The Batters fell behind the Bucket Heads by a 6-0 score after one inning of action in the annual slugfest’s championship game on Friday at Mulligan’s Hollow in Grand Haven.
But the defending tournament winners clawed back with timely hits and outstanding defense to earn the distinction of back-to-back champions, 14-8.
The team is comprised of Coast Guard personnel from throughout the country, but primarily the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States.
“We’ve played with each other at different air stations, so we’re familiar with each other’s talents,” said team manager Marvin Rodgers, an Aviatian Trainer Master Chief at Aviatian Training Center, Mobile, Ala. “We were invited to play in this tournament again (in Grand Haven) and fortunate enough to defend our title.
“This is huge for us, because this may be our last year together,” Rodgers added. “I’m 46, and several other guys are getting up there in age, and it’s hard coming back every year and battling it out. Hopefully we can get some new blood in here to keep this going.”
Rodgers will surely want left fielder Todd Grote back for a chance at a three-peat. Grote made a pair of stellar diving catches to rob the Bucket Heads of potential base runners and runs to end both the fifth and sixth innings. Grote, an aviation technician at Air Station D.C., said he was fortunate to react quickly to the pair of sharp liners.
“It was just a last-second type of thing,” he said. “You just try to give it your all and hope it goes in the glove. That’s all I think about whenever I’m running at a ball.”
Grote’s catch to end the sixth was “SportsCenter” material, as he dove in foul grounds and hauled in a fly, but unfortunately caught a bit of his head and shoulders on the steel chain link fence.
“I don’t think about that until after the play’s over,” he said.
“Defense is huge in this type of game, but at the same time, if you don’t hit, you don’t win. But our defense came to play. Marvin made a great diving play at second base earlier that saved two runs. That play kind of knocked the breath out of them.”
Grote’s sixth-inning snare preserved the Batters’ slim 9-6 lead, but they provided themselves with a cushion in their next at-bats, as their lineup strung together several hits to produce a five-run inning. A key blow was a liner down the right field line that landed right on the foul line for a two-RBI hit from Dre Jenkins.
For winning the championship, the Batters were awarded royal blue and white moisture-resistant championship T-shirts, which they may parade throughout Grand Haven during the rest of their stay.
When asked if he’d enjoy holding the bragging rights over fellow challengers throughout the Coast Guard for another year, Rodgers didn’t hesitate.
“No question,” he said. “We’ll enjoy ourselves tonight and enjoy this victory.”
The tournament featured round-robin play earlier in the week at local softball fields.