ASL Preseason Heats Up

The Alternative Softball League: Still cheap as free

The Wheatsville SKUs
The Wheatsville SKUs

I guess that whistle pig up in Pennsylvania knows something. It seems to hardly matter here in Texas what a rotund rodent who would have been lunch in a less gentle time thinks about the weather. The high here in Austin was 64 degrees on February 2 when Punxsutawney Phil “emerged from a tree stump” to predict six more weeks of winter. Six more weeks of what? We hit 90 degrees in January; February was full of 70- and 80-degree days. Now this mess – four days of 40-degree weather and rain (which can count as springtime in Boston and Pittsburgh).

I was inclined to think that Phil got it wrong, despite the flawlessness the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club Inner Circle bestows upon the hog. Weather records show Phil correctly divines the 50% chance there will be an early spring about 39% of the time. Some “seer of seers”; some “prognosticator without peer.” And what better sign that spring had sprung than the emergence of the new and improved Alternative Softball League – 100% more teams! Still cheap as free!

The workaday folks from the places that make Austin great have met for at least seven scrimmages so far this spring … uh, winter leading up to the 2009 season Opening Day doubleheader on March 29. This year, the league has 10 teams: the five originals (The Austin Chronicle, BookPeople, Emo’s Lounge, KOOP Radio and Waterloo Records) plus newbies the Brentwood Donkeys, C3 Presents, the Fucking Nihilist Eagles of New Brohemia (Transmission off the diamond), SXSW and Wheatsville Food Co-op. Just before we got this gentle reminder that the first day of spring isn’t until March 20, alternative softballers got together for three games in a week. They looked something like this:

ASL All-Stars Outlast Wheatsville, 19-17, 8 Innings
Mike “Moonshadow” Bartnett homered three times and batted in 10 runs, including the game winners on a triple in the eighth inning, as the Alternative Softball League All-Stars beat the newly formed Wheatsville Food Co-op team (and the lights at Krieg Softball Complex) 19-17 in a back-and-forth battle on March 5. Trailing 14-16 in the top of the eighth inning (as they had for most of the game), the All-Stars had a two-out, 5-run rally to put the game out of reach for Wheatsville.

The All-Stars put themselves in a tight spot with two fielder’s choices, but then Bobby Leath and Jeff Carlyon had back-to-back doubles to plate three runs for a 17-16 lead. Travis Rinehart singled and then Mike Bartnett (5-for-6, 5 runs) smashed one over the outfielders’ heads to drive in the game winners. After one of the friendly city league umpires yelled “Lights Out!” and manned the switch for the field lights with all the compassion of a Marine Corps drill sergeant, Kevin Johnson (3-for-5, 3 runs, 2 RBI) led off the bottom of the eighth with a homer for Wheatsville’s last run.

“We’re not afraid of Wheatsville” despite the close score, said Mark Fagan, part of The Austin Chronicle’s championship team last season (and the ASL commissioner). First baseman Trae Branham led Wheatsville batters going 4-for-5 with three runs, four RBI, two doubles, and a triple. Wheatsville short-stop Ralf Hernandez went 3-for-4 with three runs and two RBIs at the plate and stopped almost everything hit his way in the field, putting out at least nine batters.

Jeff Rose, BookPeople’s explosive co-manager and the ASL MVP last season, chipped in for Wheatsville, who were short-handed to begin the game. Rose played a couple innings at third base and in right field and went 2-for-3 with three RBIs and a triple. I legged out a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth on what probably should have been the final out of the frame to give Wheatsville the 16-14 lead. All-Star second baseman Shannon Stott seemed to be in position to snag a sharp grounder, but it took flight at the last minute like a spooked quail over her right shoulder and into the outfield.

While I (4-for-5, 3 runs, 2 RBI) hollered myself hoarse urging the runner ahead of me to run like hell, the All-Stars scrambled to get the ball back to the infield. Travis Rinehart raced from third base to take the throw at the plate, but it was off to the first-base side, allowing me to score safely in a cloud of dust. “Why are you picking on me? I thought we were friends,” Shannon Stott asked after the play.

After Rinehart (5-for-6, 5 runs, 3 RBI) and Bartnett had back-to-back homers in the first inning to give the All-Stars a 2-0 lead, Wheatsville scored 10 runs in the first two innings and led most of the game.

