AFPC completes undefeated softball season with championship
By Thomas Warner, Wingspread staff writer
/ Published September 29, 2008
RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
Falling behind by five runs in Wednesday's intramural championship game represented clear and present danger for an Air Force Personnel Center softball team trying to complete a rare, undefeated season.
"Some people on our team got a little tight at that point, I think, but we ended up just going back to basics ... doing what worked all year," said outfielder Mike Smith.
That meant turning up its offense and taking the lead for good by sending 18 players to the plate in the second and third innings. AFPC got a single and pair of home runs from leadoff hitter Greg Sevening, plus 3-of-4 hitting from Smith enroute to a 17-9 victory over 563rd Instructors.
The diamond championship was the fifth in the last seven years of at Randolph for AFPC, which got at least one hit from each of its 11 starters.
"The Instructors got off to that great start and it was all with legitimate hits," said Greg Hastings, AFPC head coach. "We trailed in two games earlier this season - to Fire Department and to the Instructors - by at least five runs but we always managed to rally.
"This was a special season because it's hard to go undefeated in slow-pitch softball. Every team is going to have off nights and you just rarely see teams that can win all their games."
The plot was interesting in the first inning after 563rd Instructors (12-4) got a leadoff triple by Chad Nishizuka and had four straight baserunners thereafter. Erik Fredmonsky, Brian Benningfield and Clint Michaelson each singled and scored, along with runs from Nishizuka and Chris Collins to build the brief advantage.
AFPC (16-0) countered with a single from Sevening and a double by Todd Faber before Smith launched a home run to bring AFPC within 5-3 after one frame.
Pop-ups and lineouts in the second and third, with just one base hit and no runs scored, spelled doom for the Instructors. In that same stretch, AFPC scored 11 runs.
"We started strong but sort of tapered off in the middle innings just like we did several times in the regular season," said Benningfield.
Nishizuka, who had went 2-for-3 and made a dazzling, late-game catch in the outfield, said it was nothing he hadn't seen before.
"We've played them four times and they always hit it in the right spot," he said. "They just started hitting into the gaps, over and over, like they always do."
Rob Thomas, Faber, Jim Miller, Bobby Ross, Jason Beaudoin, Sean How all sliced balls across the Rambler Field turf during the mid-game onslaught. Sevening, a late addition to the team after PCSing in late summer, slapped his crucial home runs in the second and third innings.
"What really helped us tonight and throughout the year was stellar defense," said Hastings. "Rob Thomas made a great catch out there and Vince Colo has been steady for us all season."
Colo singlehandedly halted an Instructors' rally with a runner aboard and two already home in the fifth, making a running grab of a lazy left-field flyball then zooming a throw to third and doubling-up a baserunner.
"Softball is a hitting game but it's also about knowing ahead of time where to go with the ball if it comes your way," Colo said. "Playing well and playing smart are things we've been doing all year."
Instructors' defense allowed just one AFPC run to score in the fourth and fifth frames combined, but the deficit was already so wide that not even a two-run Benningfield homer mattered.
"We knew about these guys and we razz each other all game long whenever we play," said Collins, the Instructors' head coach. "We played them to a one-run game early in the year but some of the other games weren't close. That's a good AFPC team. They base-hit you to death."
AFPC won four straight games to capture the tournament title, beating 12th Services 23-2, topping 12th Medical Group 13-2, stopping 563rd Instructors 20-10 on Monday, then beating them again for the crown.
"The motto among all our people is 'AFPC leads the way!' and I guess AFPC will lead the way in softball for another year," said Chief Master Sgt. Richard Kaiser, AFPC Command Chief. "There are a lot of people in our organization that are extremely proud of this group. We salute 563rd Instructors, who had to play and to win three straight days to make it to the finals."
Scott Fritts had multiple hits for AFPC in the win while the Instructors got two raps apiece from Eric Gutierrez and Josh DeBoy.