It was a tightly contested battle Thursday night at Memorial Park as No. 1 Event Helper took on the No. 2 Precision Pump Dirtbags for the Nevada County Fast Pitch Softball title.
The top two teams in the league did not disappoint the fast pitch fans scattered throughout the stands as the game came down to the very last pitch.
With the bases loaded, leading 5-4 with one out and the championship on the line, Event Helper pitcher Will Maddux appeared un-fazed by the pressure and locked in as he rocked into his delivery.
Maddux calmly struck out the Dirtbags’ No. 3 hitter, setting up a matchup between Maddux and the blistering bat of Doug Robinson.
“I didn’t even know who it was,” Maddux said of the final two batters. “I look at all of them like they are the best hitter in the league. I’m trying as hard as I can every pitch, just like they are.”
Maddux quickly got ahead of Robinson 0-2, then on a 1-2 pitch slipped one past the power hitter’s slicing bat, clinching the championship for Event Helper.
Maddux finished with 14 strikeouts and three walks in seven innings, while allowing seven hits and four runs.
“The (Dirtbags) are a really, really good hitting team — just exceptional,” Maddux said. “They even hit my good pitches and put them in play, hard, and all over the field. You know, I made some pretty good pitches, I got some strikeouts there at the end that were key, but hats off to them. They hit me as well as anyone all year. I knew these guys would be trouble.”
The Dirtbags struck early in the game with a run in the top half of the first, coming on a Robinson RBI single. The Dirtbags’ one-run edge would hold until the fifth, but that’s when Event Helper exploded for five runs, all of which were unearned.
In the fifth, Event Helper’s Nick Ullom led the inning off with a single to right field. It was the fourth time Event Helper opened an inning with a hit but had yet to bring one across. Ben Maddux then drew a walk and Andy Lanier moved both runners up a base with a sac bunt. Donner Walters followed with a hard grounder to the shortstop, but when the fielder came up to throw home and catch Ullom charging, the ball slipped away and everyone was safe. Donavan Chilton then hit a sharp grounder at second, but again the glove-to-hand exchange was botched, and all runners were safe. Daryl Allen then ripped an RBI single that just clipped the top of the shortstop’s glove and trickled into the outfield. Brandon Moran-Smith followed with a two-RBI single, and Kyler Caldwell went opposite field for a hit and an RBI to put Event Helper up 5-1 after five.
On the night, Ben Maddux finished 2-for-3 with two singles and a run scored, Walters added two hits and a run scored, Caldwell was 2-for-3, Martin Savedra added a knock, and Moran-Smith was 2-for-3 for Event Helper.
“You always want to come through for your team,” Moran-Smith said of his two-RBI hit. “It was just an opportune time, and I made it happen. It’s just luck.”
Not a team to hang heads, the Dirtbags came out swinging in the sixth. Zach Littleton started a two-out rally with a solo shot that cleared the center-field fence. Robinson followed with a walk. Scottie Belser followed with a base hit, which scored Donny Miller, running for Robinson, after the ball was misplayed in the outfield. Toby Thompson drove Belser in with a double off the fence to bring the score to 5-4. But that would be the last run the Dirtbags would score, ending their inaugural season with the Nevada County league as the runner-up.
The victory is the 17th straight for Event Helper as they conclude an undefeated 2013 campaign as champions.
“I haven’t won one in many years,” Maddux said. “It’s actually really nice. A lot of guys have been playing fast pitch. We’ve kept fast pitch alive by staying together, keeping our teams and growing our teams, getting the young people out of slow pitch and into fast pitch. I hope we continue that and grow this game.”
The league has announced an All-Star event set for Sept. 28 in which an All-Star team chosen from the eight Nevada County teams will take on a Bay Area All-Star team in a three-game series.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.