The Coors Light Chuggers recently completed one of the most dominant seasons in the history of adult co-ed softball this month when they defeated the Maples Sluggers, 14-3.
After winning the championship in the Fall of 2012, the Chuggers – already with an average age of well above 40 – came into the season in January with a number of question marks. One of the team’s best hitters, Matt Bone, had neck surgery just before the season started and several other players were battling lingering injuries from the previous season.
Although they had a pretty full roster, because of the question marks about player availability, Chuggers captain Alan Markoff decided to add a couple of new players in the form of husband and wife team Chris and Robyn Larkin. The additions proved to be critical.
“As much as Chris helped us in the outfield, it was really Robyn who made the bigger impact,” said Markoff. “She’s a gamer who shows up to the games week in and week out and it helped solidify our rotation of women on the team.”
The Chuggers won four of their five games fairly easily and escaped with a 10-10 tie in a interleague game against Rhino Rebar in the A-League. They then faced a severe test against the Hitmen, a team they had never lost to but which had played them tough on many occasions.
In the first of two games the teams played against each other this season, the Hitmen came out ripping the softball all over the field and by the fourth inning, had a 13-3 lead. The Chuggers scored 18 runs over the next three innings and won the game 21-16. The comeback, from being behind 11 runs, tied the Chuggers’ record going back 17 seasons for the biggest in team history.
“Once we won that game, I knew this team was special,” said Markoff. “Most teams when they’re down by more than 10 runs would just give up. But we stayed positive and just started hitting. After we scored seven runs in the fourth inning to narrow the score to 13-10, everybody on the team knew we could come back.”
The Chuggers rolled through the rest of their B League opponents in the regular season, ending up with a 9-0 record against teams in their own league, the same as the previous season. Although they also defeated Richard Campbell and the eventual A League champion, KPMG A, the Chuggers suffered their only defeat against Scott Murray and the eventual C League champions, PwC B.
Going into the playoffs, Coors Light was clicking on all cylinders, with their early defensive problems ironed out and swinging hot bats. They demolished Walkers 27-6 and followed that up with a 23-0 drubbing of Deloitte in a game when they committed only one error.
“Shut outs don’t happen often in slow pitch softball,” said Markoff. “That fact that we did that during the playoffs against a good hitting team with a lot of speed was remarkable.”
The Chuggers then faced a feisty Maples team that had finished second in the regular season. Stacked with young talent like David ‘Baggy’ Taylor, Maples looked like the kind of team that could give the older Coors Light side trouble. They didn’t, as the Chuggers jumped out to an early 9-0 lead and coasted home to a 14-2 knockout victory.
After Maples defeated Rackam’s Crabbies to earn another shot at the Chuggers in the championship, they came in the game convinced they could take Coors Light down. In the final, Maples scored three runs in the first two innings before the game turned.
Robyn Larkin had a pop up hit just behind the pitchers mound, Markoff singled to drive in a run, Corby Bright had a Runs Batted In single to left field and Chuggers’ cocaptain Mark Wallace smoked a hard hit to left centre that got behind the Maples defender and went for a home run. Just like that, the Chuggers had the lead 5-3 and they never looked back.
Notable catches were then made by outfielders Chris Larkin, James Lewis and Sean Landreth, with Landreth’s snag in deep centre being the decisive moment.
“The game might as well have been over after that catch,” said Markoff. “It was probably one of the best defensive plays I’ve ever seen in my 18 seasons in the league. Maples was so demoralized after that.”
In the four games of the playoffs – all victories – the Chuggers outscored their opponents by a margin of 78-11. Perhaps even more impressive was the fact that over the final three games, they only allowed five runs.
“If you only give up five runs in one game, it’s a fine defensive effort in slow pitch softball,” Markoff said. “To only give up that many over three games is basically unheard of.”
With two straight dominant runs to the B League title, in which they defeated division opponents 25 straight times in the regular season and playoffs combined, Markoff knows it’s time his team moved up to the A League again after four seasons in the B League.
“Even though we’re not getting any younger, I think with our current make-up we can compete well in the A League,” Markoff said. “Heck, we beat the A League champion this year and tied the other A League team we played. That pretty much tells you we can compete.”