Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Sassy sandlot stars

American All-Stars nip Nationals 10-9

Express Staff Writer

It's the best pickup Frannie Hjort has made in years.

As captain of the American League in the Ketchum All-Star slow-pitch softball game, Hjort chose Rod Watson—as he ran in late from the parking lot. Watson in turn stroked the game-winning hit to give the American League a 10-9 victory in the bottom of the seventh.

"I heard people yelling, 'Rod's here. Rod's here'," Hjort said about the sandlot selection process. "So I grabbed him."

Smooth move for a woman with more hitch than giddyup.

Wednesday's game at the West Ketchum Coliseum pitted Ketchum Coed Softball's best against each other in true sandlot fashion.

Each batter got three pitches, there were no walks and runners couldn't advance past second without drinking half a beer from the conveniently located keg tended by Gary Moser. Batters who hit the keg had to drink two beers. That's what aptly named Kate Heinecke did--twice.

Hall of Fame scorekeeper Vicky Graves raved about the new format, which harkened back to the days when it was not only the women who were a little looser.

"It was just the most fun at the park in years," she said. "The game only took an hour and people were laughing and having the best time."

Despite the fun and frivolity—as in all Ketchum contests—there was still an undercurrent of competition.

The players were equal to the task.

The Nationals struck first, opening with a two-run, four-hit first.

Leadoff hitter Sue Mulcahy (2 hits, 2 runs) singled, and advanced on a hit by Anthony Anderson. A base knock by Craig Morse (2 hits) brought Mulcahy around, and he subsequently scored on a hit by Warren Christiansen (3-for-3, 2 runs).

National League manager Lee Ritzau's squad also played some pretty stalwart defense, allowing no hits until the bottom of the American batting order stoked the offense with a five-run, six-hit third and suddenly the Americans were in the lead 5-3.

The Nationals tied it 5-5 but the Americans stayed on top. Pat McGee (2 hits, 2 runs) ripped a leadoff double and scored in the fourth, then Linda McMahon and Watson (3 hits, 2 runs) delivered extra base hits in the fifth upping the ante to 8-5.

Every inning was a beer frame and the teams went tit-for-tat and drink-for-drink for the remainder. Trailing 9-6 in the visitor seventh, the Nationals blew the foam off of a three-run effort to tie the game 9-9.

Hits and runs by Christiansen, Keith Potter (2 hits) and Julie Swenke evened the score and it looked like the game was headed into extra innings as the Americans were down to their final out in the bottom of the seventh.

Luckily there were two kegs.

But it was not to be.

Batting tenth, Watson delivered the game-winning hit, scoring Matt Stacey and giving the American League bragging rights around the keg until the next season.

"I was so mad when she got Watson," Ritzau said. "It was my turn to pick a girl and he ran up. It wasn't fair."

Hjort just laughed in response, "Oh, it was fair. It was good timing."

Catcher Linda McMahon was named Most Valuable Player. "She was amazing," Hjort said. "She had a great catch, an unbelievable slide home, a play at the plate and two hits."

Hayden Beverage and Pat McGee donated the beer. Proceeds went to the Zane Martin Memorial Fund for the Wood River Valley Fire Cause. Whiskey Jacques also provided free pizza for the players.

"It was just a great community event and people really rallied for it," Potter said. Added Hjort, "It was so much fun we want to do it again next year."

Wednesday's heroes:

American League: Lisa Valdamima, Jeff Sarchett, Gretchen Wagner, Pat McGee, Brenda Blackwell, Ed Binnie, Kathy Baker, Matt Stacey, Linda McMahon, Rod Watson, Kate Heinecke, Renz Faukhanek, Mark Loveland and Frannie Hjort.

National League: Sue Mulcahy, Anthony Anderson, Sharon Stewart, Craig Morse, Mollie Macready, Warren Christiansen, Karly Maratea, Keith Potter, Julie Swenke, Shannon Flavin, Kelly McGarry, Nic Thomas, Stephanie Rowley and Lee Ritzau.

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