The New Providence Softball Association (NPSA) men’s and women’s championship series continued on Tuesday night on the Bankers Field at the Baillou Hills Sporting Complex, and in the women’s division, the defending champions Sunshine Auto Wildcats clawed their way to a 20-12 victory over the Inventive Intellect Warriors. They now lead that best-of-seven championship series two games to none.
Fans continued to get their money’s worth as the men’s championship game provided more fireworks. In the end, it was the defending champions Commando Security Truckers who came up with the key plays in the seventh inning to take down the C&S Hitmen, 4-3. That series is now even at a game apiece.
Truckers 4, Hitmen 3
This game went into the top of the seventh inning with the Truckers up 3-2. The Hitmen tied it at three, but the Truckers got what turned out to be the winning run in the bottom of the seventh. A hit to center field with the bases loaded plated the winning run for the Truckers.
There were a total of 21 strikeouts in this game as the pitching intensity and level of play were high. Out of those 21 strikeouts, winning pitcher Thomas Davis had 11. Battling a lingering hamstring injury that he suffered in game one, losing pitcher Alcott Forbes had 10 strikeouts.
The defending champions got on the scoreboard first in the bottom of the third inning. Securing that run for the Truckers was center fielder Lamar Watkins.
Later that inning, catcher Garfield Bethel hit a ground ball and collided with first baseman Sherman Ferguson but was called safe by umpire Danny Stubbs. Left fielder Angelo Watson was the next batter.
With Bethel on base and a count of no balls and a strike, Watson sent a shot out of the park over the right center field fence. That two-run homer sent the Truckers’ dugout into a frenzy in an already contentious game.
The homer put the Truckers up 3-0 at the end of the third inning.
In the top of the fourth inning, the Hitmen responded. Ferguson and Forbes scored a run each to cut the Truckers lead to 3-2.
Neither team scored in the fifth and sixth innings due to superb pitching and strong fielding.
Nervous Hitmen fans sat on the edge of their seats as the seventh inning got underway and their team was in need of a savior.
This inning was extremely intense as pinch hitter Edron Knowles was unhappy after striking out. He gave umpire Mike Hanna an earful and then tossed his helmet which went in the direction of Hanna. Knowles was ejected from the game for unsportsmanlike conduct, and under international softball rules, which governs local play, he will be forced to miss the next game as well.
Right fielder Courtney Smith came home on a hit to left field to tie the game up at three – a play that brought the Hitmen out of the dugout and their fans to their feet. Bain and Ferguson were left on second and third respectively, stranded on base.
Needing one run to win the game, the Truckers got designated batter Anton Hanna and Watkins on base with no outs. Right fielder Winston Seymour came up to bat and after a strike, he found a shallow area in center field. Hanna darted home with the winning run as Hitmen center fielder Rodney Forbes was unable to field the ball cleanly. The Truckers dugout emptied and they celebrated the hard earned win.
Hanna was named the player of the game, going 1-for-3 and scoring the winning run.
The Truckers won 4-3 to even the best-of-seven series at a game apiece.
Wildcats 20, Warriors 12
The Wildcats had to get a wake-up call to dig themselves out of a deep 8-3 hole on Tuesday night. They rallied and buried the Warriors, 20-12, to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
The Warriors looked like they were on their way to winning the game when they went up 8-3. The Wildcats made a pitching change in the bottom of the second inning, trailing 5-2 at that point. Ramona Wells, the starting pitcher, was replaced by ace pitcher Thela Johnson.
The game took a turn in the fifth inning with the Warriors ahead 8-3. The Wildcats’ offense woke up. Catcher Aaliyah Ferguson scored two of their 10 runs in that inning. Ferguson finished 2-for-5 in the game with those two runs scored.
“We started out a little flat but we didn’t get down. We continued to play defense. We knew our offense was going to come around so we just stayed relaxed and were resilient,” said Larikah Russell, team captain.
After the Wildcats pulled even at eight, the Warriors decided to change pitchers. They took out Malinda Bastian and moved her to shortstop. Brendia Ferguson replaced her. That change did not make a difference as the Warriors continued to make fielding errors.
The Wildcats went into the bottom of the fifth inning up 13-9.
In the bottom of that inning, the Warriors’ third baseman Cristal Taylor-Finley crossed home plate on an RBI (run batted in) hit when Bastian hit a double-to-right field.
The score was 13-10 heading into the top of the sixth inning.
In the top of the sixth, right fielder Lashanda Bethel started off the inning with a walk for the Wildcats. With one out, second baseman Daria Cambridge hit a ball to right field and brought home Bethel.
Cambridge scored a run a few plays later and the Wildcats went up 15-10. The score remained 15-10 heading into the bottom of the sixth.
The Warriors did not find any offense in the bottom of that inning.
For the Wildcats, they were scoreless in the top of the seventh with two outs recorded. The two outs came on a spectacular double play that was ignited by Bastian at shortstop.
The Wildcats erupted for five runs with two outs, giving them a huge 10-run cushion heading into the bottom of the seventh inning. The Warriors only mustered two runs the rest of the way and the Wildcats held on to win, 20-12.
“We have to come out focused. It is not over yet. We have to come out and be strong offensively, and play defense and have fun,” Russell said.
Johnson has pitched a lot of innings this season. Wildcats’ manager Anthony Bullard said he will keep giving her the ball.
“She wants the ball. She’s hungry for the ball. I had a girl that played like that – want to always want the ball. When you have someone who always want the ball, you have to give it to them. My other pitcher said she didn’t feel too good so we had to step it up,” Bullard said.
The Warriors have led the Wildcats early in both games. They will have to find a way to cut down on their errors and get some offense going, particularly late in the game tonight, to avoid going into a 3-0 hole.
Both series continue tonight at the Baillou Hills Sporting Complex. The ladies play the first game at 7:00 p.m., and the men will follow at 8:30 p.m.