a tad below the high bar established during the 'Rakers' aforementioned win streak.

It was a night when things were just off a bit for the snake-bit Mucksters. The team hit the ball hard for the most part, but right at Bay Slugger defenders. Our Heroes, for example, lined into two double plays, one each in the last two innings when the Muck-N-Ators were desperately trying to mount comeback rallies.

The Muckrakers tallied twice in the first inning, but then scored only once more over the next three frames as the Bay Sluggers took a 10-3 lead. The 'Raker bats finally stirred in the fifth, as Matt Knauff doubled to drive in Taxier and Rick Browning, and Reed Johnson singled to plate Dave Alcorn and Knauff. Randy Striegel then absolutely crushed a ball up the middle, but the quick-handed BS pitcher somehow latched onto the drive and tossed to first for the buzz-killing double play. If it wasn't for bad luck, the 'Rakers would have no luck at all.

The 'Rakers had similar luck in the final inning, the bottom of the sixth, as another line drive turned into a double play to put a damper on a possible dramatic comeback. It is a cruel game, this softball.

And yet, despite the setback, the 'Rakers still sport a winning record (6-5), not bad for a team that was 1-4 at one point. And the loss may yet not prove fatal to the Muckrakers' playoff hopes, depending on whether the top two or top three ballclubs in this five-team division make the playoffs.

It could mean this all goes down to next week's last game of the regular season, when the 'Rakers are the visiting team in taking on Trainwreck. The Muckrakers have split the season series vs. Trainwreck, having lost the first encounter, then winning the rematch.

One cannot sign off without saluting the effort of Knauff, who sustained a hamstring injury running the bases in the third inning, yet still managed to gut it out and play the rest of the way. It's that kind of inspirational effort that's gotten the 'Rakers this far, and the stuff that will push them on in the games to come.

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