Rob Potter | Democrat
MEMBERS OF THE Black Knights and Red Raiders gathered at home plate for a group photo following Sunday afternoon’s Liberty Slo-Pitch Softball League All-Star Game. Kneeling in the front row, from left to right, are Ed Reichenbaugh, Omar Rodriguez, George Van Aken, Dan Ricco, Bobby Sze and Mike Travis. Back row, from left to right, are Dan Van Aken, Troy Morris, Jason Rogers, Bill Van Aken, Gene Smith, Jason Jones Sr., Allen Jones, Jason Jones Jr., Mike Beach, James Ratner, Dez Williams, Keith Shaddock, Jim Van Aken and Willie DeGraw Jr.
Liberty Slo-Pitch League holds Home Run Derby, All-Star Game
By Rob Potter
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS The Liberty Slo-Pitch Softball League celebrated another great season by holding its annual Home Run Derby and Black & Red All-Star Game on Sunday afternoon at Gary A. Bradley Memorial Field at the White Sulphur Springs Firemen’s Park.
Both events were open to all of the players in the 18-team league.
Eight players paid $10 each to participate in the home run derby. The winner would receive $40 of the $80 collected, while the other $40 would go to the league.
The eight players who swung for the fences were: Mike Beach of the Parksville Homes Raiders, Jason Jones Sr. (Wet Noodle Destroyers), Jason Jones Jr. (Rolling V Transportation Services), James Ratner, (Ratner & Son Paving), Rob “Bobby” Sze (McCabe’s Hitmen), Mike Travis (Wet Noodle Destroyers) and Dez Williams (McCabe’s Hitmen).
Dan Ricco of Ratner & Son Paving was the pitcher for the contest.
In Round 1, each player received three practice swings and 10 outs. Since only home runs counted, if a player hit a fair ball that did not go over the outfield fence, it was called an out. Foul balls were also automatic outs.
At the end of the round, Sze and Williams were tied with two homers apiece. The only other player to hit a home run was Beach, who sent one ball over the fence in left field.
For Round 2, Sze and Williams each received five outs. Despite their best efforts, neither man was able to hit a round-tripper.
In Round 3, Sze and Williams again received five outs apiece. Sze was the first to bat and failed to hit a homer.
In his first swing of the round, Williams connected with a pitch and sent the ball sailing over the fence in left center field to win the contest.
“I did it for my wife, Nichole,” Williams said of his victory. “It was a good event and I’m looking forward to next year’s home run derby.”
Williams noted that he and Sze, a fellow member of the McCabe’s Hitmen team, are different kinds of hitters.
“I am more of a home run-hitter and he is more a line drive-hitter,” Williams said of Sze. “I am very proud of him today, he took me to extra rounds. My hat is off to Rob Sze.”
After a few minutes of rest, it was time for the Black & Red All-Star Game to begin. Players for the two teams Black Knights and Red Raiders were selected using a deck of playing cards. If a player chose a black card, he joined the Black Knights. If a player picked a red card, he joined the Red Raiders.
A coin flip gave home-field advantage to the Red Raiders.
After a scoreless first inning, the Black Knights took a 3-0 lead. Travis scored on a single by Beach for the first run of the game. Moments later, Beach and Jones Jr. scored on a double by Omar Rodriguez.
The score remained 3-0 until the top of eighth. Daniel Van Aken led off the frame and reached base on an error. He then scored on a single by George Van Aken.
Bill Van Aken doubled to allow George Van Aken to cross home plate and give the Black Knights a 5-0 advantage.
Bill Van Aken scored on a double by Beach and Beach scored on an error to make it a 7-0 game.
With two outs in the top of the ninth, Rogers belted an inside-the-park home run to deep left field to push the Black Knights’ lead to 8-0.
Jim Van Aken led off the bottom of the ninth for the Red Raiders and reached base by hitting an infield single. After the next batter fouled out, the Black Knights preserved their 8-0 victory by turning a game-ending double play.
George Van Aken pitched the first six innings for the Black Knights. He gave up only five hits to earn the win.
Because each team had the bare minimum number of players needed, two ladies Tabatha Bound and Natasha Rogers helped out the teams. Bound, who is the girlfriend of the Red Raiders’ Gene Smith, and Natasha Rogers, who is the wife of Jason Rogers of the Black Knights, each batted once in the contest.