Monticello Men’s Softball League Championship

Fit to repeat

Fitness Factory captures the Monticello Men’s League title for second year in a row

By RICHARD A. ROSS

MONTICELLO, NY - The Monticello Men’s Softball Championship series of 2006 had it all: great pitching, highlight reel defensive plays, great hits including a grand slam homer and high emotion.

But mostly what it had was the two best teams in the league, namely Culligan Division champion Fitness Factory versus Bickham Division champion Sullivan Sports going at it full tilt.

In the third and deciding game on August 18, with the series tied at a game apiece, Sullivan Sports sent D.J. Pugh back to the mound to try and work the magic he had conjured up in his team’s 2-1 victory in the series opener.

Fitness Factory stuck with ace JoJo Van Keuren, who had allowed only one run in the first two games.

Sullivan Sports got one run in the top of the first inning after Van Keuren walked the first two batters and Dez Williams smacked a single. Van Keuren often makes the first inning interesting, but settles into a groove as the game progresses. That proved to be true as he walked only one more batter over the course of the night.

Sullivan Sports got some good swings off Van Keuren, especially the high-floating knuckler he left over the plate for Chris Gates with the bases loaded in the fourth inning. Gates parlayed that pitch into a grand slam to give Sullivan Sports a brief lead. Fitness Factory answered back with six runs in the bottom of the frame to pick their pitcher up.

Fitness Factory took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first inning after a double by Keith Shaddock and a pair of walks to Dan Gallo and Jay Legenos loaded the bases. Aaron Dinkel followed with a timely two-run single and Fitness Factory was out on top.

They extended their lead to 4-1 in the second inning, as they manifested a new approach to Pugh’s pitching: sit back, make him throw strikes and drive the ball down.

Van Keuren helped his cause with a leadoff single in the second. After Desmond Gonzalez drew a walk, Shaddock drove the ball down and over second for a two-run single.

Van Keuren had held Sullivan Sports scoreless in the top of the second and blanked them again in the third, picking up his third and fourth strike out of the game, including one on a dancing change up to Harris Seletsky.

With the fine young additions to his team, including Gates, Seletsky and Dave Lucyzski, Sullivan Sports captain Mike Greco has added spark and talent to his team. With Greco, who has been in the league since 1986, and long-time veteran Bobby Yakin, who played at Somerville Field since 1981 in the days before the league even arrived there, Sullivan Sports has plenty of talent, including Julian Dawson, Pugh, Gil Suarez, Jason Garritt, Dez “Popeye” Williams, George Brandes and Kyle Bright.

But it was Gates who became the key batter as he woke up Fitness Factory with his fourth-inning grand slam that propelled Sullivan Sports into a 5-4 lead.

A walk to Suarez, coupled with singles to Williams and Garritt had loaded the bases.

Fitness Factory came in from the field and gathered their will. “This is our championship, guys,” said Shaddock. “Let’s win every inning.” Taking the stalwart catcher at his word, Fitness Factory banged around Pugh for six runs in the bottom of the fourth to take a 10-5 lead.

Van Keuren doubled to start the inning and Gonzalez did the same for an RBI.

On an attempted bunt by Shane Conner, Lucyzski made a perfect throw to Dawson at first for the out.

A double by Shaddock knocked in a run and Fitness Factory got its next run as a ball off the bat of Jay Legenos just missed the glove of a leaping Suarez. A passed ball and an ill advised throw by Lucyzski allowed Legenos to come home.

Van Keuren made two stellar defensive plays at the mound. But Legenos made the best defensive play on a sliding catch of a fly ball hit by Brandes in the fifth. There is no better outfielder in the league in this writer’s estimation.

Sullivan Sports got two runs in the top of the fifth to close within three at 10-7. After Legenos’ catch, Yakin and Suarez singled. An errant throw put runners at the corners before powerful “Popeye” Williams drove them in with a double.

Fitness Factory added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth inning as Aaron Dinkel drove a double up the hill in left, and tagged up on a sac fly by Denny Rivera. Alex Salazar singled in the run and the score stood up the rest of the way with Fitness Factory winning the deciding game 11-7.

Just prior to Sullivan Sports last at-bats, Shaddock and Rodriguez encouraged their teammates, “This sums up our whole season right here, now D-up!”

And D- up they did.

A glittering play by Conner on a tough grounder by Lucyzski drew accolades as he threw out the speedy Fallsburg graduate as Gonzalez made the stretch at first. Conner got all three put outs of the final inning and the team, along with their legion of family and friends, erupted in joy at the mound.

Fitness Factory lost only two games all season and proved that they were the best team in the league.

