Monday, September 1, 2008

Utica has leg up on competition for Home Talent title

UTICA – Dinner hasn’t been served, but the Utica Association has reserved its seat at the head of the table. Going into the final weekend of round robin play, Utica is one win away from the Home Talent League championship.

The Association secured its spot as the only undefeated team left in round robin play on the strength of a 7-6 victory over Sun Prairie on Sunday in Utica.

Right fielder Micky Ramsden drove in the winning run with a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the ninth to put Utica over the edge.

“Early in the count I was just trying to hit it hard and drive it,” said Ramsden, “get it out of the infield and maybe get a chance for a sac fly. But then once I got behind, I was just trying to hit it hard and hopefully it finds a hole, and it did.”

The winning run was just the tip of the iceberg for Utica, though, as they rallied from a 5-1 deficit to leg out the victory.

Down by four runs in the eighth inning, Matt Ellingson started the comeback with a sacrifice fly to score Matt Dwyer to make the score 5-2. Christian Stokstad followed with two RBI single scoring Brad Knickmeier and Doug Vike to get within two runs at 6-4.

In the ninth inning second baseman Doug Vike, son of Utica manager Dale Vike, drove in the tying run with a two RBI double to knot the score at 6-6. Vike subsequently scored the winning run on Ramsden’s single.

“I wasn't seeing the ball very well today at all, but I finally got lucky sooner or later,” said Doug Vike.

Veteran pitcher Scott “Scoobie” Hestnes got the victory for the Association after two innings in relief of Dwyer. Hestnes along with Dale Vike are the only two players left from Utica’s only other Home Talent League championship way back in 1991.

“I’ve been in situations like this before,” said Hestnes. “I’ve been in a lot of Final Fours. This is what I’ve been playing for right here. It’s awesome. Just awesome”

Only a victory next weekend over Verona will wrap up Utica’s first HTL title in 17 years. Several scenarios are still possible in which both Sun Prairie and Verona are still alive.

A Verona victory combined with a Sun Prairie loss on Sunday will force a one game playoff the following week where Utica would, in turn, have to play at Verona.

Another scenario where both Verona and Sun Prairie win next week would force a three way tie and extend the season two more weeks. A coin toss would determine who plays in the preliminary game.

Utica can put to rest any such eventualities with a win at the end of round robin play. And according to Dale Vike, the team is ready for the challenge.

“A lot of these guys haven't won a championship, and they want it bad,” said Vike. “I just hope they can win it just for them. I know what it feels like. I want them to feel it. It's the greatest feeling other than your kids being born.”

Next weekend’s Home Talent League road trip: Verona at Utica in the third round of the championship series round robin on Sunday September 7 at 1:00.

Photo credit: Brian Carriveau

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