Friday, September 14, 2007

Pictures from Championship Night

Middlesex Panthers, 2007

The girls

The guys

The guys, lookin' tough

Animal is OUR Homeboy

One-on-one flip cup

Flip cup practice

The Red Balls hanging out

Feel the love

Feel it again

Panthers shut out in championship game

The fairy tale is over.

The Middlesex Panthers, a rag-tag bunch of first-time kickballers, lost the WAKA Massachusetts Commonwealth Division championship to the Red Balls, an experienced team of seasoned veterans, 4-0 last night.

The Panthers celebrated their strong showing in their inaugural season with a final throwdown at league bar Joe Sent Me, where the Balls were conspicuously absent. After the game, Panthers players were overheard talking about their desire to seek redemption against the Balls at the flip cup table, which likely struck fear into the hearts of the Balls players and was the reason they did not show up.

"I'm really proud of this team," Panthers co-captain Colin Steele said. "We started off as a group of loosely connected strangers, and we finished as a team -- a team of less loosely connected strangers. That's what kickball is all about, and that's what I will take with me for the rest of my life.

"Oh, and I'd also like to thank the lord and savior Jesus Christ, without whom our second-place finish in a small, suburban adult kickball league would not have been possible."

The Panthers and Balls had a scoreless battle through two innings, but the game unraveled in the third when the Balls struck for three runs, despite strong defensive outings from right fielder Fran Blanchard and center fielder Brian "The Say Hey Kid" Kraemer. The Panthers continued to sputter on offense, while the Balls added another run to seal the victory.

Many of the Panthers players have joined the Last Ones Picked, a team in the WAKA Massachusetts Minutemen Division in Somerville, for a fall league. They include Kraemer, star pitcher Eric Pierce, second basewoman Amanda Wong and the injury-riddled Casey Boardman. Steele is also on the team but has relinquished his co-captain duties.

"Thank God," he said. "I can't stand all these f#$%ing cliches."

Friday, September 7, 2007

Pierce rolls no-kicker as Panthers earn finals berth

Pitcher Eric Pierce rolled the first no-kicker in WAKA Massachusetts Commonwealth Division history, leading the Middlesex Panthers to a 2-0 victory over Animal Is My Homeboy in last night's semifinals.

The win vaulted the Panthers into next week's championship game, where they will play their archrivals, the Red Balls, who defeated the Root Down in a darkness-shortened rock-paper-scissors tiebreaker.

"So, Red Balls, we meet again," said Panthers co-captain Colin Steele, who had been trying in vain to include a "Spaceballs" quote in this blog all season up to this point.

Pierce scored the Panthers' first run in the first inning and Blake "Slam" Dunkel added another run in the third inning. The Panthers, who smell like a turd covered in burnt hair, threatened to score more in the fourth inning, but Brian Kraemer ran -- er, more like steamrolled -- past teammate Amanda Hines on the base paths when he mistakenly thought she was called out at third. Hines then stepped off the base and was tagged out.

"I think we're going to have to equip our base coaches with tasers or something to keep B.K. under control on the base paths next game," Steele said. "It was like the Running of the Bulls Fan out there. Get it, 'cause he's from Chicago?"

The Panthers have a long history with the Red Balls, splitting two controversial games with them this year. On Aug. 9, the Panthers won 9-5 -- a score disputed by the Red Balls, who said the Panthers only scored eight runs, even though nobody on the Red Balls was keeping official score. The Red Balls then won the Aug. 30 rematch after they asked to end the game, leading 6-4 in the fourth inning, because of darkness.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Breaking news: Panthers earn No. 1 seed

The Middlesex Panthers are the top seed for the WAKA Massachusetts Commonwealth Division playoffs, according to brackets released just moments ago.

The Panthers, Red Balls and Root Down all tied for first place with 5-3 records, but the Panthers got the No. 1 seed by virtue of their +19 run differential. The Red Balls earned the No. 2 seed with a +13 differential, while Root Down finished in third with +8, according to Panthers infielder and league statistician Yuval "Take This Job And" Shavit. Animal Is My Homeboy, who had a 1-7 record, finished with -40 differential.

The Only Four begins with semifinal action Thursday night as the Panthers take on Animal Is My Homeboy, whom they defeated three times this season by a combined score of 15-5.

"Animal Is My Homeboy is a very good team, despite their record," said Panthers co-captain Colin Steele, who was reached just minutes ago while studying tape of his team's previous games. "They've played us tough every game -- well, except that 10-3 blowout -- and we can't look past them in the semifinals. We have to take these playoffs one game at a time, give 110 percent and fight tooth-and-nail if we want to beat them."

The Red Balls and Root Down will play in the other semifinal, with the winners facing off for the championship the following week.

Red Balls, Mother Nature beat Panthers

The Middlesex Panthers lost their final game of the regular season last night, falling 6-4 to the Red Balls in WAKA Massachusetts Commonwealth Division action.

The game was chock full o' controversy, most notably the heated argument over whether to continue playing the game as darkness fell over Lowell Field. The Red Balls -- who, coincidentally, fell victim to a Panthers come-from-behind rally the last time the two teams played -- asked to end the game with a 6-4 lead in the middle of the fourth inning. The Panthers, optimistic they could stage another rally, declined at first but eventually agreed that it was dangerous to keep playing.

