A couple of wild pitches and a two-run shot was all the offense the C&S Enterprise Hitmen needed on Saturday night as they shut down the Commando Security Truckers 4-0 and put the defending champions on the ropes in this year’s New Providence Softball Association (NPSA) men’s championship series. The Hitmen lead the best-of-seven championship series three games to one, and can close out the series in game five on Tuesday. However, they also had a three-games-to-one lead in the championship series a year ago, before the Truckers came back to win the final three games of that series.
On the ladies side, the Inventive Intellect Lady Warriors avoided a sweep from the two-time defending champions Sunshine Auto Wildcats, winning game four on Saturday night 5-3. Both series will continue on Tuesday night on the Banker’s Field at the Baillou Hills Sporting Complex.
The women will play the opening game at 7 p.m., and the men’s contest will get underway afterwards, scheduled for 8:30 p.m.
Hitmen 4, Truckers 0
Locked in another pitcher’s duel, Courtney Smith gave the C&S Enterprise Hitmen some insurance runs in the top of the sixth inning on Saturday night. With a runner on base, he sent a pitch from Thomas Davis over the left center field fence, padding the Hitmen’s lead to 3-0. The Hitmen went on to win 4-0, and now lead the defending champions Commando Security Truckers, three games to one. They can close out the NPSA men’s championship series when game five is played on Tuesday.
“I was sitting on a fastball and I got it,” said Smith who batted sixth in the Hitmen’s line-up on Saturday. He finished the game with that two-run shot in three at bats. “Coming down to the end of the game, I knew that he was laboring, so I just waited on my pitch and hit it out. None of these games are going to be high-scoring games because you have two good pitchers out there, so we’re just take it pitch by pitch and play by play. I feel like we’re on a high right now. The confidence is there and we’re rallying behind each other.”
At one point it looked like the game would end 1-0, as starting pitchers Alcott Forbes of the Hitmen and Davis of the Truckers were mowing down opposing batters. Winning pitcher Forbes fired a one-hitter over seven complete innings, fanning 11. Davis was impressive in defeat, surrendering just three hits and striking out 11 batters as well.
With that two-run shot in the top of the sixth inning, Smith was named as the player of the game. Richard “RJ” Bain and Jordan Gibson had the other two hits for the Hitmen. Lead-off batter Lamar Watkins had the only hit of the game for the Truckers, breaking up a no-hit bid by Forbes in the top of the third.
“Alcott actually has a pulled hamstring and he is about 60 percent, but he is a warrior. He is giving us all he has right now and we appreciate that. He kept us in the game and then we got a timely hit from Courtney,” said Hitmen manager Darren Stevens. “You don’t ever want to give a team momentum and that was our focus tonight. To go ahead 3-1 is a big difference from being 2-2. We have three games to get one. Once we keep the intensity up, I have no [doubt] that we could come here on Tuesday and close them out. We should be able to do it,” he added.
The Hitmen got on the scoreboard in the top of the third inning on a wild pitch from Thomas as Phillip Johnson scored from third base. The score remained that way until Smith’s two-run shot in the top of the sixth. An inning later, Bain scored on another wild pitch from Davis to give the Hitmen a 4-0 lead.
Forbes retired the side in order in the bottom of the seventh to end the game.
The Hitmen also led the Truckers three games to one in last year’s NPSA championship series but couldn’t close them out. The Truckers went on to win the final three games of the series, 6-5 in game seven, to win the series four games to three and prevent a possible three-peat for the Hitmen.
With a victory on Tuesday, the Hitmen would win their third NPSA title in the past four years and go on to represent New Providence in the Bahamas Softball Federation’s (BSF) National Round-Robin Tournament.
Lady Warriors 5, Wildcats 3
The Inventive Intellect Lady Warriors got a strong pitching performance from Mia Turner and a perfect night at the plate from Latoya Brown to shock the two-time defending champions Sunshine Auto Wildcats on Saturday night. They won 5-3, avoiding a four-game sweep, and will look to pull even closer in the series when game five is played on Tuesday.
Winning pitcher Turner scattered five hits and induced a lot of ground ball outs and pop flies. Veteran national team pitcher Thela Johnson suffered the loss for the Wildcats. She gave up six hits and struck out five.
Warriors veteran infielder and team leader Melinda Bastian said they had the confidence all along that they could beat the Wildcats.
“We beat this team before so it doesn’t come as a surprise to us,” she said. “Warriors don’t die. We’re not the type of team to roll over and play dead. We are going to come out here and give it our all no matter what. The three games that they won, they won based on our errors – we beat ourselves in those three games. I told my teammates that as long as we come and play Warriors ball and play with heart, they can’t beat us. We stopped them in four innings in the regular season so we know what we are capable of doing and we proved it tonight.”
Brown was sensational for the Warriors, connecting for three hits in three at-bats. She had two doubles and a single, drove in one and score one. Turner helped her own cause with a hit as well.
“There is no big secret to beating them. We just have to come out here and play like we’re capable of playing – execute and play with heart,” said lead-off batter Bastian. “We’re coming out with fire in the next game. We have nothing to lose. They are the favorites and the pressure is on them. They thought it was over tonight but we proved them wrong. They had all their fire crackers and party items, and what happened? They had to pack them up and carry them home. Warriors don’t die, and we coming out on Tuesday with the same intensity.”
The Wildcats got on the scoreboard first, scoring two runs in the top of the second inning. The Warriors came alive in the bottom of the fourth, erupting for four runs to take the lead. After the Wildcats got one of those runs back in the top of the fifth, the Warriors responded in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI (runs batted in) double from Brown. The Wildcats failed to get any offense going after that.
Despite the loss, the ‘Cats still have three opportunities to win a third straight title as they lead the series three games to one. Game five is set for Tuesday.