Benchwarmers force winner-take-all finale with RedwingsChampionship game will be Aug. 26 at Camden Snow Bowl
Camden — Perhaps still feeling the sting of back-to-back championship game losses the previous two years, it would have been easy for the Knox County Benchwarmers to feel sorry for themselves, and perhaps, even give up, after again falling into the playoff loser's bracket earlier than expected for the third straight season.
However, the No. 2 Benchwarmers refused to stop fighting and that persistence, perseverance, and strong overall play, has them one win from securing an elusive Camden Adult Coed Softball League championship.
Knox County (14-6 overall, 5-1 in the playoffs) forced a winner-take-all finale with No. 1 Free Press Redwings (15-3, 3-1 in the playoffs) with a solid 10-4 victory Monday night, Aug. 25 at the Camden Snow Bowl.
The fast-moving affair took only 65 minutes to complete.
The Benchwarmers, who have won four straight elimination games in the postseason, gained control early Monday, as they took advantage of fielding miscues by the Redwings and also came up with key hits — and played sometimes spectacular defense — to secure the victory.
The Benchwarmers had lost to the Redwings in the previous two league championship games and, thus, Knox County wanted to get off to a strong start in a game they had to win and the two-time defending champion Redwings could afford to lose.
The deciding game in the double-elimination tournament will be Tuesday night, Aug. 26 at 6 p.m. at the same venue.
The previous two games this season between the Redwings and Benchwarmers were competitive, with Free Press winning 8-5 and 9-7. Monday's first "championship" game was not close, due to solid all-around play by Knox County and uncharacteristically sloppy fielding by Free Press.
The Free Press Redwings include Lucas Brower (manager), Mike Curtis, Kyle Weaver, Chris MacLean, Mark Merchant, Colin Stone, Jon Moro, Fritz Burke, Doug Curtis, Reade Brower, Marie Lufkin, Katie Benedict, Juliette Laaka, Jessica Fossett, Andrea Curtis, Mackenzie Gassett, Jenn Shook, Elena Bertocci, Lyn Tesseyman and Alison Weaver.
The Knox County Benchwarmers include Lee Smith (manager), Heath Smith, Becca Smith, Betsy Wedge, Tim Jackson, Jason Yates, Sara Cullity, Jay Young, Chris Burns, Andy Carter, Amy Johnson, Aaron Craney, Nicole Craney, Daphne Ripley and Erin Chase.
On Monday, the Benchwarmers scored three runs in the first inning, four in the second and three in the fourth. For the 'Wings, two runs crossed the plate in the first and one in each of the sixth and seventh stanzas.
Both teams made fielding mistakes but also turned in sensational defensive plays. Heath Smith pitched for Knox County and Lufkin and Lucas Brower for Free Press.
Leading the Benchwarmers offensively were Young (2 his, 2 runs), Cullity (run), Yates (3 hits, run), Jackson (hit), Lee Smith (double, single), Burns (2 hits), Becca Smith (run), Heath Smith (3 hits, 2 runs), Wedge (hit, run) and Carter (2 hits, 2 runs).
For the Redwings, Laaka (hit, run), Moro (3 hits, 2 runs), Weaver (hit), Mike Curtis (2 hits), Mackenzie Gassett (hit), MacLean (2 hits), Doug Curtis (run), Merchant (2 hits) and Stone (hit) keyed the charge.
Both teams turned several nifty double plays during the game.
One of the highlights for Free Press came in the first inning when, trailing 3-0, they loaded the bases and cleanup hitter Lucas Brower hit a long fly ball to left field. The ball was caught but the runners at third and second tagged up and scored on the play, including the lightning-quick Moro from second.
It was 3-2 after one inning, but the Benchwarmers took control from that point, with solid hitting and help from Free Press fielding miscues. Knox County led 7-2 after 1.5 innings.
In the game, fine plays were made by both teams, several from Benchwarmer third baseman Jackson and Redwing third baseman MacLean and shortstop Mike Curtis. Knox County pitcher Heath Smith even snagged a vicious liner off the bat of Lucas Brower and Jackson ended the game with a superb backhand stab and tossed out Fritz Burke at first base.
The eight-team, double-elimination tournament had been played at the Camden Snow Bowl, Lincolnville Central School and Jaycee Park on Old County Road in Rockland, however, Lincolnville and Jaycee Park, have been taken out of the mix for the final games at the Snow Bowl.
The Benchwarmers also are the defending champions in the Waldoboro Adult Coed Softball League, which is played in the fall. That league began its regular-season games on Sunday, Aug. 24.
Previous playoff results
No. 2 Knox County Benchwarmers 8, No. 3 Blue Sky Cantina 7.
No. 2 Knox County Benchwarmers 12, No. 8 Schooners 6.
No. 1 Free Press Redwings 9, No. 3 Blue Sky Cantina 5.
No. 2 Knox County Benchwarmers 10, No. 6 French & Brawn 2.
No. 3 Blue Sky Cantina 13, No. 2 Knox County Benchwarmers 6.
No. 8 Schooners 15, No. 5 Feeners' Pride 4.
No. 1 Free Press Redwings 11, No. 5 Feeners' Pride 5.
No. 8 Schooners won by forfeit over No. 4 Willey Wharf.
No. 6 French & Brawn 15, No. 7 Northeast Concrete 4.
No. 2 Knox County Benchwarmers 16, No. 7 Northeast Concrete 3.
No. 3 Blue Sky Cantina 8, No. 6 French & Brawn 1.
No. 1 Free Press Redwings 15, No. 8 Schooners 0.
No. 5 Feeners' Pride 6, No. 4 Willey Wharf 4.
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Ken Waltz has been member of the media 30 years and has received hundreds of Maine Press Association and New England Press Association awards for his writing, photography and page design. He studied journalism at the University of Maine in Orono. He lives in South Thomaston with his wife, Sarah. The couple has an adult son, Brandon.
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