It is said that slowpitch softball is truly a hitter’s game. But don’t tell that to American Legion, which flashed some serious leather in Friday’s double-elimination playoff 11-1 win over defending Firecracker Shootout softball tournament champion Club Red.
Legion turned what is believed to be the second triple play in the tournament, a bang-bang-bang around-the-horn play, since it moved from its original home of Torii Station to Camp Foster in 1995. In the fifth inning, Club Red put runners on first and second with nobody out and Chad Thomas at the plate, and Legion third baseman Dan Miller crept one step toward the third-base line to cut off a possible extra-base hit.
Thomas hit a sharp one-hop grounder to Miller, who caught it on third base, fired to middle infielder Tommy Meinhart covering second (Legion was using a five-man infield) and he threw to first baseman Jeremy Griffin III to complete the triple play.
“I pitched it in on his hands,” Legion moundsman Matt Campbell said. “Dan made the perfect play, Tommy made the perfect turn and we beat the runner (Thomas) to first by two steps). It was the absolute perfect play.”
“That play was right on point,” said Kevin Davis, the home-plate umpire.
Coach Larry Borum’s Club Red team turned a similar play a few tournaments ago, another 5-4-3-er, only with the bases loaded. He said he tells his team repeatedly that if they play solid defense, they’ll win games, but they hurt themselves with errors against Legion.
“You make all those errors, gave them seven runs,” Borum said.
To his credit, Thomas in Club Red’s next game, an 11-1 win over Cobra Kai, had three hits and two RBIs.
It was the second triple play in which Miller has been involved, the last time on the wrong end in 2004 at the Pacificwide in Korea. He was coaching third base for Legion when Aaron Frederick lined one to first baseman Dexter High, who tagged the runner coming off first, then throwing home to nail a sliding runner from third. “Nothing you could do,” Miller said.
It’s also said that the best umpires are the ones who remain anonymous. For Davis, that would be an exercise in futility, the way he calls that rare third strike in slowpitch softball.
The Amateur Softball Association suggests that batters enter the box with an automatic 1-and-1 count to speed up tournaments. Davis will call strike two on a batter, scuff the dirt with each foot and get into a lower crouch. If a third strike reaches the plate – only called, not swinging – Davis then turns slowly, hopping on one foot and selling the call with the enthusiasm of a preacher.
“I feel it needs to be done,” said Davis, 42, a GS-9 from Rochester, N.Y., working for Okinawa Navy MWR. “Anybody who lets the ball go by like that needs to be punched out.”