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CHALLENGERS NEWSLETTER 23/2013
CHALLENGERS OPEN POSTSEASON
Am Samstag beginnt mit der Postseason die heisseste Phase der Baseball und Softball Saison. Dabei kommt es sowohl bei den Herren als auch bei den Damen zu regelrechten Klassikern. Das Fanionteam trifft in der NLA Playoff-Halbfinalserie auf die Dominatoren der letzten zehn Jahre, die Bern Cardinals (best-of-five). Das Softball-Team, das sich dank eines Sieges am letzten Spieltag gegen Bern sowie dank Berner Schützenhilfe in deren Duell gegen Wil auf den letzten Drücker für die Playoffs qualifizieren konnte, bekommt es im Halbfinal mit dem Erzrivalen Therwil Flyers zu tun (best-of-three). Die Playoffs für das NLB-Team, das die Vorrunde im starken dritten Rang abschloss, beginnen am 28. September.
RECAP
EASY DOES IT: NLB CRUSH UNICORNS TWICE, ROLL INTO PLAYOFFS
Saturday September 7, 2013 - by Alex Gordon
The last time the Challengers' played against the Huenenberg Unicorns it was opening day, and this writer, for one, was not expecting much of a challenge. First of all, this was Huenenberg's first season in NLB, and second of all...I mean the team is called the Unicorns. Hearing your opponents huddle together and shout out "1-2-3 Unicorns!!!" before they charge on to the field is not exactly intimidating.   

The last time the Challengers' played against the Huenenberg Unicorns it was opening day, and this writer, for one, was not expecting much of a challenge. First of all, this was Huenenberg's first season in NLB, and second of all...I mean the team is called the Unicorns. Hearing your opponents huddle together and shout out "1-2-3 Unicorns!!!" before they charge on to the field is not exactly intimidating. As it turned out, the C's did sweep, but it was no cakewalk: Even with 3 NLA players, the Challengers barely managed to scratch out two wins. The lesson was clear: You gotta play the game hard...no matter how ridiculous the name of your opponent may be.

I had this lesson reaffirmed this past Saturday morning as I got ready to meet the rest of the team at Hardbruecke for the ride over. Before heading out the door, I leaned over my 2-week old son's crib and whispered, "Your dad's going to go put up some big numbers today, Timmy." At that very moment, his tiny little baby hand shot up, catching me right in the cheek with his surprisingly pointy little baby fingernails. Where some might see a mere reflex, I saw something more - a clear message, which - borrowing from the great Tom Coughlin - was: "Talk is cheap. Play the game." With that in mind, the Challengers put on a dominating performance, sweeping the two games by scores of 13-3 (mercy-rule) and 13-5 (and neither game was even as close as the score might indicate) to clinch the third-seed in the upcoming NLB playoffs.

In the first inning of the first game, the Challengers managed to once again run themselves out of an inning. With two outs, Renzo Falcone singled, stole second, and then took third on a wild pitch. When Carlos Nepomuceno reached on a fielder's choice, the Challengers had runners on the corners. As per usual, given the situation, Nepomuceno broke for second on the next pitch, and - as per usual - the catcher didn't throw through to second. Unfortunately for the Challengers, Falcone decided to try to score on the throw, which was cut off by the third baseman and fired back home in time to nail Renzo who didn't slide (apparently he has yet to master that particular skill...I'm not kidding, that's what someone actually told me, but I'm rather skeptical). Falcone has been swinging a hot bat lately, but his inattention on the base-paths has cost the team runs on several occasions. Well, maybe he'd find a way to make up for it later...

After Nick Lehmann retired the side in order in the bottom of the first, the Challengers got the offense going in the top of the second. With one out, Adderly Sarmiento singled, stole second, and then went to third on a single by Alex Gordon. After Gordon stole second, Daiki Sato followed with a single to center, scoring Sarmiento and sending Gordon to third (Just as an aside, for some reason Daiki is listed in the play by play as "Abalo Estevez Oscar" on spielplan.ch. I can't even hazard a guess as to where THAT name came from, but I like it). After "Oscar" stole second, and Lehmann walked, Kurt Kovac brought Gordon home with an RBI ground-out to third, making it 2-0 Challengers.

