Whitehead’s Landscaping didn’t want anything close to a rerun of last year’s Bellevue Summer Softball League tournament finale. So Whitehead’s tended to business Sunday and came away triumphant.
Scoring the game-winning runs with two outs in the home seventh, Whitehead’s clawed out of a 24-22 hole and prevailed 25-24 over 7 Fuego/Silver Dollar in an epic slow-pitch battle with 49 runs and 60 hits—30 for each team.
Men’s Most Valuable Player Chase Uhrig of Whitehead’s (4 hits, 9 RBI), who belted two homers earlier in the game, pounded a challenging infield grounder that scored Ashley Hicks and Austin Hafer with the tying and game-winning runs at O’Donnell Field.
It was Whitehead’s answer to 7 Fuego’s nine-hit, seven-run sixth inning that brought the defending champions back and gave the Silver Dollar squad a chance to force a deciding game of the eight-team double elimination meet. The back-and-forth ending was appropriate for two teams that had tied for the regular-season title with 12-2 records, Whitehead’s earning the No. 1 seed tiebreaker with the better run-scoring differential.
Young and hungry, the top-seeded landscapers had pounded hit after hit and built a 22-15 cushion over 7 Fuego in a championship game rematch between the finalist teams of the 2018 Bellevue tournament.
Unbeaten in three tournament games including an earlier 23-14 rout of 7 Fuego, Whitehead’s needed just one victory to clinch the title. Yet Whitehead’s was in the same position last year—the top seed, needing just one win.
That didn’t work out.
7 Fuego stayed alive and won the 2018 semi-final 13-12, and then kept hitting in the deciding game for a 23-13 triumph over Whitehead. And, on Sunday morning, 7 Fuego mustered up some déjà vu that put a scare into Whitehead’s.
Down seven runs, 7 Fuego sent 12 batters to the plate and tied the game 22-22 when Kyle Brown (3 hits, 2-run HR, 3 RBI) and Thomas Black (3 hits, 3 runs) of 7 Fuego somehow escaped a hair-raising rundown along the third base line and scored two clutch runs.
Holding Whitehead’s scoreless for two straight innings, 7 Fuego then seized a 24-22 lead with a two-run seventh on three straight singles by Brandon Beall (3 hits, 4 runs, 4 RBI), Josie Dawson (3 hits, 2 runs, 2 RBI) and pitcher Mason Kluge (3 hits, 5 RBI).
Whitehead’s was down to its last out in the home seventh, still trailing by a pair of runs, when leadoff hitter Andy Ruiz (4 hits, 4 runs) kept his team‘s hopes alive with his second double of the game.
Ashley Hicks (5 runs, 3 RBI), so strong in the field at second base, continued her 5-for-5 game with a single and Austin Hafer (6-for-6, 5 runs, 5 RBI) singled Ruiz home cutting 7 Fuego’s lead to 24-23. In the No. 2 and No. 3 batting spots, Hicks and Hafer finished 11-for-11 with 8 RBI.
Whitehead’s outfielder Hunter Thompson drew her third walk to load the bases for Chase Uhrig. Earlier, in the second frame, Uhrig had belted a distant grand slam homer that reached Slaughterhouse Rd. on just one bounce.
This time, Uhrig went the other way with a twisting grounder between first and second that handcuffed the 7 Fuego infielder and bounced away to score Hicks and Hafer.
Whitehead’s powerful offense thus ended its season with a 16-2 record with an amazing plus-225 in runs scored compared to runs against. 7 Fuego finished with a 15-4 mark and a plus-200.
Other hitters in the title game included Nic Tidwell (4 hits, 2 RBI), Lacey Ellsworth (2 hits, 2 runs) and pitcher Tracy Peterson (3 hits, 3 RBI).
After the game, Hunter Thompson said, “Whitehead’s played an outstanding tournament. Everyone showed great heart and talent.
“This year’s championship was dedicated to Tracy Peterson, a longtime Wood River softball player who many look up to. He declared this season to be his last. We as a team wanted to give him one final championship to end his career.”
Each of the 12 players on 7 Fuego contributed at least one hit in the finale led by women’s Most Valuable Player Sal Wendland (4 hits, 3 RBI). Others included Sean Guisasola (4 hits, 4 runs), JonMarie Shaw (2 hits) and Mike Kluge (2 hits, 2 RBI).
In Saturday’s semi-final match between the two teams, Whitehead’s jumped out to an 11-5 lead after four innings and clinched its 23-14 victory with an eight-run sixth frame.
Top Whitehead’s hitters were Hafer (3 hits, 2 HR, 4 runs), Tidwell (3 hits, HR, 3 runs), Ruiz (4 hits, 2 doubles, triple, 3 runs) and Hicks (3-for-5, double, 4 runs). 7 Fuego pitcher Mason Kluge went 4-for-4 in that game with a homer and three runs scored.