SCWSL A Division Final

Cooper Paint glistens

Tie-dyed ladies reverse the curse to reach league zenith

By RICHARD A. ROSS

MONGAUP VALLEY, NY - History threatened to repeat itself as Cooper Paint followed their 5-3 game one championship win over Charlie’s Angels on August 14, with a 14-9 let down on August 15. The conclusion of the game was postponed with two out in the seventh inning as the lights at Collins Park went out due to a power outage.

Anxious to avoid a repeat of last year’s collapse that saw Cooper Paint lose the final two playoff games to the halos, number-one seeded Cooper Paint vowed to ‘reverse the curse.’

While Cooper’s curse was only one year in duration, unlike the one that plagued the Boston Red Sox for 86 years, the sting of losing game one after going undefeated in the regular season made the lay of the land seem dauntingly familiar.

Inflamed by their dismal performance in game two, which thankfully ended quickly in a one-out continuation prior to game three on August 16, the ladies of Cooper Paint declared war on rival Charlie’s Angels with the series tied at a game apiece.

Determined to return to their own style of play, Cooper Paint pushed aside the game two defeat as several players donned bandanas. Others looked serious and focused with lampblack below their eyes.

As for Charlie’s Angels, they were banking on parlaying their momentum from game two into a series clinching victory.

While most people might imagine that winning softball games is predicated on hitting, students of the game understand the priceless value of good defense and fine pitching.

In the end, it was these attributes that tilted the series in Cooper Paint’s favor as they defeated their nemesis 6-5 in the deciding game.

Cooper Paint pitcher Natalie Cillis got strike one on nearly every batter and allowed only one walk. While Charlie’s hitters got good swings, including Leanne Mangabang’s booming two-run homer, they were unable to string together the assault they deployed the night before.

In addition, Cooper Paint’s defense looked sharp. Opposing shortstop Shannon Dietrich, who knows what good fielding looks like, shone as usual. She commented that she never saw a finer game out of her counterpart Erin Shuart.

In the second inning of game three, Dietrich made all three put outs and in the fifth inning she gunned down pinch runner Jessica Wright at the plate. Dietrich’s highlight relay throw, which got Charish Priest out at the plate the night before, will be remembered as the series’ most outstanding defensive play.

Jen Wright, who was missing from game two, bolstered Cooper Paint’s defense. She tracked down hard liners in center field, while Rocky Irwin plugged up the middle in short center and made put outs at second and first.

Wright began Cooper Paint’s first inning four-run outburst with a triple. After limiting the volatile Angels to only a single run, which resulted from a leadoff double by Jo Walls and an RBI grounder from Tonya Martin, Cooper Paint came to bat. Wright wasted no time in roping a pitch off of Lisa Krom and motoring all the way to third. Cooper Paint got RBI from Amanda Cox, Amanda Irwin, Ally McCarthy and Leyna Madision to take a 4-2 lead.

Madison’s return to the lineup proved vital. She was mostly missing from game two due to sore knees. Madison went three-for-three on the night with three RBI, one of which came off of a triple to right.

Cox reached on a costly E-8. Irwin knocked her in and Madison’s RBI triple scored Irwin.

Mangabang’s homer in the fourth made it 6-3, driving in Nicki Krom, who got on with a double that flew deep to left.

Cooper Paint threatened in the fifth by loading the bases, but didn’t score.

Sensing that the six runs they had amassed going into the seventh inning might not be enough, Cooper Paint players gathered at the mound and vowed to play good defense. As it turned out, they were going to need it.

Lisa Krom got on with a lead off double to right. After getting one out, Cooper had to reckon with bases loaded as Sue Ziers walked and Terri Hess reached on a single.

In the play that will go down as the turning point of the game, Debi Ackerley hit a sharp grounder to Jackie Litwak at second, who flipped to Shuart for the force out. Angels’ players felt Shuart had dropped the ball, but the umpire ruled she had it in her glove as she rolled around the bag. A run scored on the play made it 6-4. Litwak was outstanding in the field, handling every ball that came to her with flair, accuracy and speed. McCarthy was solid as usual at first, making great stretches to complete the put outs from her infielders.

