NHL fans watched Faith Hill sing the National Anthem prior to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Sunday night. Later that evening, they once again saw Sidney Crosby and his Penguins teammates hoisting the League’s Championship trophy. It was a REPEAT Championship for the City of Pittsburgh. No Repeat though in the NBA, as the Warriors refused to allow Cleveland to Repeat as Champions. As for Atlantic Stewardship Bank Inter-Church League Softball, the word “repeat champions” have been said quite often with Roger’s Faith Hill team. They have even three-peated during their two decades of dominance. Last year, for the first time in over 20 years, Faith Hill didn’t reach the Final Four, and there has been a lot of talk during the off-season that there will likely be no repeat of that either. Faith Hill was back to their winning ways, entering Friday’s game with a perfect 4-0 record. ALRC entered the game at 3-1. Prior to the game, Faith Hill players joked with Coach Scott Botbyl, as they heard he was in the Roosevelt School Field Day dunk tank last week. When Botbyl was at the event, he teased that there would be a long line of adults between Little League and Softball that would probably enjoy dunking him more than the kids. Botbyl said, “the water was freezing cold, I was shivering basically the whole time”. Perhaps Botbyl’s softball bat took the plunge with him in the cold water last week as well.
In the top of the first inning, Faith Hill scored a pair of runs, jumping out to a quick 2-0 lead. It likely would have been more runs if not for Yrvy Gonzalez making two nice plays at SS. ALRC was only able to score one run in the bottom of the first inning. Yrvy Gonzalez and Jason Young hit back-to-back singles. Scott D’Alessandro’s RBI single scored Gonzalez. Dan Bosgra hit a two-out single to load the bases for Scott Botbyl. Unlike last year’s second round playoff game though, no repeat of a Grand Slam HR, as Botbyl flied out to LF. It was 2-1 Faith Hill after the first inning.
Faith Hill had two hits in the top of the 2nd inning, but they were unable to score, thanks to two good defensive plays by ShortFielder Dave DeWaalMalefyt. ALRC had their best offensive inning in the bottom of the 2nd inning. Joe Bosgra hit a lead-off double. Matt Ferri hit a single in his first at-bat of the season. Ferri’s retirement after 12 years seemed to last 4 games! Dave DeWaalMalefyt’s RBI sac fly scoring Joe Bosgra tied the game. Yrvy Gonzalez then hit his first HR of his brief career for the Green&White. Botbyl says, “playing with Yrvy in tournaments the past 3 years, I have seen him hit HR’s before, I was so excited for him though to do it for the first time in this league against a great team too, but I just felt so bad that his son Pablo missed it” (since both my son Brandon and Yrvy’s son Pablo, little league teammates for several years, they also had a game at the same time). Jason Young and Scott D’Alessandro each hit two-out singles. Brian Churco’s RBI single scored Young to cap off the inning, which gave ALRC a 5-2 lead after two innings.
In the top of the 3rd inning, Faith Hill was able to score one run. It would have been more, but Scott Botbyl made a highlight reel play at pitcher on a hard ball hit back up the middle. Several players for both teams wanted to make sure Botbyl was fine, but he joked “I’m ok, just so lucky that it went into my mitt and not my face, I will go buy a lottery ticket tonight, all luck there, no skill”. Leading 5-3 in the bottom of the 3rd inning, ALRC had an opportunity to increase their lead, but they could not. In fact, the Green&White bats were sent down in order 1-2-3. It’s the 4th time this season that ALRC went hit-less in an inning.
