FASTPITCH SOFTBALL: Walkoff blast sends All Star Automotive to title game victory
All Star Automotive’s fastpitch softball team hadn’t lost all season. They certainly weren’t going to have their winning streak snapped with the league championship on the line.
Facing Long’s Bottle Shop in the Nevada County Fastpitch Softball title game, All Star Automotive got clutch hitting down the stretch to win in walkoff fashion, 9-8, Thursday night at Memorial Park in Grass Valley.
After six and a half hard-fought innings, All Star Automotive had been pushed to the brink and was facing a two-run hole heading to their final at-bat.
They weren’t worried, though. They simply dug in and took care of business.
“We’ve been in close games all year and in the bottom of the seventh we’ve been able to pull them out,” said All Star Automotive pitcher Mike Milligan. “So, tonight we were down after a big home run, and we’re in the dugout and everyone’s completely relaxed. Everybody was calm and we just knew we had this, and I think that was the difference.”
All Star Automotive second baseman Dylan Hadley got the bottom of the seventh started with a single. Catcher Russell Brackett then drew a walk to put the tying run on first. After both runners advanced on a passed ball, Kody Kencke drove in Hadley and advanced Brackett to the third with a groundout.
With the tying run on third, All-Star Automotive’s cleanup hitter Jarett Roenicke stepped into the batter box. He had been in this position before.
“I was actually reliving last season’s championship game, because I was actually in that spot two at-bats in a row, once in regulation and once in extra innings and I failed both times,” Roenicke recalled. “So this time I just told myself, no matter what happens, I’m not going to strikeout. I’m going to go down swinging and put something in play no matter what. I was honestly not thinking bomb there. I just got the right pitch and got enough of it.”
A bomb is what he provided, crushing a two-run home run over the centerfield fence to give All Star Automotive the victory.
“I knew this was a good group from the get go,” said Roenicke. “We’re all friends and we’ve all been playing with each other or against each other for a long time. There’s no egos on this team. We’re just out here to have fun. Obviously it’s a great group of guys, great pitcher and one through nine, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better fast pitch team.”
Earning the win from the circle was Milligan, a veteran hurler who went all seven innings and struck out four.
“That was a good game,” said Milligan. “That was the way I figured it was going to go down. I’d liked to have shut them down, but they’re all really good hitters.”
All Star Automotive jumped out an early lead with three runs in the first inning, coming off an RBI double from Brackett, and a two-run triple from Brandon O’Callaghan.
Milligan helped himself out in the third inning, notching an RBI single to stake All Star Automotive to a 4-1 lead.
Long’s Bottle Shop was a worthy foe, and did not go quietly into the night. RBIs by Rusty Newnan and Chris Friedman in the fourth inning made it 4-3. Jeff Nye then ripped an RBI double in the fifth to tie it up.
All Star Automotive regained the lead in the bottom of the fifth with an RBI single from Roenicke, who finished the night 2-for-4 with three RBIs.
Matt Haines then extended All Star Automotive’s lead to 6-4 with a solo home run in the sixth.
Trailing 6-4 in the top of the seventh, Long’s Bottle Shop rallied with a two-RBI single by Nye and a two-run home run from Robby Porter to grab what would be a short-lived lead.
“This one is awesome,” Milligan said of the championship victory. “I’m getting a little older now, and I used to not get tired. I could throw all day, I could just keep throwing. Now, I’m tired all the time, so this is really great.”
All Star Automotive players also expressed gratitude for Justin Nicholson, who owns All Star Automotive and sponsored two league teams this season.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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