Things got melodramatic as Robyn Gannon followed with an RBI single to make it 6-5. With the tying run at second base and the go-ahead run at first, Charlie’s Angels needed one more hit to raise the ante. But Walls banged a sharp grounder to Shuart, who flipped to Amanda Irwin for the game-ending put out.

Cooper Paint players erupted in jubilation as the heavy weight of last year’s devastating loss vanished into thin air in one ecstatic moment of relief.

All that remained was the sense of triumph that validated another stellar season and the knowledge that for the next year Cooper Paint can truly say, “We are the champions.”

That championship was the result of a total team effort, which coach Pat Shuart pointed out in the dugout following the game. Shuart and fellow coach Val Fersch named Ally McCarthy and Lori Brown as the team’s offensive Most Valuable Players. Rocky Irwin and Erin Shuart got the nod as the team’s Most Valuable Defensive Players.

Kudos to both teams for their great play in the series and throughout the season accentuated by their impeccable sportsmanship. Congratulations to all of the teams in the SCWSL for making 2006 a lively and fun year.

Charlie’s Angels 14, Cooper Paint 9

Game two: Happy Birthday Charlie!

Somewhere up in heaven Charlie Walls was looking down on a festive birthday celebration on August 15 as his daughter Jo’s team, Charlie’s Angels, took the cake with a sterling playoff game against rival Cooper Paint. The Angels were about to blow out the last candle when the ballpark went dark due to a power outage.

But no such power outage existed for Charlie’s Angels, who pounded Cooper Paint senseless from the get go.

Charlie Walls passed away in 1990 and several years thereafter, the team, which has seemingly been around forever, assumed his name. Their success over the years has been second to none as the ladies in teal and white have been in a league of their own.

Using what would have been Charlie’s 91st birthday as extra motivation (as if they didn’t have enough already), the Angels showed no mercy on Cooper Paint.

Cooper Paint struck first by loading the bases in the first inning on a sacrifice fly from Amanda Irwin. Lori Brown got in a second run by reaching on an E-6.

That was Cooper’s one and only lead in the game as the Angels proceeded to put up crooked numbers during the first four innings.

Game MVP Shannon Dietrich hit a two-run double with bases loaded to tie the game. Dietrich would continue her stellar night by going three-for-three at the plate and making the throw that gunned down Priest at the plate. Since Priest’s jersey number is six, Dietrich can hereafter be referred to as “Six Gun.” It was just another thing that went Charlie’s way.

Lisa Krom drove in two more with a single to give the Angels a 4-2 lead after one inning.

The next time up, Charlie’s Angels got four more off the bat of Leanne Mangabang and Tonya Martin’s two-run homer. Cooper Paint tried to get off the mat and scored two runs in the top of the third inning, capitalizing on a trio of outfield errors and getting RBI from Cox and Ally McCarthy but they left the bases loaded on a night when they stranded a village full of base runners.

Charlie’s Angels made it 11-4 in the third with RBI from Hess, Walls and Nicki Krom. That would be it for Cillis, who gave way in the next inning to Suzette Goldsmith.

Cooper Paint settled for two runs in the top of the fourth. With two out, Jackie Litwak smacked a triple and Drobysh brought her home with a single. Priest singled as did Cox.

The Angels added another trio to their burgeoning lead in the fourth with RBI from Ellmauer, Bradley and Hess.

Cooper Paint got one run back in the top of the fifth with an RBI double from Vankeuren.

The ballpark went dark with the scoreboard reading 14-8 in Charlie’s favor. Cooper got one run in the next day’s conclusion of the game.

Visit riverreportersports.com for more details and photo albums from each of the games.

TRR photo by Richard A. Ross
SCWSL A Division Champions Cooper Paint: Rachelle (Rocky) Irwin, front left, Denise Vankeuren, Erin Shuart, second row left, Jen Wright, Suzette Goldsmith, Amanda Cox, Charish Priest, Megan Drobysh, coach Pat Shuart, back left, Natalie Cillis, Jessica Wright, Lori Brown, Leyna Madison, Ally McCarthy, Amanda Irwin, Jackie Litwak, coach Val Fersch and team sponsor Alan Cooper. (Click for larger version)
TRR photo by Richard A. Ross
Tonya Martin, right, of Charlie’s Angels, is congratulated by teammates after smacking a two-run homer in the third inning of game two. Charlie’s Angels won the middle game of the series 14-9. (Click for larger version)