Senate Softball League: Chosen Ones 13, Blue Collars 18

Whether a long layoff helps or hurts a team is a point of perennial playoff pontification across all four major sports. We won’t waste too much ink on it here — and trust us, we could talk your ear off on, say, the Rays going seven with the Red Sox while the Phillies got to max and relax after summarily dismissing the Dodgers — except to say that no Senate Softball League bats looked too cold following the Fourth of July recess.

Or at least, not initially. In a Monday-evening affair pitting Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D-Ohio) Blue Collars against Sen. Ted Kaufman’s (D-Del.) Chosen Ones1, things sure started off with a bang — or, more accurately, with lots and lots of pings.

And talk about a game of swings. The visiting Chosen Ones set the tone in their half of the first, sending seven batsmen and –women to the dish and employing a small-ball, station-to-station-style offense to set the table for Ross Flockerzie’s opposite-field three-run jack. Three-zip after a half-inning on the Mall; not a bad way to start for Kaufman’s crew.

But the Blue Collars, who entered the game at 3-0 on the season, weren’t about to go gentle into this good July night. Keyed by the first of shortstop Scott Levin’s three inside-the-park home runs — each of them a two-run shot — and adding a selfless sac fly from third baseman Kareem Yakub, Brown’s boys plated four and took the lead after one, 4-3.

They’d also unwittingly started a fine game of leapfrog. Following a quick pair of outs in their half of the second, the Chosen Ones scratched out three consecutive singles, the last of them a dribbler that leadoff man Lawrence Trundle beat out on a bang-bang play at first. Inspired, left/center fielder Aaron Ellias smashed a liner up the gap in right-center, then appeared to run through the sign from his third-base coach en route to what one breathless Chosen One hailed as a “GRRRAND SALAMI!” A triple, single and double later2 and the Delaware Destroyers3 were up by a four-count, 8-4.

Which is where things got downright spooky. After the bottom third of their order recorded two quick outs (the second by way of a perfectly executed rundown between second and third, which is practically unheard of in Senate ball), the Blue Collars rallied their way to — you guessed it — a five-spot of their own. Here again Levin led the charge, followed up by Jonas Singer’s4 moon-shot out of the park to right and capped off by a Matt Kaplan double and an RBI single from Yakub. Kids, oil up the seesaw — we got us a battle!

... Though it would prove no longer to be a slugfest. Things quieted right down after the second, with both teams’ lumber (er, metallic alloy) falling oddly silent throughout the middle frames5. For their part, Kaufman’s charges hit safely just once in the fourth and clawed out only a swinging-bunt-style hit in the fifth, failing to plate a runner in either inning.

They did, however, manage to push across three runs in the top of the sixth (thanks largely to clutch right fielder Matt McMillan’s two-out, two-RBI dinger), drawing even with the Collars, who’d managed only three themselves in the third through fifth innings6. You started to get the feeling that whichever team broke the deadlock would prevail in this one.

Unfortunately for the Chosen Ones, that would prove to be the Blue Collars, who struck for five in the bottom of the sixth. Sending up the top of their order to start the frame, Brown’s squad got a fan-interference double from leadoff man Zack7, an RBI double from Levin, an RBI single from Kaplan (who was thrown out trying to take second), a pair of singles and a monster three-run shot off the bat of team captain Jonathan McCracken.

Facing a suddenly massive-seeming five-run deficit, the Chosen Ones could muster only hard-hit at-’em balls in the top of the seventh8. They fall to 1-4 on the season; the Blue Collars improve to 4-0.


NOTES AND ERRATA

1 While we take great pride in our journalistic impartiality, we do occasionally find ourselves rooting, very slightly and on a purely subconscious level, for the team with the cleverer name. This was complicated in tonight’s case. The Blue Collars — that appellation so perfectly points up Sen. Brown’s leftward leanings while also asserting his office’s Rust Belt bona fides. And the Chosen Ones — a paradoxically self-deprecating yet simultaneously -aggrandizing nod to the fact that Sen. Kaufman wasn’t elected, but rather appointed, to replace Vice President Joe Biden. Yep, it’s a toss-up.

2 That the Blue Collars were able to escape the top of the second having conceded only the five runs is testament to the defensive abilities of one Jonas Singer, whose prowess in left-center is nothing shy of Gold Glove-caliber. Sure, his counterpart in right-center, Zack, may have made the flashier plays (he twice slid to rob Chosen Ones of extra-base hits), but Singer’s unbelievable range prevented his having to leave his feet in the first place. Said a Chosen One after the game — which, fittingly enough, Singer ended with a smooth back-pedaling snag — “We just can’t hit it over that guy’s head.”

3 (Because George Thorogood is the man.)

4 Did we mention that Singer also hit two homers, both of them absolute bombs that cleared the fence in right field? He didn’t have many runners to clean up (the man ahead of him in the order, Scott Levin, took care of that, going 4-4 with three inside-the-park homers and an eye-popping seven batted in), but still — talk about doing it with the glove and the bat.

5 This was not unlike watching the Orioles in time-lapse photography over the months of April through July of 2005.

6 Much credit to the Chosen Ones defense here, and in particular to the sure-handed work of Scott Jacobs at shortstop.

7 One of several members of the Blue Collars for whom only a first name was given. Kinda like a Brazilian soccer star, though it’s also possible he’s simply a new intern whose surname is not widely known ...

8 Including, with one on and two out, a smash to Sen. Brown himself, who had gotten out of the office just in time to enter the game as a defensive replacement at short (curious, being as he’s a southpaw, but we digress).

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