In the bottom of the inning, Lehmann once again retired the side in order (with an assist from a sliding catch by yours truly in left, I must add), and then the Challengers went right back to work at the plate. Falcone led off the inning by demonstrating that he doesn't NEED to know how to slide, hammering a 2-2 pitch over the fence in left for the team's first home run of the year, and bringing the entire team out of the dugout. Perhaps in retribution (although probably not), Nepomuceno was plunked with the next pitch. Taking his revenge, Carlos stole second and then went to third on a single by Oliver Bernet (who promptly stole second himself). Following a ground out to the pitcher, Gordon came to the plate looking to stretch the lead...and naturally, popped a 10 mph fastball (all speeds approximate) straight up into the air behind home plate.

As I threw the bat down in disgust and began loosing a stream of self-directed profanity on the way towards first, the baseball gods offered me a gift: the catcher somehow dropped the ball, giving me new life. Never wanting to be "that guy" that doesn't take advantage of such gifts, Gordon (me) promptly drilled the next pitch through the hole on the right-side, scoring Nepomuceno and Bernet, and making it 5-0 Challengers. After Sato reached second on an error, and Lehmann walked, the Challengers had the bases loaded with the top of the order coming up. Kovac grounded out to the pitcher, who threw home to force out Gordon, but Yusuke Azuma singled to score Sato. With the bases still loaded, Falcone came up for the second time in the inning - undoubtedly with another home run swing on his mind - but popped out to end the inning.

Trailing by a score of 6-0, the Unicorns got two runs back in the bottom of the third, thanks to some sloppy infield play by the Challengers. With two outs and a runner on third, Lehmann induced a grounder back to the mound, which looked to end the inning. However Lehmann's throw, despite being perfectly on target, was dropped by Bernet at first (for some reason, the runner on third didn't even bother trying to run home on the play), putting runners on the corners. After a stolen base, Lehmann induced another ground-ball, this time to short, but once again the Challengers couldn't get out of their own way: Kovac's throw was high and off-line, and couldn't be handled by Bernet, allowing two runs to score. Lehmann finally got the third out on a fly ball to left, but what should have been a 6-0 game was now 6-2. The Challengers got one of those runs back in the top of the fourth: Nepomuceno singled, stole second, and then scored on a single by Bernet (who was then thrown out trying to advance to second).

After Lehmann worked around a single in the bottom of the inning, the Challengers finally put the game out of reach in the fifth. Lehmann led off with his third walk of the game, and after Kovac singled, Azuma walked to load the bases. Falcone knocked in Lehmann with a fielder's choice grounder to short, which forced Azuma at second. After Falcone stole second, Nepomuceno followed with a fly to right, which appeared deep enough to score the runner from third, but Kovac didn't tag. After the bench started getting on him for not running, Kovac turned and pointed at third-base coach Werner Zingg, who had apparently told him to stay. In retrospect, it was probably a mistake by Zingg, given Kovac's speed, but ultimately it didn't matter: Bernet drove in both Kovac and Falcone with a single. Sarmiento followed with an RBI single of his own (it's unclear how Bernet got to second...sorry!). After Gordon walked, Sato singled to load the bases. Consecutive throwing errors by the Unicorn's pitcher allowed Sarmiento and Gordon to score, making it 13-2 Challengers.

The Unicorns managed to score one more run, accounting for the final score of 13-3 final. One item of note in the last innings was the dominant relief work of Oli Christen in the bottom of the 6th. He blew away the first two batters with fast balls before getting the last batter to ground out to second. For whatever reason, Christen appears to be much more comfortable, not to mention effective, coming on in relief rather than starting. Regardless, more performances like that from Oli would be a huge boost to the Challengers.

The second game was a lot more of the same in terms of the Challengers' offensive production. Taking advantage of the opposing pitcher's complete lack of control, the C's put up a 7 spot in the top of the first on just 3 hits. One of those hits was a booming double by Bernet, who appeared to break into his home-run trot about halfway down the first-base line...before speeding up when he saw the ball short-hop the fence in deep left center. The game was never really close after that, as the C's cruised to a 13-5 win.

