BY SAMMY KARDON
Everyone knows law students everywhere around the country love to compete, but they only get one chance annually to match-up directly with their counterparts at other law schools: the National Law School Softball Tournament at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Two weekends ago, two teams of Cambridge’s finest, one each in the co-ed and men’s division, trooped down the coast to carry the HLS banner with pride.
“When Harvard rolls into C-Ville, we roll deep so all those other schools better recognize,” men’s team co-captain Billy “Goat” Grey proclaimed. And recognize they did.
Out of well over one hundred teams, both squads of H-Bombers made sterling showings: the co-ed team went 4-1, losing to the eventual champion in the Sweet Sixteen and the men’s team went 4-3, juking and jiving their way to the Elite Eight.
“I probably didn’t need to make all the acrobatic, body-sacrificing diving and shoestring catches as I did because we had the competition handled so handily, but I did anyway,” 3L centerfielder and lead-off man Eric “Boomerang” Boorstin boasted.
The men’s team had a difficult initiation into round robin play, having drawn the powerhouse Florida Coastal team. Despite jumping out to a quick three-run lead, the H-Bombers were soon overwhelmed by the veteran Sunshine State squad 20-8.
“Word on the street was that, like, seven of them had played baseball in college and been drafted,” first-baseman and 3L Moose “Jon” Seibald explained.
The team got into the “W” column in the fourth inning of their next game when Quinnipiac’s pitcher lost all control, literally and figuratively, walking 12 out of 14 batters and getting into fights with his perturbed teammates.
“Even though it was awkward to stand and watch [Quinnipiac’s pitcher] implode with our bats on our shoulders, we were still socially adept enough to accept his generous gift of victory with grace and aplomb,” opined 3L slugger Mike “Porky” Pykosz, the team’s best hitter with three home-runs and a .789 batting average. The team lost its next game, but still snuck into Sunday’s bracket as the 2-seed (after undefeated Florida Coastal) out of their round-robin pod.
The co-reckers totally out-classed the disorganized Chicago team 23-4. Most of the action took place off the field, however, when Chicago’s catcher cursed out men’s team co-captain Alex “Clusters” D’Amico while on the losing side of a rules dispute and then had to leave the games in tears.
“I kept telling her she was hot until I realized how emotionally unstable she was,” the H-Bombers rakish lead-off man Mike “Fillinthe” Blank quipped in an attempt to explain the blonde backstop’s melt-down. Blank showed his offensive side on the diamond as well as in the bleachers, batting .619 over the weekend.
After a night of revelry, both teams were out bright and early to begin the elimination round.
The co-ed team dispatched its first opponent early before running into the men’s team’s old friend: Florida Coastal. After playing back and forth for four innings to a slight disadvantage, the H-Bombers defense caved in with five errors in the fifth and an avalanche of runs buried their hopes of a championship.
Team captain and 3L Nathalie “Dreamcrusher” Cohen, who led the tournament with 15 walks, was circumspect in defeat: “A dropped ball here, a called strike there and it could have gone the other way. Personally, I blame the umps.”
The men’s team also had an up and down ride. The H-Bombers found themselves down 11-3 going into the bottom of the fourth against a smarmy Duquesne squad. With their backs to the wall, the H-Bombers abandoned plate discipline for the uninhibited free-swinging of more care-free days and were sparked when previously hitless 3L catcher Sammy “Krash” Kardon laced a triple to the deepest part of left center on a juicy first-pitch strike.
The HLS defense also woke up, holding Duquesne scoreless for the rest of the game. The boys in crimson clawed back three runs in the fifth and then finished off the stirring comeback when an errant throw brought third-baseman and JD/MBA candidate Greg “Wheels” Willsey home to seal the 12-11 victory and advance to the next round.
“I saw the pitcher look at me, unsure if he should throw or not, so I winked at him like I knew I was going to score. Sure enough, he flinched and I remember fear in his eyes as he chucked away the ball (and his self-respect) and I scampered home to victory,” Willsey recounted.
Invigorated and inspired, the H-Bombers played their best game of the tournament in the Sweet Sixteen, forcing the West Virginians back out onto the country roads that would take them home, where they belong.
Next up was Washington & Lee, and the game was tense from the start. HLS found itself in a hole, but looked poised to climb back when tragedy struck!
Even though there was no chance of a double play, a Washington & Lee player slid into second hard, smashing into shortstop Gray’s knee and instantly severing his medial collateral ligament. No one ever said law school softball was easy, but it shook even the most-seasoned 3L to see Gray go into shock on the field.
Unfortunately, despite the obvious opportunity for a historically dramatic comeback, the team was unable to rise to the occasion and “win one for Billy” despite the captain’s heart-felt plea as he was wheeled off the field to a waiting ambulance. Yes, the H-Bombers were eliminated tantalizingly close to the final four, but, later on, when the entire team was gathered in the hospital waiting room to check in on Gray (who is expected to make a full recovery), no one had any regrets.
“We were so emotionally spent after watching Billy carted off that we couldn’t have continued on with the same spirit anyway,” 1L Nick “Boogie, Boogie” Hartigan reflected. “Additionally, losing that early gave us more time to enjoy our delicious meal at the local Applebee’s and gives me something to prove when I lead the next generation of H-Bombers back here next year.”
Most of the stalwarts on this year’s squad are set to graduate, but a new generation is already rising up to carry on the tradition.
“Although we were merely stewards of something larger than ourselves, we leave HLS Softball in better shape than it was when we found it,” D’Amico concluded.
Well said, Alex. Well said.