By Scott Prater
Bill Klumpp belted a two-run single into shallow right field during the third inning Aug. 16, helping the 4th Space Operations Squadron claim the Schriever Intramural Softball Championship with a 4-1 victory against the 2nd Space Operations Squadron.
“This game, really this whole tournament for us, was all about solid pitching and defense,” said 4 SOPS co-captain Paul Williams. “We fought hard to get here and there was no way we were going to come in here off that long road and lose.”
Klumpp’s hit highlighted a three-run third inning, but it was the only frame in which either team could manage much offense. Four SOPS struggled at the plate for most of the contest thanks in large part to 2 SOPS’ knuckleball pitcher Roger Gallardo.
His counterpart, Lee Linnenberger, stymied 2 SOPS batters for the entire game, holding his opponents to one run on just five hits. The performance was quite an accomplishment considering 2 SOPS averaged 17 runs a game coming into the double-elimination tournament final.
But Linnenberger couldn’t have dominated so heavily without the play of his outfielders, who devised a new defensive scheme specifically for this tournament.
“What we did was shorten the field on them,” said Klumpp, 4 SOPS left-center outfielder. “I was the roamer, which meant that most of the time I would position myself to defend the short fly ball. Both Williams and Mike Owen played the deep ball. We found something that worked and just stuck with it.”
Of course, Linnenberger played a huge role in the scheme as he induced 2 SOPS batters into swinging at less-than-perfect pitches.
“I just tried to tempt them into swinging at the short pitch,” he said. “When you can do that, batters usually wind up popping the ball up.
Showing a sprinkling of its formidable offense, 2 SOPS put runners in each of the first three innings, only to come away empty as Linnenberger induced weak pop fly after weak pop fly, especially in crucial situations.
Adam Hillier, 2 SOPS team captain, scored the only run for his team when he blasted a triple to deep center field during the fifth inning, crossing home plate eventually on a throwing error.
In all, 2 SOPS stranded eight runners.
“During the early innings we did a good job of getting that final out when they had runners on,” Linnenberger said. “That third out is huge, today we cut down on two-out hits and that was key to the win.”
The victory was especially sweet for the 4 SOPS members who played on squadron teams which had reached the final in two of the past three years, only to wind up on the losing end.
“This was gratifying for us,” Williams said. “There were times this season when we struggled to field a team because of our 4 SOPS mission duties, but we managed to squeak through. We have a lot of respect for 2 SOPS too. They have a great team, worked their way through the losers bracket to get here and scored more than 20 runs during two of their tournament wins.”