The Americo Chuggers broke open a tie game with nine runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to defeat Ernst & Young 19-10 in the co-ed softball play-offs in action at the Field of Dreams last Thursday.
The victory allows the Chuggers to advance to the semi-finals against top-seeded Canadian Bacon Monday at 6:30 p.m.
Ernst & Young came out swinging in Thursday’s game, scoring five runs in the first inning, aided by some sloppy defensive play by the Chuggers.
‘We definitely came out tight until the beer started flowing,’ said Americo coach Alan Markoff. ‘First inning defensive problems have been an issue with us in several games.’
After the Chuggers narrowing the gap to 5-3 with two runs in the bottom of the first and a run in the second, E & Y scored three more in the third to regain the five-run lead.
Americo took charge of the game after that, as their defence came up big in allowing only two runs over the last four innings.
The Americo offence came alive with four runs in the third inning on home runs by Alan Markoff, William Foster and J.B. Lovinggood.
The Chuggers tied the game with a run in the fourth inning, and took their first lead with two runs in the fifth.
E &Y came right back with a pair of runs in the top of the sixth to tie the game at 10.
‘You’ve got to hand it them, they kept coming at us,’ said Chugger infielder Heather Noggle.
However, in the bottom of the sixth, Americo put the game away as its offence finally showed why the team scored 300 runs in the regular season.
The inning started with a pinch hit double by Priscilla Miller, and was followed by a pinch hit single by Richard Maragh.
‘Both of those hits were huge,’ said Coach Markoff. ‘They set up the whole inning. I knew we were going to win after that. Priscilla’s hit was her best one all season, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.’
Two batters after a RBI single by Mark Wallace scored the first run of the inning, Markoff cleared the bases with a 3-run double to centerfield.
Stephen Ebanks followed with an RBI single and three batters after that, J.B. Lovinggood hit an inside-the-park grand slam to finish the scoring. All nine runs scored in the inning before there were any outs.
For the game, Lovinggood went 3 for 3 with three runs and six RBI, Markoff went 4 for 4 with four runs and five RBI, Ebanks went 3 for 4 with three runs and an RBI and Foster went 4 for 4 with two runs and two RBI.
The Americo girls also combined to add four hits, two runs and two RBI. Rover Christine McLean and infielders Heather Noggle and Becca Bernard all made outstanding defensive plays as well.
‘Everyone contributed to the win,’ said Coach Markoff. ‘More importantly, we kept a positive attitude even though we got behind early.’
Americo had defeated E & Y 32-16 earlier in the season, in a game which they led 25-2 at one point.
‘This was not anything like that game,’ said Coach Markoff. ‘This game was a struggle between two good teams.’
The win was Americo’s first on the field – they one one by forfeit – in the play-offs in three seasons.
‘We finally got the monkey off our back,’ said William Foster.
In Monday’s semi-final match, Canadian Bacon team will look to revenge their only loss of the regular season against Americo.
‘We beat them pretty handily the first time, but they didn’t have their whole team,’ said Markoff. ‘I expect a tough battle and I’m counting on our loyal fans to give us an advantage.’
The Chuggers had a large and vocal fan contingent on hand against E & Y, partially because it was Americo Athletic Supporter Night at the Field of Dreams.
Monday’s game is Chris Kirkconnell CD night. The first 500 fans in attendance will receive an autographed CD of the Americo outfielder singing his favourite gospel songs and church hymns. Kirkconnell will also sing the Caymanian, American and Canadian national anthems before the game.