By Scott Prater
Players with the 1st Space Operations Squadron can’t recall leading a game from start to finish all season long, so nothing was new about their first-round playoff game Monday.
The team trailed Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense by seven runs after two innings before rallying to win 19-13 and advance to the winner’s bracket in the Schriever intramural softball league playoff tournament.
“We never seem to panic,” said 1 SOPS outfielder Darrel DeLeon. “Even when it has looked hopeless for us this season, we’ve managed to fight our way back into games — and today was no different.”
Patience proved important for JFCC-IMD in the first inning, when 1 SOPS pitcher Jesse Cook had trouble locating his pitches. He walked three of the first four batters and watched them all score as Marty Martinez and Nate Borchers punished his later offerings.
Meanwhile, JFCC-IMD pitcher Rico Garcia and solid defense kept 1 SOPS in check, at least for the first two innings.
“Our strength has been our defense,” JFCC-IMD team captain John Kaufman said. “We’re definitely the oldest team on base, with a mix of contractors, civilians and military, so we try to play smart. Rico has been a big part of that strategy.”
With his team down six runs to start the third, 1 SOPS team co-captain Mike Manor shouted words of encouragement as he ran in from center field, but even those seemed to ring hollow as the first two batters popped into outs.
Then Justin Fernandez singled past second base and Travis Moyer singled into left field. Cook followed by roping a pitch off the fence in center field, and the rally was in full swing. The team sent 16 batters to the plate and scored 15 runs in the inning, all with two outs.
“I’d say half our wins this season have come in our last at bat,” Manor said. “You can call us cardiac but we never seem to get down mentally and we have confidence that we can come back. Today we were lucky enough to do it again.”
Moyer put the finishing touches on the rally with what is known as a little-league home run. He stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and promptly smashed a line drive to centerfield. A JFCC-IMD fielder dove for the ball, but missed and it rolled all the way to the fence. By the time the defense could get the ball back in, Moyer was being mauled by teammates behind home plate.
“Ironically, I never had one of those when I played little league,” Moyer said. “I’m not sure if we were still down at that point, but I knew every run would count so I just tried to make solid contact.”
As his team heated up offensively, Cook settled in on the mound. He set his opponents down in order in the second and shut them out in the fourth to end the game.
“Jesse has been our mainstay the whole season, he’s done a great job and been very consistent,” Manor said. “He gives us a chance to win and right now, in this tournament, you really have to focus on the game at hand if you want to advance.”
With the victory, 1 SOPS moved on to face 50th Security Forces Squadron, a 12-9 winner against 50th Civil Engineer Squadron, in the second round. Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense drops down to an elimination game in the second round.
In other action, 4th Space Operations Squadron knocked off 50th Operations Support Squadron\Standardization and Evaluation 10-3, while Space Innovation and Development Center upended National Reconnaissance Office Operations Squadron 28-8.
The Schriever Intramural Softball League playoff tournament continues this week at the base softball complex with elimination games today and the championship game scheduled for Friday.