By Rob Potter
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS August 23, 2002 The millionaire Major League Baseball players who are threatening to strike at the end of the month should have been in White Sulphur Springs on Monday night.
Maybe then they would have recalled why they began playing the game in the first place while witnessing two determined teams of volunteer firefighters playing for the love of the game and displaying a competitive spirit.
And those teams the Smallwood-Mongaup Valley Volunteer Fire Department (SMVFD) and White Sulphur Springs Volunteer Fire Department (WSSVFD) battled for the Eastern Sullivan Volunteer Firefighters Softball League championship.
As is often the case in games featuring evenly-matched teams, the contest wasnt decided until the last inning.
With the score knotted at 7-7 in the bottom of the seventh, WSSVFDs Matt DeWitt tripled to left center field to lead off the frame. The next batter, Chad Roth, followed with a base hit to left field. DeWitt ran down the third base line and crossed home plate, where he was met by all of his excited teammates.
The 8-7 victory, coupled with WSSVFDs 10-9 win in the second game of the best-of-three championship series, gave WSSVFD the 2002 Eastern Sullivan Volunteer Firefighters Softball League title. The WSSVFD win on its home field which team members noted is excellently maintained by Kurt Scheibe also ended SMVFDs five-year reign as league champions.
(SMVFD won the first game of the series, 17-10, on August 12.)
The last couple of years we took second place to them, WSSVFD Player/Coach Mike Black said. So it was nice to win it.
But it wasnt easy for WSSVFD. The team, which also rallied for victory in the last inning of the second game of the series, had to withstand two SMVFD comebacks in the final innings.
In the bottom of the third, WSSVFD broke a 2-2 tie with a two-out rally. Ted Schwartz, Black and Tim Pellam all hit RBI singles to give WSSVFD a 5-2 cushion. But after Black hit a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth inning to boost the WSSVFD lead to 6-2, SMVFD rallied in the top of the sixth. The first three batters Jerry Donohue, Des Gonzales and Anthony Marceano all singled. Donohue came around to score on Marceanos base hit to right field and Gonzales crossed the plate one batter later as Jeremy Ernst hit a sacrifice fly to center field.
Dennis Dietrich then doubled to center field to make it a 6-5 game. After Josh Hinkley beat out a ground ball, Dietrich scored the tying run on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Tony Rymer.
In the bottom of the sixth, WSSVFD took a one-run lead when Joe Decker hit a home run over the center field fence.
But SMVFD responded in the top of the seventh. With two outs and two runners on base, Gonzales singled to center field. Loren Herndon, who had been on second base, scored to make it a 7-7 game. But Tim Morey was tagged out at the plate by WSSVFD catcher Tim Fink when he attempted to score all the way from first.
The score was knotted just for a few moments before Roth stroked the game-winning hit.
It was a good game, SMVFD Player/Coach Glenn Bubba LaPolt said. We were down and came back then they were down and came back. They had some key hits at the end to win it.
LaPolt noted that the SMVFD team will face a transition next season as Dietrich is planning to retire from the league. LaPolt added that Dietrich, one of the best modified softball pitchers in the area and a member of the Neal B. Turfler Tournament Hall of Fame, was an integral part of the SMVFDs recent championship streak.
Despite the disappointing loss, LaPolt and his SMVFD teammates congratulated the WSSVFD team members on the field right after the game. In addition, in the tradition of the league, the SMVFD team was invited to join the WSSVFD team at the firehouse for post-game refreshments.
We always socialize at the firehouse after the games, LaPolt said. Thats what makes this league different from other softball leagues. We have a comradery that other softball leagues dont have.
Black echoed LaPolts sentiments.
We have a league picnic and an all-star game the weekend of September 7, which should be a lot of fun, he said. This is a good league a good, family-oriented league.