(AP) Allen, TX – For the second time in just 4 weeks, the Peanuts Men’s D and E League Softball team showed it has a ‘flair for the dramatic’, rallying from a deficit in its final at bat against El Fuego to win 8-5, in D League play last Thursday night at Ford Fields in Allen.
The dramatic win ended a three-game slide for the Peanuts and was the first of two wins on the night. The Nuts completed the rare Thursday sweep, run-ruling the Bombers, 17-5, in E League play during the second half of its two-game set.
The two wins put the Peanuts (2-4) on the season and in 4th place in the D League and (4-2) and in a tie for 2nd place in the E League.
The Peanuts have opted to utilize the summer league to play, once again, in both softball leagues, creating unique doubleheaders for the squad each Thursday. Last year, the Nuts swept the E League going undefeated on its way to the league title, while that same team failed to qualify for the playoffs in the more competitive D League.
“This is the second summer we have decided to play in both leagues,” said Manager Matt Tenner. “The ability to play in 2 leagues provides us the opportunity to develop our players, win occasionally, and play pretty close to twice as many games.”
While the D League game provided the sort of excitement that one has come to expect of the Peanuts, the game was perhaps won with the coin toss. For the first time this season, Tenner won the coin toss with the help of junior Peanut Gallery Member, Luke Cramer.
“I just did my best and called ‘heads’ loudly and clearly,” said Cramer. “On a night as big as this, I was just glad I could contribute in some small way.”
Game 1 began rather uneventfully as the Nuts and El Fuego held each other scoreless through 3.5 innings. In the bottom of the 4th inning, the Nuts finally broke through, scoring on a solo homerun by left fielder, Mark Haisler to lead 1-0.
The 5th inning was a reflection of the first three, as neither team was able to score. El Fuego battled back in the top of the 6th inning, scoring 2 runs to take the lead 2-1. In the bottom of the 6th, the Nuts responded scoring 3 runs of its own and regaining the lead in this see-saw game 4-2. The Peanuts were led by hits by right fielder Brady Cole, Tenner, shortstop Paul Sebert, left center fielder Chris Baker, and catcher Rick Saavedra.
Not to be outdone, El Fuego plated 3 runs in the top of the 7th inning to retake the lead, once again, 5-4.
Things looked bleak for the mighty Peanuts in the bottom of the 7th inning, but its fortunes changed quickly as the Nuts rattled off 3 consecutive hits by third baseman Roger Alvarez, catcher and DH Mark Mason, and an RBI single by Cole, scoring Alvarez and tying the game.
With the game tied, two Peanuts on base, and one out, Tenner strode to the plate where he crushed a deep fly ball into the hot Allen night, clearing the left field fence for the walk-off, 3 run homerun ending the game 8-5. As the ball was hit, the Nuts leapt out of its dugout mobbing their skipper for his heroic effort.
“Guacamole!” shouted Pitcher Rick Robinson as Tenner’s ball landed in the lacrosse field behind Ford Field #3. “I knew the avacado was hot!”
Sources close to the team and speaking on the condition of anonymity said that Robinson’s ‘guacamole’ remark was, in-fact, not insensitive, but referred to Tenner’s new avacado colored bat that he received as a gift from his team for his recent 40th birthday.
“Trey-trey [Tenner] has never owned a bat like this,” said bench Coach Mark Mason. “The Avacado is end loaded, 34 inches, 28.5 ounces, and legal as a beagle.”
Tenner was animated in his post-game remarks when asked about his game ending homerun, channeling his inner Mike Gundy saying, “I expected it. I’m a man. I’m 40!”
While both teams were locked in a tight defensive battle most of the night, Sebert, Cole, and Haisler tallied the defensive plays of the game.
Sebert preserved the shut out in the top of the second inning as he moved swiftly to his left to snag a sharply hit ground ball up the middle. In one smooth motion, Sebert fielded the ball, stepped on second, and completed the unassisted 6-3 double play.
In the top of the third with one out and runners on first and second base, the El Fuego lead-off hitter smashed a long fly ball to right field.
Cole, eyeing the ball, immediately backpedaled toward the fence like a giraffe in high heels to make a snow cone catch, forcing the El Fuego runners back to their bags and preserve the shutout.
“That catch definitely saved 2 runs,” said left centerfielder Chris Baker. “Without ‘The Blur’ [Cole] flashing the leather we would have been down 2-0 easily.”
Haisler’s defensive play came on what appeared to be a routine fly ball to left field. As soon as the ball was hit, however, this play became anything but routine.
Haisler cut quickly to his left. Unfortunately, Haisler’s right foot slipped, causing Haisler to go down on one knee and scrambling to regain his footing. Fortunately for the Nuts, the ball was hit directly to him where he was able to extend his glove and catch the ball, still on one knee.
Super slow-motion replay revealed that while there was significant movement on the part of Haisler’s arms and legs as he flailed wildly, Haisler moved exactly 6 inches from his original position, went down on one knee, and caught the ball.
“Haisler looked like he was shot in the leg,” said pitcher Rick Robinson. “He was standing and then just crumpled down on one knee. If the ball was hit anywhere but directly to him, they would still be running.”
Haisler came up limping on the play, but remained in the game. The Peanuts training staff checked out the left fielder in-between innings and his status is expected to be week to week.
The Nuts escaped the night relatively healthy, with the possible exception of third baseman, turned first baseman, Ben Nelson. Nelson, playing in place of regular first baseman Rusty Dubree, was injured throwing practice ground balls prior to the start of the first inning.
Nelson, who is typically on the delivering end of an errant throw, tried to dig a ball out of the dirt thrown by recent AAA call up, Roger Alvarez. While the other infielders were lobbing the ball back lazily to Nelson, Alvarez fired the ball on a low trajectory at Nelson’s ankles.
Unfortunately, Nelson opted to use his shin, rather than his glove, to stop the speeding softball. The result was a knot on his leg that immediately swelled to the point where the umpire felt obligated to get him an ice pack.
Alvarez, a 5 tool third baseman, was called up to the senior squad due to his quick glove, footwork, and rocket arm. The Nuts expect good things from this rookie and Alvarez is rumored to be vying for a full-time position this fall as it is expected that everyday infielder, Heath VanKirk, will return to Fort Worth to play in the Greek developmental leagues.
Robinson pitched a solid game on the night striking out two El Fuego batters while issuing no walks.
In Game 2, the Peanuts jumped on the Bombers in the top of the first inning, scoring 7 runs to lead 7-0. The Bombers were short-handed, playing just 9 players, creating an out every time the 10th spot in the order came to the plate.
From the first inning, it was clear that the Nuts were far the superior team on this night, creating an opportunity for the Peanuts to change its lineup, allowing players to play in non-traditional positions.
Saavedra made his pitching debut adeptly mixing his knuckleball with traditional pitches. Saavedra struck out 2 Bomber hitters on the night, while issuing 2 walks.
In addition to the change in pitcher, the non-traditional line up saw the infield staffed with Haisler at catcher, Robinson at 3rd, Baker at short, Mason at second, and Alvarez at first. Tenner took over left field duties along-side Sebert, Nelson, and Cole.
The Peanuts dominated the game from start to finish and led 17-2 entering the final Bomber at bat. Despite the non-traditional lineup, the Peanuts held onto a 12 run lead allowing just 3 Bomber runs to complete the scoring 17-5 and ending the game via run rule.
The Peanuts expect to return to its more traditional lineup this week as it faces the Hit Squad and Dad Bods at 7:30pm and 9:30pm respectively this Thursday, July 26th at Ford Fields in Allen.