Faith Hill was sent down in order 1-2-3 in the top of the 4th inning. LF Brian Churco made two good catches that inning. It was the 3rd time this season that the ALRC defense didn’t allow one hit in an inning. In the bottom of the 4th inning, ALRC was able to increase their lead this time. Matt Ferri hit a lead-off single, just as his family arrived. Botbyl said to the Ferri family, “he is 2 for 2 now, he is not allowed to retire yet, because he’s still got it”. Although, the regular season has never been a problem for him, he likes the regular season, one game per week, it’s the brutal playoff schedule on his bad knee, as the Green&White during their long playoff runs have played 30 innings in a week, or 4 games in 5 days, which is tough on a lot of people, let alone someone that has gone under the knife as much as Ferri has during his entire sporting career, not just his softball career, which is now 13 years long. Dave DeWaalMalefyt hit an RBI triple scoring Ferri. Yrvy Gonzalez registered a single. Jason Young’s RBI sac fly scored DeWaalMalefyt. Brian Churco’s RBI single scoring Gonzalez capped off the inning, which now gave ALRC an 8-3 lead after four innings.
In the top of the 5th inning, Faith Hill scored one run, cutting the ALRC lead to 8-4. In the bottom of the 5th inning, ALRC was held scoreless, as only Mike Cohen got a hit (double).
Unfortunately, this low-scoring and competitive game took a tough turn in the 6th inning, with a pair of questionable calls. There was debate about a catch in LF and a debate about a close play at 3rd base. Coach Scott Botbyl feels that “it happens in this league, it happens in Little League, even in the pro’s too, no sport or level is immune, when you have two teams that are evenly matched, these close calls are going to happen, and it’s difficult to not get too emotional, especially when those calls can impact or decide the game”. Botbyl doesn’t yell at umpires in Little League, nor in softball because “they are trying their best, no one is perfect, not everyone is going to get the call right every single time, it happens, it’s a part of the game, all we can control as individuals is how we act, how we handle it, and I think there’s a couple people, including the umpire, that all wish they handled both situations differently when they reflect back on it, we move on”. Botbyl admits, “as a manager, as a coach, as a player, I’ve made mistakes too, I apologize when I do, and I try to learn from it, that’s life”. In that wild 6th inning, Faith Hill scored 2 runs, while ALRC scored one run. For the Green&White, Dave DeWaalMalefyt and Yrvy Gonzalez each hit singles. DeWaalMalefyt was able to score on an RBI sac fly by Scott D’Alessandro. Brian Churco also hit a single as well. After six innings, ALRC was leading 9-6.
In the top of the 7th inning, needing 3 runs to tie the game, Faith Hill scored just that, 3 runs to extend the game. It’s been written countless times thru the years about the amount of times where Coach Roger delivers the big clutch hit for his team. So of course, it comes as no surprise that it was the League’s 2nd longest tenured Coach, knocking in the RBI that tied the game. In the bottom of the 7th inning, ALRC got just one hit, a one-out double by Joe Bosgra. Coach Botbyl led off the inning with an out, so he said afterwards, “if I get on-base with a hit, I’m scoring on Joe’s double with the game winning walk-off run, we could have won right there”. It was on to extra innings.
With the game tied 9-9, Faith Hill proceeded to score 3 more runs again in the top of the 8th inning. Faith Hill now had a 12-9 lead heading to the bottom of the 8th inning. Dave DeWaalMaleftyt got things started off with a lead-off single. With two outs, Scott D’Alessandro hit a 2-run HR to rightfield, which cut the deficit to 12-11. Brian Churco and Dan Bosgra each kept the game alive with singles. Scott Botbyl flied out to end the game. He called this game “the worst hitting performance of my 17-year career”. Faith Hill improves to 5-0, while ALRC drops to 3-2. Faith Hill scored 6 runs in the 7th and 8th inning, after scoring 6 runs in the first 6 innings. Faith Hill wins because they always seem to get the big hits when it matters most, it’s been their trademark for over 20 years, missing the Final Four once doesn’t change that.
The two best box scores for ALRC were:
Yrvy Gonzalez – 4 for 5 (3 singles, HR, 3 Runs, 2 RBI’s)
Brian Churco – 4 for 5 (3 singles, triple, 2 RBI’s)
ALRC is now 3-10 against Faith Hill during regular season games. The two teams have met twice in the playoffs: In 2012, it was a Final Four game, won by Faith Hill. In 2016, it was a second round playoff game, won by ALRC. In total, that makes the Green&White 4-11 all-time against Faith Hill.