Of Softball Champions Old and
A Look at the Lake Erie Islands’ Softball League (2022 Playoffs) By Matt Amsden
The following is a recap of playoff action for the Lake Erie Islands’ Softball League (LEISL), a veritable who’s-who of softball giants.
But never send a boy to do a man’s job. Brother, these cats are goooooooood.
MONDAY, AUGUST 1st
Somebody shoot me if I wax rhapsodic about the 2022 softball playoffs. I get nutty about this stuff.
But who can blame me? How many terrific defensive plays can you shoehorn into one opening night?
We begin with Sand Bar vs. Middle Bass, two teams that have struggled to find their feet all season, but both have now found the way. A good game ensued.
Not surprisingly, Sand Bar jumped to an early 4-0 lead, because, boy, can Sand Bar hit. And hit. They hit so much, Middle Bass catcher EDDIE SHELLER said to the umpire between Sand Bar batters, “Man, these guys never stop.”
No they don’t, Eddie.
But I mentioned good defense, too. Sand Bar third baseman NOAH KNEISLEY snagged a line-drive smash on the opening pitch of the playoffs, and he’d do it again and again throughout the evening.
Sand Bar built a commanding 16-0 lead after three innings. Then things got really interesting.
Middle Bass, which seemed punch-drunk after Sand Bar’s hitting barrage, began the fourth by posting 4 runs. Then they shut down Sand Bar’s offense for three straight innings.
What was once a 16-run Sand Bar lead fizzled to five runs, 16-11, through the top of the sixth. ANDY OPPLIGER delivered the big hit for Middle Bass, a 3-run double in the sixth. Middle Bass’ cheering section, never known to take a night off or operate under 200 decibels, had plenty to crow about.
But Sand Bar found its offense again in a big way, and finished the game with a six-run sixth to finish Middle Bass’ season, winning 22-11. Sand Bar advanced to play Kelleys Island on August 3rd at Kelleys.
In the second game, Round House met Heineman’s to determine which team would meet reigning champion Boardwalk in the second round.
In keeping with the defensive theme of the night, Round House’s JACKSON SHELTON made a sliding catch in left field to keep the Winos off the board in the first.
Then Round House posted nine runs in the first two innings, and took a 9-1 lead into the fourth. Again, strong defense kept big innings at-bay, as Heineman’s JOEY WHITE’s twisting catch in right field kept the lid on a Round House rally.
And when it comes to taking one for the team, especially defensively, Heineman’s JON BLASGEN wins the prize. While chasing a shot down the right-field line, BLASGEN dislocated his left pinky finger in two places. He was attended to on-field by Sand Bar’s KAYLA BANKS, who was attending the game as a fan. BANKS pulled BLASGEN’s finger back into alignment, then the game continued.
But in the end, Round House’s offense proved too much, and with a nine-run fifth, Round House won it, 18-1. “The House of Circular Architectural Design” will meet Boardwalk on August 3rd to determine which team enters the championship series.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 3
Round House, which suffered the season’s most lop-sided loss on June 15th, a 30-4 pummeling by Kelleys, found itself in the playoff semifinals, having righted its ship and pulled its collective game together.
And why not? With bangers like JACKSON SHELTON, Round House found its feet mid-season and steadily improved. As MASON HART stepped up his pitching game and Round House’s defense became top-tier, things turned around for the Home of Whiskey Light.
On this night, the order was a tall one. Could Roundhouse hang with Boardwalk, known for its ability to strike first and strike hard?
Hang they did, but lost, 8-5, in a game played with threatening skies throughout.
Roundhouse scored first, plating one run in the first inning, as SHELTON drove ANDY “BURNSEY” BURNS home with a single to right.
But as they’ve done all season, Boardwalk responded immediately, scoring twice in the bottom of the first. And just like that, the reigning champs were on top to stay.
Boardwalk scored four more runs through four, and felt comfortably ahead, 6-1, in a game played in just over an hour’s time. When Round House made a move, scoring three in the sixth, things tightened up, as Boardwalk’s lead was reduced to one run, 6-5.
But Boardwalk is built to score runs, and they did it twice in the bottom of the sixth, all but icing the game. In the seventh, Round House was hampered by ill-timed rainfall, which made a comeback harder, and Boardwalk secured the win.