Emo’s Lounge Gets Deadline Win Against The Austin Chronicle, 23-22
Kevin Worksatemos went 4-for-5 with a home run and the game-winning hit in the ninth inning as the reloaded Emo’s Lounge team stole a stunner from The Austin Chronicle, 23-22, on March 10. Trailing 17-22, Emo’s rallied for six runs, capped by Worksatemos’ single to drive in Adudenamed Corsello. Corsello (3-for-5, double, 2 RBI) knotted the game at 22 with his own single a batter earlier. Worksatemos’ also had a solo homer in the sixth.

Emo’s had seven consecutive hits to start the inning, including a 2-run triple by Disguy Schlamb (4-for-5, 3B, 4 RBIs) which wiped the long faces off the loungers and had them believing they could win the ballgame after blowing a 17-11 lead in the top of the eighth. The Austin Chronicle played their Spitting Cobra-style softball: blind your opponents with their own magnificence by giving up a big inning early, stay within reach as they stumble around the field for a few innings and then … well, it can get kind of nasty.

Mike “the Monster” Bartnett kicked off an 8-run Chronicle rally with a solo home run in the top of the eighth. Three batters and three singles later, Travis Rinehart hit a single to drive in Bartnett (3-for-5, 3 runs, 3B). Billy Chrondude (6-for-6, 6 runs, 2B (3), 3B, 6 RBIs), Michael King and Doug Freeman had back-to-back-to-back doubles for a 19-17 Chronicle lead.

The Chronicle held Emo’s scoreless in the bottom of the eighth and struck three more times in the top of the final frame. Rinehart (3-for-5, 4 runs) had a sacrifice fly, and King (5-for-6, 2 2B, 6 RBI) and Freeman had back-to-back singles for the last two runs and a 5-run Chronicle lead.

Whozis Sabala – an offseason addition to the loungers from Portland, Ore. (I think) – led Emo’s batters, going 4-for-5 with 4 RBIs. Emo’s captain Guilty Dave lost his billowing beard but apparently didn’t lose a step from a late-season ankle injury last year. He went 4-for-4 with 2 RBIs. Although it was just a scrimmage, the win couldn’t have come at a better time for the Emo’s squad, whose future was uncertain after former captain Joe Holzheimer moved over to Transmission and started an expansion team, New Brohemia.

Some key players from Emo’s 2008 team, including All-Star Brian Campbell and pitcher Mark Twistworthy, also left for New Brohemia. There were rumors New Brohemia was going to be the ASL equivalent of the 1997 Florida Marlins, who are alleged to “have bought the World Series.” I’ll just let you know, Joe says it ain’t so and so, unfortunately, does our next game.

Waterloo Records Pummels New Brohemia 27-11
This game reminded me of Baseball Bugs (1946), which was one of my favorite cartoons to watch. I liked Bugs Bunny as the lone fan of the aged Tea Totallers who take on the Gashouse Gorillas and a 96-run deficit to single-handedly win the ballgame.

There was no happy ending for New Brohemia. No one stopped the conga line of Gashouse Gorillas smacking homer after homer.

Waterloo’s top six batters were unstoppable. Bobby Leath (who recently defected from the Chronicle squad to the Waterloo team), Paul , Edmund LeStrange, Charles, Chris Anderson, and Patrick Floyd batted for a combined .800 average with six doubles, five triples, and three homers for 21 runs batted in. Bobby Leath (5-for-6, 4 runs, 4 RBIs) had a three-run homer as part of Waterloo’s 7-run seventh inning.

Charles (6-for-6, 5 runs, 4 RBIs) had solo homers in the third and the ninth innings for Waterloo. He tried to leg out a homer in the first inning on a deep ball to left field, but was thrown out at home by New Brohemia third baseman Brian Campbell.

New Brohemia jumped out to a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the first inning, but it was the last lead they would have. They stayed within two until the sixth inning when Waterloo put the game out of reach with four runs. Brian Campbell went 4-for-4 with four runs, three RBIs, and two homers for New Brohemia. In the eighth inning, he raced around the bases and narrowly avoided a tag at home plate for his second home run and New Brohemia’s last run.

Rye Bredd went 3-for-4 with three runs, two RBIs, a double, and a catch that Waterloo’s Chris Anderson called “the best I’ve seen in [recreational?] softball.” It was either in the second or fifth inning and probably a ball hit by Waterloo’s Don D that was a towering pop-up to left field. Bredd stayed with the wind-blown ball, which bounced out of his glove. He made a rolling, bare-handed catch for the out.

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More Alternative Softball League
C3 Presents Beats New Brohemia, Advances to ASL Championship
C3 Presents Beats New Brohemia, Advances to ASL Championship
'Say it ain’t so, Joe!'

Mike Crissey, Oct. 30, 2009

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Mike Crissey, Aug. 14, 2009

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