It was a slippery affair.
Afternoon rains collected over Frances Warner Field at Town Park, and sporadic rain fell throughout the two-game championship match-up between Team Rehab and the defending champion Junkyard Dogs in Men’s A-League Softball.
The Dogs, same as last year, emerged from the losers’ bracket to force a second game, beating Rehab 26-13 in the first of their two games, and carried that momentum through to the championship trophy, downing Rehab 32-21 late into a wet Wednesday evening.
The Dogs benefited enormously from a heroic performance from young 18-year-old standout J.D. Kirkendoll, who continued his hot streak at the plate, clobbering two long home runs, and flew around the bases for a gutsy inside-the-park home run.
Kirkendoll was troubled by injuries throughout the day. He limped off the field following pre-game warm-ups, citing a toe injury to concerned onlookers and admirers. Late in the fifth inning of the night’s second game, Kirkendoll slipped in the wet outfield grass twice, and seemed to be hurting after both tweaking a knee, and rolling over his thumb on a diving catch in the first game. He could hardly help himself off the field, hopping on one leg to the left field fence, where he lay in the wet grass seeming to signal the end of his night.
Kirkendoll’s physical strain would only add to his legend, however. In his final at-bat of the season in the top of the seventh, Kirkendoll walloped his second home-run of the night over the right-field fence, barely able to limp around the bases for his final curtain call, and as he walked to the bench, stoically reflected, “Thank God I didn’t have to run.”
Already having built a sizable lead, the Dogs continued to rally, as Henry Lystad, who followed several of Kirkendoll’s blasts with shots of his own, lined the ball to the fence. The Dogs benefited from big hits all night from their lineup top to bottom. Ron Brumley, who umped the championship games, cited the Dogs’ recent offensive hot streak as one of the most impressive in recent memory. And every bit of it was necessary for the Dogs to crawl back from a fourth-place regular season finish, and out of the losers’ bracket for the second consecutive year.
The game ended on a groundout to pitcher Joe James for a 1-3 put-out. John Kirkendoll, the younger Kirkendoll’s dad, squeezed the final out at first, and the Junkyard faithful broke into celebration of a repeat championship. The senior Kirkendoll gripped the trophy and held it over his celebrating teammates. He’s been here several times before, winning several championships with Billy Ball, before heading over to the Dogs where he’s now won two. Setting the trophy down with the game ball still in hand, he flipped it to his limping son; champions together, once again.
In Men’s B-League action, TW Green overcame T-ride Mafia 13-4. TW Green were also the recipients of the Team Sportsmanship Award, giving them the elusive softball double crown.