Strong Pitching, Timely Hitting, help Challengers Sweep Unicorns
The NLB-team opened up its season in style, sweeping the Huenenberg Unicorns by scores of 7-3 and 7-6. Dean Scherbaum and Kurt Kovac provided the Challengers with strong starts in Games 1 and 2 respectively, and relief efforts from Wascar Garcia and Thomas Burger helped slam the door on the Unicorns.
NLB got off to a good start in Game 1, as Dean Scherbaum retired 6 of the first 7 batters he faced. In the bottom of the first, Alex Gordon led off with a single, advanced to third on consecutive ground-outs by newcomer Eidrys Reyes and old-timer Kurt Kovac, and scored on a 2-out single by Jesus Martinez.
But if the Challengers were expecting to have an easy time of it against the former First League champions, they were in for a surprise. The Unicorns took a 2-1 lead in the top of the 4th, thanks to a throwing error by Dean Scherbaum, and a dropped fly ball by Alex Gordon. NLB regained the lead in the bottom of the 5th, as the heart of the order took command: Eidrys Reyes drove in Thomas Burger with an RBI single, and Kurt Kovac followed with an RBI single of his own, before himself being driven in by Jesus Martinez.
The Unicorns got one back in the top of the 6th, but Wascar Garcia came on in relief of Dean Scherbaum and limited the damage to one run. With the score 4-3 in the bottom of the 6th, the Challengers broke out for 3 runs, with Alex Gordon atoning for his defensive miscue by driving in Thomas Burger with an RBI single. The Unicorns threatened in the top of the 7th, loading the bases with 2 outs, but failed to score.
The Unicorns showed early that their strong play in Game 1 was no fluke, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning. NLB loaded the bases in the bottom of the frame, but Alex Gordon's 2-out line-drive was hit directly to the third baseman, ending the threat. Starting pitcher Kurt Kovac settled in, retiring the Unicorns in order in the third and fourth inning, and the Challengers managed to break through against the Huenenberg starter. After Micha Seger reached third on a throwing error by the pitcher (just classic:..the ball barely reaches the mound, yet he ends up at third standing up. He should start buying Lotto tickets...ok I'm finished). After Alex Gordon walked and stole second, Eidrys Reyes walked to load the bases with the heart of the order coming up. Kurt Kovac pushed a ground ball to third, but the throw home was wide and pulled the catcher of the plate, allowing Micha Seger to score. After Jesus Martinez struck out, Carlos Nepomucheno stroked a two-out, 2 RBI single, scoring Alex Gordon and Eidrys Reyes, and giving NLB a 4-3 lead.
Unfortunately, the Challengers handed the lead right back to the Unicorns. Thomas Burger came on in relief of Kurt Kovac, and looked dominant early, striking out the first two batters he faced. Thomas Burger actually had the third batter struck out as well, but the ball popped out of catcher Daiki Sato's glove, and his throw to first bounced away from first baseman Adrian KÃ¤mpfer. Instead of the inning being over, and after a walk and two stolen bases, the Unicorns had runners on second and third with two outs. Thomas Burger induced a weak grounder to third, but third baseman Oliver Bernet's throw was late, allowing the runner to score from third, and the runner on second, running hard all the way, barely beat Adrian KÃ¤mpfer's throw home. When the dust had settled, NLB found itself trailing 5-4.
The Challengers pushed across a run in the bottom of the inning, when Hendrix scored on a passed ball, but missed out on a chance to retake the lead when, with a runner on third, Gordon struck out and Reyes grounded to third.
With the score 5-5 heading into the bottom of the 6th, coach Rob Sedin implored his players to win a game that was "there for the taking." After the Unicorn fielders misplayed Kovac's fly ball to right, and then Martinez's pop-fly to third, the Challengers had runners on first and second with no outs. After two stolen bases moved the runners up to second and third, "Big Panda" Oliver Bernet laced a single to right-center, scoring both runners and giving NLB a 7-5 lead. The lead would have, and should have been more, but Sato's line drive double to right was ruled foul - despite the ability of everyone in the stadium to see the chalk the ball kicked up when it landed (well everyone except the two umpires apparently). Sato was called back to the plate, Bernet was called back to second, and the inning with a line-out to second.
The Challengers didn't make it easy for themselves in the top of the 7th, as two errors led to an unearned run, making the score 7-6. With a runner on second and two outs, the Unicorn batter lashed a long fly to the gap in left center. Putting his earlier shaky (and I mean shaky) defensive plays behind him, Gordon ran the ball down for the second out. After Burger induced a pop-fly to short, NLB had its second win of the day.