Friday, September 28, 2012

'Rakers bust out to 3-1 Fall start

CONCORD -- It's been feast or famine for the '12 Fall League edition of the Muckrakers -- and so far, heavy on the feast.

The 'Rakers' tour of duty so far consists of two nights, four games -- a couple of doubleheaders, with one sweep and one near-sweep for a 3-1 mark for the post-summer campaign.

Last Thursday's action on Field 1 was emblematic of the way things have gone so far for the Muckistas. In the doubleheader opener, the Men of Rake put on a line-drive clinic in crushing KP Bombers for the second game in a row 31-3. Game 2 vs. the Conquistadors was an entirely different kettle of fish, as the Mucksters fell just a little short in a tautly played battle 7-5.

Let's not spend much of our valuable time analyzing the first game. To be blunt, Yer Heroes hit the ball early, late and in between in crushing their hapless foes, jacking up nine runs in the third inning, eight more in the fourth and adding a nine-spot in the fifth. Thirty-one runs on 41 hits, helped along by a KPB outfield that treated softballs hit to them like hot rocks.

Game 2 could not have been more different, as it was an early showdown between the loop's undefeated, and top-two, teams. The Conquistadors' team defense was as good as KPB's 'D' was putrid. Also, the Conquistadors utilized a rarely seen defensive alignment, with three speedy outfielders and the extra fielder placed in short center, just beyond second base.

It took the 'Rakers a bit to break down C-dors' scheme. The Rakesters went the first five innings without scoring, putting only one batter in scoring position over that span (not counting Rakers rookie Marshall Murray's fifth-inning blast that cleared the fence, which by rule was an out). The C-dors, by that time, has built a 4-0 lead.

The Rakers began digging into that margin in the sixth, putting up four runs to tie up the sucker. Leadoff man Matt McCall singled, and sped home on Randy Striegel's double, which found a gap the C-dors outfield. Cleanup man/pitcher Chris White singled in Striegel, and advanced to second on a C-dors error. The next two batsmen, Reed Johnson and Murray, each followed with RBI hits to knot the thing.

Thus, it all came down to the final seventh inning between these two proud team. The C-dors fired the first salvo, tallying three times to take a 7-4 margin going into the bottom of the seventh.

The Men of Muck fired back, battling desperately after two had been retired. Eric Leithliter singled, McCall reached on a booted ball at shortstop, and Striegel came up clutch with a single to drive in Leithliter. Captain/GM Matt Knauff blasted a deep drive into center, but the quick C-dors center fielder tracked it down on the run, robbing Knauff and ending Rakers hopes on this night.

But one thinks these two teams have not seen the last of each other. In fact, the schedule says the very next Muckrakers game is against the self-same Conquistadors (Oct. 4, 6:15 p.m., Field 4). In a feast-or-famine season, the Rakers are looking forward to eating hardy on Thursday.

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