The Bullets came into Thursday evening’s game against The Onion playing some of their best softball of the year, coming off back-to-back gutty wins over High Times and Vanity Fair. Vastly improved defense, with a focus on making routine plays, cutting of balls in the alley and hitting the cut-off man, has been the biggest reason for the Bullets’ strong play this summer, a marked improvement over last year’s inconsistent play. Fortunately for The Onion, the 2009 edition of the DC Bullets still has a little of 2008 left in it.
The Onion came out swinging, driving in three runs in the first inning. Meanwhile, the Bullets continued their early-inning struggles. Over the first two innings, only three Bullets reached base, as 3B Mike Lorah (3-3, run, triple), 3B Nel Yomtov (1-2) and 1B/RF Adam Staffaroni (1-2) each singled, but no runner advanced past second base. With ace pitcher Larry Ganem (0-2) on the mound, however, The Onion was unable to tack onto their lead in the second or third innings.
Bottom three, with two out and a runner on first, CF Neil Hiremath (2-2, run, RBI, triple) tripled beyond the center field’s reach, scoring SCF Lauren Fries (1-2, run). DH Dan DiDio (1-2, RBI, run) then slapped a single to left to score Neil. The Onion tacked on a single run, taking a 4-2 lead into the last of the fourth.
Before detailing the last of the fourth, I should explain something first. On the North Meadow field where the Bullets play their home games, there are twelve softball fields, with one fence wrapping around the entire expanse – but no fences around each individual field. Consequently, home runs are typically a hit that goes beyond or over an outfielder and cannot be retrieved before the hitter can sprint around the bases. The Bullets’ home field, Field #2, is located at the western-most edge of the North Meadow, directly alongside the fence that surrounds the Meadow. A flyball pulled directly down the left field line can possibly clear the fence in fair territory for a traditional, over-the-fence home run. It happens maybe twice a summer. Anyway, bottom three, down two runs, SS Adam Schlagman (2-3, 2 runs, 4 RBI, 2 home runs) led off with a majestic blast down that left field line – and the ball bounced once directly atop of the fence, before kicking back into the field of play. Schlagman still circled the bases for the inside-the-park homer, but the fence-top bounce made for a pretty spectacular moment. Mike Lorah followed with a triple into the right center-field gap and scored on SCF Doug Harrison’s (0-2, RBI) sacrifice fly, tying the game at four runs apiece.
In the top of the fifth, the 2008 Bullets reared their ugly heads. Among the inning’s lowlights, CF Hiremath and SCF Harrison colliding on a flyball, an overthrow at first base, a misjudged fly in left field, and – on consecutive hitters with two outs in the inning – dropped line drives by two of the Bullets’ steadiest fielders, Schlagman and Harrison. The highlight: on a deep double by an Onion hitter, a perfectly executed relay throw from LF Vince Letterio (0-2) to shortstop Schlagman to catcher Sal Cipriano (1-2) to cut down a run at the plate. Unfortunately, the extra outs opened the door for a six run rally by The Onion before the DC squad could staunch the bleeding. Stunned and on their heels, the Bullets folded in the bottom of the fifth, with only 2B Erin Dawald’s (1-2) one-out single.
With time quickly running out on the field permit, the Bullets knew they wouldn’t have time to play a full seven innings. After a scoreless top sixth, and they took their last shot at The Onion. Lauren Fries and Neil Hiremath got it going with singles. Dan DiDio’s fielder’s choice erased Neil, but 2B Christine Napolitano (2-2, RBI) followed with a base hit to score Fries. After 1B Laura Demoreuille’s fielder’s choice, Schlagman went opposite field, clearing the bases with a three-run jack to right field. Four runs in the inning left the team two short, but with the heart of the order coming up. Following Lorah’s dribbling single between third and short, however, The Onion secured the win by catching Doug Harrison’s pop fly to left field.
The 10-8 loss drops the Bullets’ record to 5-4 (still 2-2 in New York Media League).
Game Notes: NYML action returns tonight! In their third tilt of the week, the DC Bullets rematch against High Times at 5:30 on the Great Lawn, Field #3, in Central Park. All you local fans, the game will be over in plenty of time for you to enjoy your Friday night out!