Southern Wisconsin MABL 45+ Division
Submitted by Kevin Mack, Southern Wisconsin Grays
The Grays began the 2016 MABL season with high expectations. Champions in 2014 they felt that one bad day against the eventual champion Bears had cost them the prize in 2015.
A 10-6 win in the season-opener against the defending regular season champion Crawfords showed them to be clicking on all cylinders. In game two however they encountered a new hurdle: the expansion Sand Crabs, who humbled the short-handed Grays, 13-2.
This would be an unfortunate theme to the Grays’ season as they moved out to a 6-2 first half, both losses coming against the new powerhouse. Then injuries began to take a toll. Offensive MVP Tom Hopkins missed the entire second half with an oblique injury and Pitcher/Shortstop Greg Gaber played as well as he could with a painful groin pull. Left-handed Pitcher/Catcher and big hitter Dave Keene missed eight games with a back injury which eventually required surgery.
Still the remaining players soldiered on, augmented by the return of Kevin Mack who missed the first half due to work obligations. As the tournament began they appeared to be hitting their stride again and they knocked off the Bears (now called the Brewers) in a rematch of last season’s semi-final game, 11-6. But waiting for them in the championship round was their new nemesis, the Sand Crabs, who had nearly run the table in the regular season, going 15-1. On that final Sunday the Sand Crabs showed why they were undisputed 2016 champions, scoring five runs in the first two innings and holding the Grays to just two hits in a 7-0 whitewashing.
High points of the season were their 5-1 stretch from May 8th through July 10th and some stellar individual performances, including:
Bob Schwalb’s 31 hits and 18 stolen bases in 17 games
Glenn Griffin’s 18 hits and 22 steals in 16 games
Greg Gaber’s 16 RBI in 16 games
Dave Keene and Andy Sutherland, brothers-in-law who each hit over .400, and finally
Milt Friend who completed his 73rd season of playing baseball, and finally called it a career at age 80.