Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Bud?s finally the one in Hailey softball

Walker?s pitching turns string of seconds into a first

Express Staff Writer

Expectant mom Anna Edwards of Budweiser won her third straight tournament female MVP honor. Photo by Willy Cook

Benjy Walker, the soft-spoken grizzled veteran of the Oak St./LDE Electric/Budweiser softball team, was a top-notch alpine skier in his heyday and he's still got the speed and wheels to show for it.

A triple is the most exciting play in baseball and Walker has patented the three-bagger with his speed and daring over 16 seasons of legging out extra-base hits on Hailey basepaths.

In a Hailey Coed slow-pitch softball league known for prodigious homers into the Lions Park greenery, Walker has made a career out of turning roped singles into doubles and sometimes into home runs when fielders misplay relays.

He's given hope to the bedraggled little guy who hopes, just hopes, that speed and guile will someday beat the brawn.

But it is Walker's smart and subtle pitching that is often overlooked in his beer league resume. And Walker's crafty pitching carried the perennial bridesmaids from Oak St./LDE/Bud to their first-ever Hailey Coed Softball League tourney championship Sunday.

"Someday" finally came and Bud was finally the one.

Playing and winning five games Sunday, #3-seeded Oak St./Bud (14-5 season) was a little older and wiser and more relaxed than ever. Bud's players rode the calming presence of Walker on the mound to 14-8 and 9-6 triumphs over the top-seeded Wicked Spud/Bradley Construction squad (12-4).

Bud had been in the championship game four of the last five years and had lost each time—last year to unbeaten Anderson Asphalt (21-0) and in 2004, 2002 and 2001 to Spud.

And Bud's championship quest seemed unlikely this year after a 23-14 opening-round loss to the league's most improved team, third-place Smith/Smoky Mountain Pizza. Six straight wins finally carried Bud to the top of the seven-team league.

Spud met Bud again, but this time Bud came out on top.

Walker won the men's Most Valuable Player award and Bud outfielder and pregnant mom Anna Edwards captured the league's female MVP honor for the third consecutive year.

After its 12-11 semi-final victory over Smith/Smoky Mountain (10-6) Sunday morning, Wicked Spud needed only one victory over Bud in the double elimination format to earn its sixth Hailey Coed League tournament title in seven years.

It looked like Wicked Spud would win easily when the regular-season league champs grabbed an early 5-2 lead and jammed the bases twice with two outs in the second and third frames. Each time, Spud had one of its men coming to the plate. But Spud couldn't capitalize on its opportunities.

Bud starting pitcher Greg Edwards enticed a deep Jeff Burrell fly ball to Bud flychaser T.J. Peterson at the fence to stop the first Spud threat.

When control-challenged Edwards walked his fourth and fifth batters of the young game loading the bases again in the third, second baseman Walker relieved Edwards by switching positions with the younger player. And Bud came alive.

Walker got Bud out of more trouble and left his team with only a 7-3 deficit. In the fourth, Bud shortstop Sean Harrington and Edwards turned the first of two 6-4-3 double plays. First baseman Elisa Tobia made a sensational leaping grab of a Harrington throw for a 6-3 putout. Walker started gloving an endless series of 1-3 grounders.

The Bud defense was superb and the Spud bats were as quiet as the Lions Park fox searching for scraps of food. Only twice in 14 innings of the championship game did Spud string two hits together. Walker pitched 11 innings and yielded a grand total of seven runs—five of them coming on three big homers by slugger Josh Jacobson.

Meanwhile, the Bud bats were heating up.

Still trailing 8-4 in the home fifth of the first championship game, Bud's Mike Olsen (3 hits) started the game-tying four-run rally with a single. Greg Edwards (4 hits, 4 runs, 4 RBI) singled and T.J. Peterson clouted a three-run homer.

In the sixth Budweiser blew it wide open with a seven-hit, six-run rally ignited by Walker. His RBI double set the table after leadoff singles by Buddy Peterson (3-for-3, 6-for-6 both games) and Anna Edwards (2 hits). Greg Edwards drove home Olsen and Sarah Kolash with a three-run homer, 14-8.

Bud out-hit Spud 20-12 in the first game and kept stringing hits together in the second and deciding clash. Peterson (3-for-3, 4 RBI) ripped a two-run homer for a 4-2 Bud lead in the third. Peterson added a two-run single in Bud's four-run fifth that made the Oak St. lead 9-3.

Walker, who went 3-for-3 at the plate, part of Bud's 17-hit attack in the finale, did the rest on the mound. And it was a well-played pair of title games, Budweiser committing only two errors and Spud three.

But it was Bud's day to shine and nobody was happier than Benjy Walker's father Ben, who rooted for his son in the stands.

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