Following amicable handshaking and hugs, Greco presented the Bickham Division Championship trophy to Yakin, the Culligan Division Championship trophy to Rodriguez and the League Championship trophy to Shaddock. Both teams posed for a final photo as some of the players got in their cars to head down for a 9:30 p.m. game at the Turfler Invitational Softball Tournament in Middletown under the unified colors of D-Tech.

The championship game was a fitting end to another great season in the Monticello Men’s Softball league.

Sullivan Sports shocks Fitness Factory in stormy game-one win

All season, Sullivan Sports has been itching for a chance to play Lewis Auto Parts and Fitness Factory in the playoffs. Despite their second-place finish in the Bickham Division (12-5) behind Lewis Auto Parts, Greco’s team still had a lot to prove.

Unfortunately, Lewis Auto Parts forfeited its series with Sullivan Sports for the Bickham Division championship because Lewis could not muster more than seven players for the slated two games on August 15.

So Sullivan Sports arrived at the finals to take on defending champion Fitness Factory.

After Fitness Factory readily disposed of Ma-’n’-Pa’s by the scores of 11-1 and 10-3, the defending champions came in confident of a quick one-two series sweep of Sullivan Sports.

Confidence is fine, but you have to play the games, and this first one resulted in an outcome that Fitness Factory probably could not have envisioned.

Used to feasting on fast pitching, the likes of which they encountered in the Collins Tournament, Fitness Factory batters were off stride throughout the series opener against Sullivan Sports hurler Pugh. Pugh’s pitches looked fat: too fat, as it turned out. He induced a mind-boggling 16 fly outs from Fitness Factory batters, who could not seem to take their own oft-repeated advice to hit the ball down and hard.

Fitness Factory only managed to get four hits off of Pugh, though they nearly killed him with a pair of hard liners hit back to the mound. One glanced off his arm and was deftly caught by second baseman Dez Williams. Pugh’s quick reflexes stopped the other, just before it would have knocked out several of his teeth. Still, Pugh remained undaunted and saw his team through to a stunning 2-1 victory in the series opener.

Sullivan Sports got its initial run in the top of the first inning on an errant throw that scored leadoff hitter John Bell. Suarez arrived safely at first. Fitness Factory pitcher Van Keuren was firing strikes and looked sharp so that one run looked awfully scant up there on the scoreboard.

Through the first three innings, Fitness Factory had one base runner, Shane Conner, who got on with a hard-hit single. Fitness Factory threatened in the fourth inning by getting runners on at second and third with no out. But the men in orange only managed to tie the game at one-all on a sac fly from Aaron Dinkel that scored Keith Shaddock. Shaddock had

gotten on with a leadoff single. Rodriguez was left stranded on second base.

Sullivan Sports broke the tie in the top of the sixth. After Derwin Rivera got on with a one-out single, he was erased on a 6-4 play that allowed John Bell to arrive safely at first. An errant throw on an attempted double play sent Bell to second. He scored on an E-6 that ricocheted off the glove of Conner.

Fitness Factory team captain Rodriguez called in his troops and said, “They’re playing the best game of their lives and we didn’t even wake up yet.” Rodriguez’s frustration over a play where he was doubled off first base led to words with the umpire that resulted in his ejection from the series.

Van Keuren held Sullivan Sport scoreless in the top of the seventh, but Pugh allowed only Conner to reach on a E-6 in the final frame as Sullivan Sports players erupted in jubilation.

Fitness Factory players, who finally lost a regular season game to the Mustangs a couple of weeks ago, collected themselves and resolved to do what they did last year after losing the opener to Lewis Auto Parts: play their game and prove that they were still number one. They answered the bell with a resounding 15-0 thrashing of Sullivan Sports in game two.

Visit riverreportersports.com for details of game two and an album of photos from the entire series.

TRR photo by Richard A. Ross
Monticello Men’s Softball League champion Fitness Factory: Serafin Rodriguez, bottom left, Edwin ‘Flaco’ Rodriguez, Shane Conner, Mike Weiner, Alex Salazar, top left, Jo Jo Van Keuren, Denny Rivera, Keith Shaddock, Desmond Gonzalez, Aaron Dinkel, Jay Legenos and Dan Gallo pose with the championship trophy. (Click for larger version)
TRR photo by Richard A. Ross
Fitness Factory players, family members and fans erupt in joy following the team’s second consecutive championship. (Click for larger version)
TRR photo by Richard A. Ross
Sullivan Sports pitcher D.J. Pugh guided his team to a 2-1 win over Fitness Factory in game one of the Monticello Men’s Softball championship series. Pugh induced 16 fly outs and made a life-saving defensive play on a rocket destined to hit is face off the bat of Dan Gallo. (Click for larger version)