Two things about this second game bear mention before I wrap up this (already way too long) recap:

First, by jumping on the Unicorns early, with a 7-run first, coach Rob Sedin got an opportunity to give everyone on the team a chance to play at least a full inning or two. Hopefully the guys that are typically playing 1 Liga gained some valuable experience by going against NLB competition (admittedly, they were not exactly confronting the 1927 Yankees, but you get the point). Practice is fine, and all these guys are working hard, but there's no substitute for actually getting into the game. Plus "Skinny" Olsen even threw out a runner trying to steal third, which will hopefully get him to finally stop whining about all the runners he WOULD have caught trying to steal in 1. Liga if the infielders wouldn't have dropped all his great throws. ;-) Second...and for everyone in attendance, you knew this was coming - The "Brian Ball". Here's how the situation appeared to unfold from my vantage point in center: With the score already 9-0 Challengers in the bottom of the second, Kovac was pitching with one out and a runner on second. Right after he delivered a pitch, someone could be heard loudly calling out "that's a balk!!".

The yelling itself wasn't surprising - people yell stuff at games all the time - but the person doing the yelling was (sort of): The Challengers' very own Bryan Shemley, who had driven up with Thomas Burger to um, support the team I guess. I'm not sure what Shemley was trying to accomplish, but I'm guessing what followed wasn't it: After getting the ball back from the catcher, Kovac turned and flung the ball towards where Shemley was standing (which was by an opening in the fence next to the visiting dugout). As Murphy's law would dictate, the ball bounced through the opening and out towards the cornfield that was, Field of Dreams-style, behind the Challengers' dugout. Of course it did. Unfortunately, as no one had called for time, the ball was live. As a result, the runner on second was awarded two bases, which allowed him to score from second.

So, two things: First, if you're going to come and watch a game, don't heckle your own team. I'm sure Bryan thought he was being funny, but clearly Kurt didn't think so, and I doubt anyone else on the field did either. Plus, based on the histrionics Shemley exhibits during practice when the batting groups don't switch stations at precisely the nanosecond he demands it, I'm sure he wouldn't have found the situation so amusing if it were some NLB guys bothering one of the Challengers' pitchers during an NLA game. Second - and with all that having been said - Kovac's reaction was a bit surprising. Clearly it's annoying when you're trying to pitch and someone's yelling out nonsense, but, I mean, that was not exactly the first time Bryan had yelled out something obnoxious during a game. There are probably better ways to deal with the situation than throwing a live ball at him (yes, always easy to give advice after the fact, I know, but still). Anyway, let's not give the "incident" more attention than it deserves. It was a minor blip in an otherwise spectacular performance by the Challengers.
LADIES ADVANCE TO PLAYOFFS
Saturday September 7, 2013 - by Serge Kuenzler
The Softball-Team finished the preeliminary round in fourth place to clinch the final playoff spot. The Challengers split with the Bern Cardinals on Saturday, September 7 to defend their fourth place with a 6-14 record. The Challengers posted a 6-3 win in Game 1, but failed to add another victory in Game 2, as the C's were shut down 4-0 by the Cardinals.

But the Challengers got the help they needed to remain in fourth place, as the Wil Devils and the Bern Cardinals split on Sunday, September 8. Either of both teams would have passed the C's in the standings with a sweep, but after the Devils won the first game of the day 20-6, the Cardinals posted a 2-0 victory in Game 2 to send the Challengers into the playoffs.
GAME PREVIEWS
BASEBALL NLA at CARDINALS
Saturday September 14, 2013 - 11am
Best-of-five Semi-Final Series Game 1
The NLA-Team will meet the reigning Swiss Champion Bern Cardinals on Saturday, September 14 for Game 1 of their best-of-five semi-final series. The Cardinals swept the Challengers in the season-series 4-0 and also won six out of eight post-season series against the C’s so far. The Cards even swept the C's in all of the last four postseason series. The Challengers are waiting exactly 10 years for a postseason victory over the Cards. On September 14, 2003 the C's tied the series at 2-2 with a wild 21-18 win. Game 1 starts at 11am at Bern Allmend. 

