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Rob Potter | Democrat

The Phoenix Enterprises team won the Liberty Slo-Pitch Softball League “A” Division title on Wednesday night at Liberty Elementary School. Kneeling in the front row, from left to right, are Adam Birkett, Chris Lake, Mike Kushetsky and Dan Ratner Jr. Standing in the back row, from left to right, are Mike Poje, Justin Katz, Gil Suarez, Corey VanKeuren, Matt Stoddard, Adam Lake and Kort Wheeler. Missing from photo are team members Scott Hamlin, D.J. Pugh, Darrin Raynor and Derwin Rivera.

Liberty Slo-Pitch League crowns champs

Phoenix Enterprises wins ‘A’ title with walk-off HR

By Rob Potter
LIBERTY — August 20, 2010 — The Phoenix Enterprises softball team won a championship in dramatic fashion on Wednesday night at the Liberty Elementary School.
Kort Wheeler hit a three-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to give Phoenix Enterprises a 17-14 victory over Manor House of Furniture & Appliances, Inc. in Game 2 of the Liberty Slo-Pitch Softball League “A” Division finals series. The win, combined with a 10-5 triumph in the series opener on Tuesday night, gave Phoenix Enterprises the “A” Division title.
In the top of the seventh, however, it appeared as though Manor House would force a third and deciding game in the series as the team scored five runs to take a 14-11 lead. With one out in the frame, Greg Lewis tied the score at 11-11 with a two-run home run to left-center field.
Moments later, Josh Belle hit a three-run single to right field to give Manor House a five-run advantage.
But Phoenix Enterprises made the most of having the last at-bat. With one out and runners on the corners, Mike Kushetsky reached base on an error. Corey VanKeuren scored on the play to make it a 14-12 game. Consecutive RBI singles by Mike Poje and Adam Birkett evened the score at 14-14.
With Birkett and Poje on first base and second base, respectively, Wheeler connected with a pitch and sent the ball sailing over the center field fence to clinch the championship for Phoenix Enterprises.
“We played great defense tonight and Kort Wheeler pitched very well,” Phoenix Enterprises Player/Coach Dan Ratner Jr. said. “We were down late in the game, but we fought back. Kort Wheeler did a great job hitting that home run. He’s the MVP of our team.
“We’re a first year team and it’s nice to win the championship,” Ratner added. “We won the Eastern Conference [regular season] title and the division title. This is a great bunch of guys. I can’t think of a better group of players to win a championship with.”
Manor House took a 6-0 lead in the top of the first, but Phoenix Enterprises gradually chipped away at that advantage. Phoenix Enterprises went ahead 7-6 in the bottom of the third thanks to a solo home run by Wheeler, a three-run homer by VanKeuren and a two-run single by Poje.
Phoenix Enterprises pushed its lead to 9-6 in the bottom of the fourth on VanKeuren’s two-run home run.
Manor House drew to within a run at 9-8 on a two-run homer by Lewis in the top of the fifth.
But Phoenix Enterprises responded in the bottom of the fifth as Kushetsky hit a two-run home run to extend the team’s lead to 11-8.
In the top of the sixth, John Gorr scored on a single by Ryan Edwards to bring Manor House within two runs at 11-9.
“We just didn’t have enough hitting tonight,” Manor House Player/Coach Scott Edwards said. “We weren’t able to get clutch hits.
“All in all, we had a great season,” Edwards said of his team, which won the “A” Division Western Conference regular season title. “We’ll be back next year.”

Loch Sheldrake Wine & Liquor earns ‘B’ title with win over Sunrise Lawn Care

By Rob Potter
LIBERTY — Heading into the seventh inning of Wednesday night’s Game 2 of the Liberty Slo-Pitch Softball League “B” Division finals series at Liberty Elementary School, Loch Sheldrake Wine & Liquor held a slim 15-14 lead over Sunrise Lawn Care.
But Loch Sheldrake Wine & Liquor added plenty of insurance runs in the final inning. The team scored nine runs in the top of the seventh on its way to recording a 24-14 victory. Since Loch Sheldrake Wine & Liquor won the series opener by the final score of 13-3 on Tuesday night at Liberty Elementary School, Wednesday night’s triumph clinched the “B” Division title for the team.
Key hits in the top of the seventh for Loch Sheldrake Wine & Liquor included a three-run home run by Tim Minton, a two-run home run by Eric Minton, and a two-run double by Dez Williams.
Loch Sheldrake Wine & Liquor jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Mike Travis hit a solo home run, Aaron Dinkel hit a two-run homer, Jason Jones had two-run double and Jim Van Aken added an RBI single.
But Sunrise Lawn Care responded with seven runs in the bottom of the first to take a 7-6 advantage. Key hits in the inning included a three-run homer by Ray Cipriam and a two-run single by Eric Williams.
In the top of the third, Jim Van Aken scored on Keith Shaddock’s double to give Loch Sheldrake Wine & Liquor a 10-9 lead.
Sunrise Lawn Care regained the lead at 11-10 when Chris Rodriguez belted a two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth.
After Sunrise Lawn Care had extended its lead to 13-10 in the bottom of the fifth, Loch Sheldrake Wine & Liquor scored five runs in the top of the sixth to surge ahead, 15-13. Tim Minton ripped a three-run home run to left-center field to knot the score at 13-13. The team then took its two-run lead on an RBI triple by Jim Van Aken and an RBI single by Rod Cash.
Billy Foster scored what became the final run of the evening for Sunrise Lawn Care when Ed Schutte singled in the bottom of the sixth.
“This is great,” Loch Sheldrake Wine & Liquor Player/Coach George Van Aken said of winning the title. “Everybody played a part in this. Everybody help us win the championship.”
Van Aken was pleased with his team’s offensive performance in the top of the seventh after Sunrise Lawn Care had pulled to within a run in the bottom of the sixth.
“That’s my softball philosophy – get base hits to put runners on and then get some more hits to advance those runners and bring them in to score,” he said. “Home runs are nice, but base hits help you win games.”
Earning the title was extra special for Van Aken.
“We are dedicating this championship to my father, George ‘Butch’ Van Aken,” he said. “One thing I told him before he passed away is that I would win a championship for him and we did that tonight.”
Butch Van Aken was very involved in the Liberty Slo-Pitch League, serving as a coach and the league treasurer. George Van Aken noted that his father entered the hospital exactly 10 years to the day of Wednesday night’s game before passing away three days later on Aug. 21, 2000.
“Both teams played well,” Sunrise Lawn Care Player/Coach Jaime Arroyo said. “I commend our guys for playing hard the whole game. And I commend the Loch Sheldrake Wine & Liquor players for playing hard and winning the championship.
“We had a good season and we made it to the championship series,” Arroyo added.

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