By Scott Prater
Kentrel Brooks stepped to the plate three times during a Schriever Intramural Softball League game here Monday and not once did he make solid contact.
When the former Mississippi State University running back dribbled a soft grounder between first and second base to start the fourth inning, he felt there was no way he could be denied. Two 50th Civil Engineer Squadron defenders converged on the ball as he sprinted up the line, but when second baseman Michael Benoit gloved the ball and readied his throw, he looked up only to see Brooks steaming past an unmanned first base.
Brooks couldn’t help but grin as his teammates cheered.
“Speed has a funny way of affecting a defense,” said 4th Space Operations Squadron team captain Danny Puhek. “That was the rally igniter right there. We were able to string some hits together and open the game up.”
Brooks and his 4 SOPS teammates batted around in the fourth, sending 16 hitters to the plate and scoring 12 unanswered runs in a 15-5 victory against 50 CES.
“I felt like I had some redeeming to do because of my at-bat in the first inning,” Brooks said. “I had two runners on and two outs and ended up popping up to the short stop. This wasn’t what I had envisioned, but it worked for us.”
The win was 4 SOPS’s fourth straight dating back to last season, which it finished as league champion.
“Believe it or not, this team is way different than last year’s,” Puhek said. “There were games when we wondered if we could get 10 guys to the field, but this year, we’re seeing as many as 15 show up.”
Hitting is always important in slow-pitch softball, but pitcher Lee Linnenberger said solid defense has been the difference for 4 SOPS this season.
Third baseman Mike Owen thwarted a 50 CES rally in the third inning when he robbed Michael Bennett of a sure base hit. Owen dived to his right and back handed a sharp grounder just over the third base bag, then turned and heaved to first to get Bennett and end the inning.
“Owen’s play was just crazy,” Linnenberg said. “With him at third and Puhek at short, it’s comforting to know you can pitch inside.”
In its three wins thus far, 4 SOPS, 3-0, has allowed a total of eight runs.
“I think we allowed three runs our first game, earned a shutout in our second, and now allowed five runs in our third,” Puhek said. “That’s pretty good for softball. And, we didn’t even have our power hitter, Tom Fow, here today.”
Errors didn’t help 50 CES.
The team committed seven during 4 SOPS’s fourth-inning onslaught and finished with nine.
John Muelhausen gave 50 CES a 4-0 lead in the first inning when roped a double off the left-field fence, and he drove in another run with his second double in the third. But it wasn’t enough to keep 50 CES, 1-2, in the game.
Nine 4 SOPS players crossed home plate at least once in the fourth and three scored twice, including Brooks, who had forgotten all about his first-inning pop up by then.
“The great thing for us right now is that we’ve got a lot of versatility,” Puhek said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who can play everywhere. Figuring out how to get 15 guys into the game is a nice problem to have.”