Das NLA-Team trifft in der Best-of-five Halbfinalserie auf den Titelverteidiger Bern Cardinals. Spiel 1 findet am Samstag, 14. September um 11.00 Uhr auf der Berner Allmend statt. Die Cardinals gewannen in der laufenden Saison alle vier Duelle mit den Zürchern. In den Playoffs treffen die beiden Teams zum neunten Mal aufeinander, wobei die Cardinals sich sechs Mal durchsetzten, die letzten vier Male gar ohne Niederlage. Die Challengers warten genau zehn Jahre auf einen Playoff-Sieg gegen die Hauptstädter. Am 14. September 2003 glichen die Challengers die Serie mit einem 21-18 Sieg zum 2-2 aus.
BASEBALL NLB vs FROGS
Saturday September 14, 2013 - 7pm Facebook Event
The NLB-Playoffs will start on September 28, as several rained out games have to be made up, before the beginning of the postseason. The Challengers will finish in third place and will face either the Bern Cardinals or the Therwil Flyers in a best-of-three series. First the C's will host the Sissach Frogs on Saturday, September 14 at the Heerenschürli ballpark for a make-up game at 7pm, what will be their last game of the preeliminary round.  

Die NLB-Playoffs beginnen erst am 28. September, da vor dem Playoffstart noch einige wegen Regens ausgefallene Vorrundenspiele nachgeholt werden müssen. Die Challengers beenden die Vorrunde auf dem dritten Rang und werden in den Halbfinals auf die Bern Cardinals oder die Therwil Flyers treffen. Vorher empfangen die Zürcher aber noch die Sissach Frogs am Samstag, 14. September im Baseballstadion Heerenschürli für ein Nachholspiel. Spielbeginn ist um 19.00 Uhr.
SOFTBALL at FLYERS
Saturday September 14, 2013 - 11am & 1.30pm
Best-of-three Semi-Final Series Game 1 & 2

The Softball-Team will travel to Therwil on Saturday, September 14 to play Game 1 and 2 of their best-of-three semi-final series with the Therwil Flyers. No other duel has a larger history, as the two archrivals will play their eight post-season series since 2005. The Flyers won five times and swept the C's in 2011, while the Challengers came through in 2010. The games will start at 11am and 1.30pm at Therwil Känelmatt II.

Das Softball-Team reist am Samstag, 14. September nach Therwil für Spiel 1 und 2 der Best-of-three Halbfinalserie gegen die Flyers. Kein anderes Duell hat eine grössere Geschichte, treffen die beiden Erzrivalen doch bereits zum achten Mal seit 2005 in den Playoffs aufeinander. Die Flyers setzten sich fünf Mal durch, zuletzt 2011, während die Challengers 2010 triumphierten. Die Spiele beginnen um 11.00 und 13.30 Uhr in Therwil Känelmatt II.
BASEBALL 1LIGA vs DEVILS/VIKINGS
Saturday September 14, 2013 - 11am & 2pm
Foto: Dulliken Truck Star

The 1st League-Team will face the Devils/Vikings on Saturday, September 14 at Dulliken. The SG TruckStar/Challengers will try to finally arrive in the win column in their first season. The games start at 11am and 2pm at Dulliken Untere Ey.

Das 1.Liga-Team spielt am Samstag, 14. September in Dulliken gegen die Devils/Vikings. Die SG TruckStar/Challengers wird versuchen, in ihrer Premierensaison den ersten Sieg einzufahren. Die Spiele beginnen um 11.00 und 14.00 Uhr in Dulliken Untere Ey.
BASEBALL JUVENILES vs LIONS/RAINBOWS at FELDKIRCH CARDINALS
Saturday September 14, 2013 - 12.30 & 3pm
The U12-Juveniles will take on the Lions/Rainbows and the Feldkirch Cardinals at Feldkirch, Austria, for their final game day of the 2013 campaign. The SG TruckStar/Challengers will play for fifth place in the final standings against the two other teams. The games start at 12.30 and 3pm at Feldkirch Waldstadion.

