By Brian Hagberg
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
The 3rd Space Operations Squadron rolled through the competition all season on its way to a second straight appearance in the Schriever intramural softball championship game here Tuesday.
The 4th Space Operations Squadron provided 3 SOPS with its first, and only, test of the season keeping pace with the reigning champs for six innings before the 3 SOPS offense exploded for seven runs en route to an 11-4 victory.
“We had big expectations coming into the season, but we also knew we had a big target on our backs,” said Cameron White, 3 SOPS. “It feels good to win it again.”
3 SOPS found itself in unfamiliar territory in the championship game as it hadn’t played a full seven inning game all season. The big sixth put 3 SOPS up 11-1, but 4 SOPS answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning to ensure the game would go the distance.
“Give a lot of credit to their pitcher,” White said. “We’re an aggressive team offensively and he was giving us pitches that were difficult to hit. I told the guys before the sixth to be picky and hit our pitches.”
3 SOPS opened scoring in the top of the first inning when Clint Swalls lined a shot to deep right field and flew around the bases for an inside-the-park homerun. Neither team would score again until the fourth inning. 4 SOPS put runners in scoring position every inning, but couldn’t get the key hit to bring them home.
“We got our guys in the right position (but) they played us well in the field,” said Chuck Madalone, 4 SOPS. “You’ve got to hit the hole, but I think we were trying too hard and it was causing pop-ups. We were just over anxious.”
Steve Welling, 3 SOPS, said the squadron relied heavily on its defense all season.
“We’ve been choosing visitors all year to give our defense a chance to win the game for us,” he said.
If the game would have been close, White said they would prefer to be in the field at the end.
“If the game goes down to the wire, we want to be on defense,” White said. “Today, they gave us a hell of a game.”
Wes Althaus added to 3 SOPS’s lead in the fourth with a 2-RBI single. A sacrifice fly later in the inning gave 3 SOPS a 4-0 lead.
4 SOPS broke through in the bottom of the inning when a sacrifice fly from Caleb Macobey scored Adam McJunkin.
Travis Perry opened the scoring for 3 SOPS in the sixth with a 2-RBI single. White’s single later in the inning drove in another three runs. A pair of throwing errors from 4 SOPS allowed another two runners to cross the plate on Swalls’ single.
Three straight singles to start the bottom of the inning put another run on the board for 4 SOPS and the squadron took advantage of an error from 3 SOPS to get another run across before Kyle Zakerzewski’s RBI single closed out the scoring for the game.
Both White and Welling credited fan support for giving 3 SOPS an extra advantage throughout the season.
“They were awesome,” Welling said. “Our fans really get into (opponent’s) heads.”
“We love the support,” White said. “We’re a family first and foremost and they are a huge help.”
Despite the loss, 4 SOPS was able to take some positives away from the game. Namely, the big boost the second-place finish gives to its Commander’ Cup lead.
“It’s to be expected,” Madalone said of the squadron’s Cup standing. “It’s a testament to our philosophy of work hard and play hard.”
Updated Commander’s Cup standings:
1. 4 SOPS-1,410
2. 50th Space Communications Squadron-1,230
3. U.S. Air Force Warfare Center-1,140
4. 3 SOPS-735
5. 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron-585