Monday, August 11, 2008

Celebrated season comes to an end in Evansville

“The slipper almost fit, huh?” said Evansville Home Talent centerfielder/general manager Jon Frey after his team’s first ever playoff appearance on Sunday.

Evansville may have had a storybook season, but it just didn’t have a storybook ending. Their reign as Cinderella ended with their loss to the Fort Atkinson Generals in the first round of the Southeastern section playoffs.

In only their fourth year in Home Talent, the Evansville Jays have come a long way. In their first three seasons their best Sunday League record included only four wins, which they managed twice. They more than doubled that output this year when their 10-4 record was good enough for first place in the West division of the Southeastern section.

The season was highlighted by their sole possession of first place in the West at midseason, but a few late losses resulted in a tie for first with Utica. Evansville lost the tiebreaker and had to head to Fort Atkinson in the playoffs as a result.

But it’s not as if Evansville didn’t give Fort a run for their money. After being down by four runs early in the game, the Jays came back to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth behind the strength of a Nick Manion two run homer.The game went to extra innings, but Fort Atkinson ousted the Jays when a Scott Kammer RBI single scored Brandon Krigbaum in the bottom of the tenth to cap off an exciting finish.

When asked about the outcome after the game, Generals manager Jim Roethel replied, “Well, as soon as my heart gets back to normal.”

Evansville could have rolled over when down by a score of 5-1, but fought back in a valiant effort.

“We made a nice comeback,” said Jays manager Bob Kurtz. “I'm proud of our guys, the way they battled back in this game. I'm proud of every one of them because they stuck their nose in there and got it done, but we came up on the short end.”

At the very least, Evansville served notice to the rest of the league that they’re for real. While some sections take eight teams to the playoffs, the Southeast only takes four. Simply qualifying for the playoffs was an accomplishment in itself.

For the young team, it will be a learning experience. Evansville won a lot of close games earlier in the year. And now that they were on the losing end of a close game, they have no choice but to look back, reflect and learn from their season ending loss.

“We won a lot of games in the last inning and extra innings,” said Kurtz. “I think we won three extra inning ball games, and that put us where we were in the standings. We just came out on the short end of it today.”

After the game, the Jays had a discussion in the visitors’ dugout, and suddenly things didn’t seem so bad even though their season had just ended.

Frey relayed the essence of it: “Bob said it at the end of the game, maybe we put Evansville on the Home Talent map.”

Next weekend’s Home Talent League road trip: Sun Prairie at DeForest on Sunday August 17 at 1:00 for the right to go to the Final Four.
Photo credit: Brian Carriveau

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