Die U12-Juveniles treten am Samstag, 14. September im österreichischen Feldkirch auf die Lions/Rainbows und die Feldkirch Cardinals. Die SG TruckStar/Challengers kämpft mit seinen Gegnern um den fünften Schlussrang in der Meisterschaft. Die Spiele finden um 12.30 und 15.00 Uhr im Feldkircher Waldstadion statt.
NEWS
NIEDERLAGE BEIM IOC
Wednesday September 11, 2013
Ringen behält bei den Spielen 2020 und 2024 seinen Status als olympische Sportart. Die 125. Vollversammlung des Internationalen Olympischen Komitees (IOC) vergab in Buenos Aires den letzten freien Platz im Programm an den Traditionssport. Ringen setzte sich mit 49 von 95 abgegebenen Stimmen vor den Mitbewerbern Baseball/Softball und Squash durch.  

Keine Berücksichtigung trotz emotionalem Auftritt

Mit einem Schwarz-Weiß-Film über die amerikanischen Legenden Babe Ruth und Lou Gehrig und einem Appell von Fidel Castros Sohn Antonio hat der Weltverband für Baseball und Softball (WBSC) für die Rückkehr ins olympische Programm gekämpft. “Wir sind der beliebteste Sport der Welt, der nicht olympisch ist”, sagte Antonio Castro bei der Abschlusspräsentation der kombinierten Bewerbung am Sonntag in Buenos Aires. “Baseball ist nicht nur ein Sport, sondern auch ein Geschäft und es ist eine Kultur”, sagte Castro Jr. Selbst die U-12-WM habe 90.000 Zuschauer angelockt.

Baseball und Softball wurden vom IOC 2005 ausgemustert. Bei den Peking-Spielen 2008 waren sie zum letzten Mal dabei. Der Internationale Baseball- und Internationale Softball-Verband schlossen sich im Vorjahr zusammen, um die Chancen für ein Olympia-Comeback zu verbessern. Geplant waren Olympia-Turniere mit je acht Mannschaften im Baseball und Softball. Beide Turniere sollten je sechs Tage dauern und auf dem gleichen Platz gespielt werden.

Knapp zwei Stunden nach der Ansprache von Antonio Castro entscheid sich das IOC gegen Baseball und Softball. Hauptkritikpunkt des IOC an der Bewerbung war die fehlende Zusage der nordamerikanischen Profiliga Major League Baseball, seine Saison für die Spiele 2020 zu unterbrechen und alle Topstars nach Tokio zu schicken.
REYES WINS NLA BATTING TITLE
Wednesday September 11, 2013 - by Chris Palatinus
Congratulations to Eidrys Reys for winning the batting Title in the NLA! He beats out Josh Tamba of the Flyers .487 to .479 as Tamba goes only 1-for-10 in the regular season finale against the Zurich Barracudas.

After Robert Sedin last year and James Sanders in 2009, Reyes is already the third Challenger to win the Swiss batting title in the last five seasons.

Glückwünsche an Eidrys Reyes der den Batting Titel in der NLA gewonnen hat. Da sein schärfster Widersacher Josh Tamba von den Therwil Flyers nur 1-for-10 im Saisonfinale gegen die Barracudas gegangen ist, gewinnt er den Titel mit einer Marke von .487 im Vergleich zu Tamba's .479.

Nach Robert Sedin im letzten Jahr und James Sanders in 2009 ist Reyes bereits der dritte Challenger in den letzten fünf Spielzeiten der den Batting Titel in der NLA gewinnen konnte.
RESULTS
BASEBALL NLA
No games played

BASEBALL NLB
September 7 at Unicorns
WON 13-3 and 13-5

BASEBALL 1. LIGA
No games played

SOFTBALL NLA
September 7 at Cardinals
WON 6-3 LOST 0-4

JUVENILES
No games played
NEXT GAMES
BASEBALL NLA
September 14 at Cardinals
Semi-Final Series Game 1

BASEBALL NLB
No games scheduled

BASEBALL 1. LIGA
September 14 vs Devil/Vikings

SOFTBALL NLA
September 14 at Flyers
Semi-Final Series Game 1 & 2

CADETS
End of season

JUVENILES

September 14
vs Lions/Rainbows
at Feldkirch Cardinals
SPONSORS
Junioren-Förderung durch die Zürcher Kantonalbank
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