By Jeff Praught | Dugout Chatter
For just the second time in seven years, I was unable to attend the softball World Series, held this year in Columbus, Ohio. I consider this to be the best sporting competition I have ever participated in, with thousands of athletes across the country embarking to the host city.
Not being able to be there is rough for those of us who love the sport and the camaraderie that comes with playing in travel tournaments. A special story unfolded during the tournament, as Firestorm from the C Division was able to bring along a recovering hero, Mike Petracca.
You may remember Petracca as the player who was struck in the head by a flying bat in a tragic and freak accident this past January during the Las Vegas tournament. He was hospitalized with severe trauma to the brain, requiring surgery and risking the permanent loss of speech.
I am happy to report that Petracca’s recovery has been spectacular. He has worked his butt off regularly with physical and speech therapists, and was able to make a return to the diamond briefly during AFCSL’s spring softball season. Though he did suffer a bit of a setback and was ordered to slow down, he has since returned to work and was able to make the trip to Ohio for the Series.
During the Opening Ceremonies on Monday, Aug. 17, Petracca was called up on stage, where he gave an emotional and inspiring speech in which he thanked his supporters and expressed his excitement about being at the World Series.
To further wrap a ribbon around this exciting comeback story, Mike hit a home run in his very first at-bat of the tournament. His Firestorm team, participating in their first World Series, drew upon this inspiration and started the pool play portion of the tournament on fire, winning all four games Tuesday and Wednesday. They were one of just five C teams to go undefeated in pool play, and earned the third overall seed heading into double elimination play.
The Spikes from the B Division and Shade from the D Division matched Firestorm’s perfect accomplishment, while the Breakers in C and Rebels in D went a respectable 2-2 in pool play.
San Diego also fielded a masters team, for players age 50 and older, and they won their first two games as well.
The double elimination phase of the tournament began Thursday, Aug. 20 and will wrap up with finals on Saturday, Aug. 22. The series will culminate with a huge closing ceremony that evening.
And congratulations to Jim Costello, a longtime manager and teammate of mine, who earned our sport’s highest honor possible: enshrinement into the NAGAAA Hall of Fame.
SD Hoops Playoffs
The summer league playoffs continue next Wednesday, Aug. 26, as top-seeded Pecs and No. 2 Urban MO’s will meet in the league’s championship game at the Boys and Girls Club in Linda Vista [2230 E. Jewett St.].
Pecs reached the finals rather easily, dispatching third-seeded Hillcrest Brewing Company 68-53 in what was a close quarterfinal game until mid-way through the second half.
Pecs had opened the playoffs with a 43-34 victory over Dog House Bar & Grill. Urban MO’s handled Baja Betty’s, who was without their top player Eric Reissner, securing a 64-43 blowout victory in the other semifinal. MO’s had advanced by virtue of a 56-45 opening-round victory over Flicks.
Pecs features a star-studded roster of MVP candidates, as coach John Crockett deftly drafted all-world point guard Johnny Stultz to lead his club. Two-time MVP Patrick Schoettler anchors the paint, and the high-scoring AC Carter slots in at the forward position. If a team somehow finds a way to keep those three in check — a tall task — then James Vidovich should be wide open beyond the three-point line to hit shots.
Urban MO’s is coached by Marcus Lenihan, who leads his roster in high-energy play and hustle. Sean Brunle and Chris Schoch fit that mold, with the latter being a beast on the boards and usually good for 20 points per game. MO’s player Noah Ingram — who doubles as league commissioner — can get hot from beyond the arc and potentially chip in an additional 20-30 points if he is on a good streak.
On paper, Pecs should beat any team they play, and they handled Urban MO’s in their one regular season, claiming a 48-38 victory. But anything can happen, especially in the playoffs, and these two teams will square off in the finals on August 26 at 8:30 p.m.
The league will hold open gym sessions in September before beginning its longer and more popular Fall Season in October. Men and women of any age and skill level are encouraged to attend. More information can be found on the league’s website at sdhoops.net.
—Jeff Praught is actively involved in the LGBT sports community, having participated in softball, basketball, football and pool as a player, and serving on several boards in recent years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.