Southern Wisconsin MABL, 45+ Division
Sand Crabs 3, Crawfords 0
‘Sand Crabs Notch Five Straight Titles’
Submitted by Steve Hill, Sand Crabs ‘Chief Writing Officer’
It was an overcast, humid, but a rather nice fall day on Sunday, October 3, 2021, for the championship game of the MABL of Southern Wisconsin 45+ league. The Sand Crabs faced off at East Madison “Stadium” against the Crawfords as what will go down in history as one of the best, or at least fastest, championship battles in MABL of Southern WI 45+ history. You know how some games just seem to go on, and on, and on, with walks, errors, pitching changes, and the like? Yeah, well this was not one of those games. The game started at 12:00 PM sharp, and by 2:15, a complete game had been played, and a champion crowned.
But wait, there’s more! This was a game for the ages. All 11 fans in attendance would agree.
Having paid his dues, time after time, Randy Gaber tickled the ivory rectangle for the Sand Crabs, matching up against Shad Fanta for the Crawfords. Each pitcher threw a gem. The catchers were Brian Buol for the Crabs, who has had his share of sand kicked in his face and Paul Meyer for the Crawfords. Each backstop would announce his presence with authority at the plate today, my friends. Buol, fresh off a rehab stint in Triple-A Albuquerque, was back in top form after taking a 65 MPH fastball to the right elbow two weeks ago. When asked what he owned his speedy recovery, he just smiled and said, “Clean Living”.
The visiting Crawfords mounted a threat in the first when right fielder Dave Weidenhamer reached on an error but was retired when second baseman Mike Starshak grounded into a fielder’s choice. Paul Meyer roped a single to left to advance Starshak to second base, but the threat was ended on a fielder’s choice by Fanta. The Crawfords were able to advance runners to second in the first, second, and sixth, but not until the ninth did they visit the hot corner.
In the Crabs half of the first, lead-off hitter and left fielder Chris McGill took his bows and doubled to right-center, went to third on a fly ball by shortstop Mike Schoonveld, and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Gaber, who acknowledged the joyous crowd with a curtain call.
The Sand Crabs clawed for a couple more in the second when utility man Jim Pliner singled, bringing fame and fortune and everything that goes with it, and was subsequently advanced to second on a single by center fielder Jason Himebauch. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch and JP scored on a deep sacrifice fly to right by Buol. Third baseman Tim “Mackles” McInernay took a free pass to first, then stole second. While this was occurring, Himebauch snuck home, nearly unnoticed. 3-0 Crabs.
That was it. All of the scoring was complete by the end of the second inning.
The Crawfords made things interesting in the top of the ninth. Third baseman Jeff Knight laced a deep shot to left field, but McGill was able to track down the ball and make a Superman catch while diving toward the fence for the second out. He certainly did not appear to have landed on a bed of roses, nor was his path to the ball a pleasure cruise but this was one of the finest catches this writer has witnessed in all of his years of playing and watching baseball. Shortstop Andy Winn singled and was advanced to third on a single by first baseman Sean Michael Dargan. Gaber then struck out left fielder Steve Kilberg to end the game, sealing the fifth consecutive championship for the Sand Crabs.
Meyer, Winn, and Dargan had two hits apiece for the Crawfords and Weidenhamer had one.
Pliner had three hits for the Sand Crabs, followed by McGill and Buol with two apiece, including a double for each of them. Schoonveld, Gaber, and Himebauch each had one knock.
Fanta went the distance for the Crawfords, holding the Crabs to three runs on 10 hits, and walking only one. He induced eight pop-ups to the infield and a whole lotta fielder’s choices that frustrated the clawed crusaders.
Gaber threw all nine for the Sand Crabs, scattering seven hits, striking out six, and walking none.
Refreshments were had, reminiscing was done, and stories were told as the championship trophy was passed around Slice’s for the traditional pour from the glove that signifies the end of the baseball season. The Sand Crabs are looking forward to resting their weary bones and recovering from numerous injuries and various maladies over the off-season.
We all want to collectively thank the umpires, league officials and organizers, our spouses, significant others, mothers, fathers, children, pets, and anyone else who helped facilitate our ability to play a child’s game as somewhat older men. While our physical health may take a few hits during the year, the mental health benefits of this camaraderie are immeasurable, and we look forward to seeing you all again next year.