Digging the long ball

This column will appear on the Thursday of each week for which the three divisions featuring lawmakers’ teams — the House, Senate and Congressional softball leagues — are in session.

If you’re the kind of fan who prefers pitchers’ duels and doesn’t care for the crooked number, then please take heed of this advice: Stay far, far away from the Senate Softball League.

Case in point: Tuesday evening’s marquee match-up between Sen. Bob Casey’s (D-Pa.) righteously named Scrantonicity and Sen. Arlen Specter’s (RD-Pa.) Pennsylmania, a contest that featured a combined 35 runs, seven inside-the-park homers and a pair of dramatic late-inning lead changes. When all was said and done, Casey’s charges — who’ve enjoyed the upper hand in this rivalry since its inception a couple years ago — prevailed yet again, 19-16.

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Diving catches, outfield collisions, runners stumbling then clutching and clawing their way to the plate — this wasn’t tea with the queen. For the 2009 update of what one Casey aide described as the Senate League equivalent of the Army-Navy football game, every run was valuable, each out precious — so much so that Sens. Casey and Specter weren’t prepared to leave things to chance; they’d take the field themselves. Once more unto the breach, and all that.

The big showdown came in the third. With two on, two out and Casey at the bat (ha!) with a chance to blow this one wide open, Specter toed the slab, stared the junior senator down and induced an inning-ending pop-up to second. No more than a can o’ corn, as they say.

Perhaps buoyed by their boss’s poise under pressure, the Pennsylmania players would mount a major offensive in the fifth and sixth, matching their rivals’ earlier feat with back-to-back inside-the-park dingers and plating a whopping 10 runs. Amazingly, they now led, 16-14.

Sadly, it would prove to be a lead they couldn’t hold. Casey’s squad knocked out a single and three triples in their half of the sixth, then got the game’s final inside-the-park home run from pinch hitter Mike Schwartz. 19-16, advantage Scrantonicity.

Player of the week

Speaking of the long ball ... Tourists traipsing around the far east side of the National Mall on Monday night could be forgiven for thinking they’d caught a glimpse of Adam Dunn taking out the Nationals’ collective frustration on a batch of helpless softballs.

No, that wasn’t Big Country blasting those tape-measure moon-shots; it was the Ohio Killer Nuts’ Derrick Walter, a staff assistant for Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio).

A smidge less formidably built than Dunn, Walter nonetheless seemed to have adopted the Washington slugger’s approach at the plate: If it ain’t a home run, it ain’t worth hitting.

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Walter’s solo shot to lead off the bottom of the second jump-started what had looked to be an anemic Nuts offense, and his three-run bomb in the sixth (likewise a smash pulled directly down the right-field line) sealed the deal, keying the bipartisan Ohio delegation team to a 12-6 victory over the Children of the Corn, a side composed of aides to Iowan House Democrats, in a battle of theretofore-winless House League teams.

That’s some nice work, Mr. Walter.