BY SAMMY KARDON
Hopes are high for a championship next year, but the team had no regrets about this one, happy to have played hard and represented the good name of its beloved law school to the over 100 teams from more than 50 law schools participating in the massive tournament.
“Some of the other kids kept asking us distracting questions about our LSAT scores and stylish uniforms, but all that nonsense had turned into grudging respect by the time they saw us play,” co-captain and shortstop Billy “The Kosher Kid” Gray commented.
Truly, it took weeks of effort and meticulous planning by Gray and Co-Captain Alex “El Capitan” D’Amico, to strategically reserve enough hotel rooms, rental cars and plane seats to get the team out of Cambridge and onto the field in Charlottesville in time for the opener with Michigan Saturday morning.
The game started with a bang as the Ballers jumped out to a 12-2 lead, batting around and putting up six-spots in each of the first two innings. The onslaught was punctuated by a towering blast to left-center by clean-up hitter and third-baseman Mike “Big Daddy” Pykosz. Ironically, the sheer monstrosity of the moonshot proved to be the Ballers’ undoing because they were so awed by its height and length that they became complacent.
The final score was 20-14 after Michigan staged a late but decisive rally. Offensive stars of the game included catcher Sammy “The Big Dipper” Kardon and secondbaseman Greg “T-Bone” Willsey. Both hit safely and scored a run in all four of their at-bats, Kardon adding at least one RBI in each trip. Leftfielder D’Amico went 3-for-4 with a dong out of the two-hole, setting a precedent for his weekend-long tenure as the consistently lethal linchpin of the potent Baller offense.
Then the rains came, canceling the afternoon and evening slates but not the traditional home-run derby. Pykosz represented the Ballers by making some rain of his own with enough skyscrapers to place second in the tournament-wide competition to a former minor leaguer hitting for Appalachian State.
The first game of the elimination round, a 7 a.m. affair against one of UVA’s three teams, was the most dramatic of the entire weekend. It was a cold start for the Ballers as they fell behind early, 4-1. A see-saw struggle ensued, and HLS clung to a one-run lead as UVA got set to take its last licks with a good chance to walk off with a win.
Things looked grim, but the Ballers didn’t panic. Rightfielder Paul “Tokie” Tokeshi pounced on the sure double and fired an Ichiroesque laser to Willsey who turned and gunned to Pykosz, who nabbed the runner at third for the first and decisive out of the inning. The Cavaliers managed three more singles in the inning, but continued tight defense held them scoreless to force an extra frame.
The final inning was not even close as the Baller offense woke up, shook off the frost and pushed through four strong runs in the top half including a Herculean ground-rule double by D’Amico that bounded onto the road followed by yet another homerun by Pykosz. The cowed Cavaliers meekly followed with a whimper, failing to advance a runner past first and pushing the resurgent HLS squad on into a Sweet Sixteen match-up with Chicago.
Chicago was overmatched from the start and the Ballers won easily, but the game was notable for providing a different type of drama. With one out and a Chicago runner on first in the second inning, there was a sharp grounder up the middle that Willsey fielded and flipped to Gray. Gray pivoted and fired towards first to complete the double play, but the Chicago runner was standing ramrod straight enough to take the ball on his shoulder.
The rules clearly mandate another out for interference, but Chicago vociferously dissented, claiming the beaning was intentional and should be punished with sanctions. Gray did not back down and a heated war of words ensued as both benches cleared to the delight of a screaming crowd.
“Apparently, those chumps from Chicago weren’t our match in softball or legal reasoning,” right centerfielder Eric “Tiger Legs” Boorstin posited.
The umpire promptly agreed, and the Ballers let their bats do the talking to get the definitive last word in the dispute, pouring on enough runs to end the game without making an out. The team’s laconic centerfielder, Erik “The Hammer” Daly, provided the coup de gras with a mammoth shot over the centerfield fence, an all the more impressive feat considering he was playing with stitches in his left middle finger resulting from a collision with D’Amico and the ball during the Michigan game.
Sadly, the post-season run came to an untimely end against Seton Hall in the next round. The Baller bats remained inexplicably quiet as all line drives ended up in Pirate gloves, the defense fell prey to a string of misfortunes, and the team’s ace hurler, southpaw Jon “Moose” Seibald, was frustrated by an inconsistent strikezone that was not receptive to his arsenal of off-speed junk.
Seibald’s teammates had fond memories of the action-filled weekend as they headed towards their cars, beaten but not defeated. Everyone was disappointed not to advance further, but there was unanimous consensus that the quality of play had been high on both an individual and team level.
“I don’t think they named one, but I think it’s fair to say I made the all-tournament team,” Andy “Clutch” Knopp asserted confidently. His teammates agreed, particularly because of the rangy firstbaseman’s selfless willingness to take walks, scoop balls in the dirt and alleviate the team’s bed shortage on Friday night using nothing but his own guile and charm.
This years trip was in part made possible by donations from Bar/Bri, PMBR, Westlaw and HL Central, but there is hope that HLS will be able to bring multiple teams next year like many of the other law schools at the tournament and participate in the co-ed division. The consensus is that this will require significant institutional support.