"I didn't want to risk an injury to one of our players and jeopardize our chances in the playoffs," said Panthers co-captain Colin Steele, who went 0-for-2 with two errors. "Oh, who am I kidding? I just wanted to get the game over and get to the bar. ... Also, I really sucked tonight."

The Panthers, who are quite pungent, put up a strong fight despite missing many of their stars, including starting pitcher David Bergeron, team Canadian Nick Toth and Matt "Frenchie" Gervais. Blake "Slam" Dunkel, Paul Liberman, Yuval "Take This Job And" Shavit and Eric Pierce helped put two runs on the board in the second inning. The same quartet led another two-run charge in the fourth and ultimately ultimate inning.

Despite the acrimonious and anticlimactic ending to the game, the Red Balls and Panthers put aside their differences at league bar Joe Sent Me, where they played flip cup in peace and harmony.

"I never really liked the Balls," Steele said. "But after a few beers, it turns out they're not that bad. ... Wait, that totally came out wrong."

The Panthers' loss, coupled with the Root Down's victory over Animal Is My Homeboy, means there's a three-way tie for the regular season championship. The Panthers, Red Balls and Root Down all finished with 5-3 records, while Animal Is My Homeboy went 1-7. The three first-place teams are all anxiously awaiting a ruling from the commissioner's office to determine seedings for the playoffs, which begin next week.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Panthers move into first place with 9-0 win

The Middlesex Panthers avenged their only two losses of the season last night, defeating Root Down 9-0 in WAKA Massachusetts Commonwealth Division action.

The win put the 5-2 Panthers alone in first place for the first time this season and netted them at least a share of the regular-season championship. They can win it outright with a victory over the Red Balls next week.

"By looking at the score, you'd think our offense won the game for us," Panthers co-captain Colin Steele said. "But we made some great, smart plays in the field, too. So it was really all on our defense. ... Well, not all on our defense, 'cause even though we shut them out, we did have to score in order to win. ... And come to think of it, we did score a lot of runs. So I guess I'd say it was about 50-50 offense and defense."

The Panthers started the game off strong with four consecutive hits from Eric Pierce, Amanda "Porn Star" Wong, Nick Toth and David Bergeron. They took a 3-0 lead into the second inning, where they staged their patented two-out rally en route to five more runs -- four of which came on a grand slam by Pierce, the first in team history.

"If I were playing us, I'd be afraid to get two outs on us," Steele said. "That's when we inflict all our damage. I know you have to get two outs before you can get three and end the inning, but maybe you can just get one and wait for a double play opportunity. I really think that's the only way you can stop us."

The game, however, was far from flawless for the Panthers -- who, I'm gonna be honest with you, smell like pure gasoline. Only one kicker reached base in the final two innings, and Steele is planning to consult the team's equipment manager to get some new footwear for infielder Yuval "Take This Job And" Shavit.

"Every time he tried to stop short, he just slid and fell over," Steele said. "Maybe he'd be better on ice skates. Stupid hockey player."

The Panthers' game next week against Red Balls is a make-up date for the July 19 game that was canceled because of rain. A win would clinch the top seed in the playoffs and a date with 1-6 Animal Is My Homeboy, who upset Red Balls last night in their first victory of the year.

At league bar Joe Sent Me after the game, female players from the Panthers and Animal Is My Homeboy were spotted celebrating their victories in their own unique way. When Panthers player Matt Gervais, who left the bar before said celebrations occurred, was informed of what he missed, he replied, "Oh boy." But, upon further reflection, he added, "It's passe at this point."

Monday, August 20, 2007

Panthers win, cure cancer

By Eric Pierce
Team historian

A 2-nil result over league punching bag, Animal is My Homeboy, on Thursday left the Middlesex Panthers feeling strong heading into the final stretch of the inaugural Waltham Commonwealth Kickball League season. For the second time this year, the Panthers were forced to negotiate terms in order to save themselves from forfeit due to a lack of female players. But, in the end, everyone was happy with the agreement that each run scored would see a donation to the Jimmy Fund from the players.

"It was nice," said Eric Pierce, Panthers first baseman and team historian. "It would have been nicer if the result had been a bit higher for both sides, but I think the kids down there at the hospital will appreciate our… [counting fingers]… [squinting in concentration]… [scribbling on a pad]… $48."

The Panthers were relieved in the bottom of the first inning when their fourth female player arrived at the field. As a result, they would no longer be forced to play a (wo)man down or suffer an automatic out each time the eighth kicker's spot came up in the order. But not all of the pre-game conditions were negated when the tardy player arrived. In a spontaneous and unprecedented moment of generosity, Pierce was heard shouting on the field, "All right! But the cancer [expletive] is still on!"

Yuval and Josh both provided the RBI power on Thursday, each bringing home Eric and Blake, respectively. Josh's run-scoring triple might have been a home run, had he not been "impeded" at second base by the Animals' diminutive Frenchwoman infielder. When contacted to ask how he had allowed a 5' woman slow him down on the base paths, Josh declined to comment.

Despite the adventurous base running, those two runs were all the Panthers needed to win the day, as a confident defense and effective pitching by team Canadian Nick Toth frustrated the Animals' lineup.

Next Thursday, the Panthers face the Root Down, the only team this season to have beaten the Panthers, even blanking them in their last outing. The Panthers will be hungry; hungry for roots. Having learned of some of the Root's secret tactics (not to mention the existence of a certain tattoo on one of the light blue team's players) at the bar on Thursday, the Panthers are even more confident that they can turn the tables on the only team thus far to have sent them home with a loss.