The Coors Light Chuggers finished atop the Cayman Islands Little League Winter Adult Co-ed Softball League division II/AA standings this season.
While Coors Light posted an excellent 9-3 record to earn a first-round bye in the play-offs, one of their regular season losses came at the expense of the Club House Crabbies, the same team that defeated them in the semi-final of last season’s play-offs on the way to a championship.
The two teams face each other in third round of this season’s play-offs on Thursday, 3 May, at 8.15pm on field three of the Field of Dreams facility in George Town.
After their first-round bye, the Chuggers advanced to the third round with an impressive win last week over the BritCay Premiums, a team that gave them one of their other regular season losses. BritCay was no match for the Chuggers last week as Coors Light combined a tough defence with timely hitting to win by knockout, 13-2.
The Chuggers scored nine of their 13 runs on three two-outs hits; a two-run triple by Neil Clements; a three-run home run by Alan Markoff and an inside-the-part grand slam by Matt Bone.
Markoff, the Chuggers’ captain, said his team was very focused.
“Last season we were very good in the regular season, but we then faltered in the play-offs,” Markoff said. “This year we want to take it one step further. It showed in our game last week as we played good, fundamental team ball.”
The Chuggers have one of the oldest teams in the adult co-ed programme with several of the male players over 50 and the majority of the rest over 40. Injuries, Markoff states, have taken a toll on many of the older players.
“We’re not as fast or athletic as we used to be, but there’s a lot of experience on the field when we play. We know the game of softball.”
The core of the team, Markoff continues, has been playing together since 2006.
“It’s been nine seasons since we won a championship and we’re not getting any younger. We playing well right now and if we can continue to play the way we did against BritCay, we’ll be hard to beat.”
Coors Light started the season 4-1 and looked like it would run away with the regular season title. But then the Chuggers’ offence went to sleep and it lost two out of the next three at the same time that the Crabbies got hot. Although the Chuggers maintained a lead in the division standings the whole season, the Crabbies trimmed that lead to a half-game and nearly caught them.
The Chuggers got hot at the end of the season, thanks to a couple of one-run victories and finished up on a four-game winning streak, two games ahead of the second-place Crabbies.
In the last three games, the Chuggers offence has looked like the juggernauts of old, scoring 58 runs in those games, including the 13 they scored against BritCay in just four at-bats. Their offensive resurgence has been led by Bone, but he’s not the only one swinging a hot bat right now, Markoff states.
“It’s really been a team effort and even our girls are contributing right now.”
While the Chuggers have had some spotty defensive play this season, Markoff states they have started to put that together as well.
“Outfielder Mike Webster had a web gem in the game against BritCay that stopped what could have been a big inning. We seem to be making big plays when we most need them in recent weeks. It’s our rubber band defence; it bends but doesn’t break.”
The Crabbies have had an up and down season, but finished second in division II with a 7-5 record. After easily defeating Maples 17-8 in the first round of the play-offs, the Crabbies struggled to get by third seed Walkers last week, winning 12-11.
Coors Light and Clubhouse now meet in the winner’s bracket game, with the winner going into the championship game on 14 May. Unlike in previous seasons, the loser will have another chance to get to the championship because this season’s play-offs are in a double elimination format. As Markoff, who is also the league coordinator, states, the loser of Thursday’s game goes on to play the loser’s bracket final, with the winner of that game going to the championship.
“We both have two cracks at getting to the championship game and they way I see it, there’s a good chance we’ll have a rematch of Thursday’s game on 14 May. Our goal is just to win on Thursday and make Clubhouse have to win again to face us in the final.”
“Our team is all about having fun when we play during the regular season. But if we’re to win the championship this year, we’re going to have to want to win more than we want to have fun. I think we’re ready to do that this season.”