In the other semifinal game played on Kelleys Island, Sand Bar dropped a crusher to Kelleys, 24-23.Boardwalk will meet Kelleys Island in the championship series, a repeat of 2021’s final, beginning Sunday, August 7th at Kelleys.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 7th
Kelleys Island wins Game 1 of the 2022 Championship Series, 12-10.
MONDAY, AUGUST 8th (RAIN-OUT)
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 10th
Look, man, I don’t know about the moon and stars. Things spin around, the clocks and years go tick-tick and flash-flash. All that cosmos stuff is too much for me.
All I know is softball, brother. So it takes us 365 days to orbit once around the sun. All I know is, in 10 months, the softball season starts again.
And so it will be in 2023. But in 2022, this season was a doozy.
When Kelleys Island visited PIB for Game 2 of the Championship Series vs. Boardwalk, both teams lined up along the first- and third-baselines for the pre-game prayer. It was the last time either team wouldn’t be in frenetic motion.
As the visitor, Kelleys batted first and racked up three runs immediately, as catcher OWEN BURNETT crushed a three-run homer deep into the woods in right field. Burnett’s teammates, a swarm of optic green, awaited his arrival at home plate for a joyous celebration.
But the hoots and hollers were short-lived. Boardwalk wasted little time, scoring twice in the bottom of the first, and the tone was set. Kelleys led, 3-2, after one inning.
The league’s premier pitchers, BRAD “FOZZIE” FOSNIGHT for Kelleys and JOHN “MURPH” MURPHY for Boardwalk, would keep scoring under some control, and superlative defense didn’t hurt either.
Second basemen for both teams were brilliant. Kelleys’ RYAN WOLF made a diving stab to his right to throw out Boardwalk’s ZACH KOWALSKI in the second. And not to be outdone, Boardwalk’s ASHTON PUPOS, the humble umpire’s choice for Defensive Player of the Year, ranged far to his left to nick Kelleys’ HAYDEN HOFFMAN at first in the third inning. Through all this, Kelleys expanded its lead, 7-4, through three innings.
Things got darker for Boardwalk after four innings, as Kelleys pushed the lead to 10-4. But Boardwalk pushed two runs across in the fifth, as MURPHY doubled home his son, MIKE, and suddenly Boardwalk was within striking distance, trailing 10-6.
Strong pitching clamped down the scoring for two innings. FOSNIGHT, who plays for Men’s D Division national champion Young Money in Ohio’s One Nation Slowpitch Softball Association, used his signature deceptive delivery to keep Boardwalk batters off-balance.
Entering the final seventh inning, Kelleys led, 10-6. Then the hitters went crazy.
Kelleys tacked on 5 runs in the top of the seventh, driving its lead to 15-6.DARREN MAJOY pounded a three-run double that seemed to seal Boardwalk’s fate. But it wasn’t over yet.
Down to its last chance, Boardwalk sent nine men to the plate in the seventh and pushed five runs across with nobody out. The score stood 15-11 and the hometown crowd was howling.
With one out and the bases loaded, Boardwalk’s JOHN “MURPH” MURPHY waited on third base, having pitched a strong game and dragged his team back into contention.
The next swing would tell it all. Boardwalk’s MIKE MURPHY grounded to Kelleys third baseman BRANDON “PORTO” PORTALES, who stepped on third base for the force-out, then made a strong throw to catcher BURNETT to tag the charging JOHN MURPHY. A spectacular double play ended the 2022 playoffs, and crowned a new champion. Kelleys Island won, 15-11.
The league trophy, having resided at Boardwalk for three seasons, was hoisted by the jumping, cheering mob in optic green.
At 8:38 p.m. on this day, the sun set on Boardwalk’s season, and a few minutes later, a full moon rose over Kelleys Island.
To my wife, the former Jody Helmick (and Art teacher at PIB School), who keeps track of runs and outs each inning, and gathers names of players whose exploits appear in this column.
To the volunteer field umpires: David Hill, Mason Hart, Gunnar Lilly, Billy Market, Heidi Craddock, Mike Murphy, Tyler Webb, Jon Blasgen, and Corey Williams.
To the scoreboard operators (not an easy gig): Dino Uszak, Scott McGookey, Emma Berner, Allison Dawson, El Kostura, Drew Christensen, among others.
To the Murphy family – John, Paddy and Mike – for grooming Mother of Sorrows Field throughout the season. Best of luck at Purdue, Paddy: make your father proud!
To Susan Byrnes, for excellent action photography. Sorry I had to interrupt your lunch at the Keys to beg you to work your magic behind the lens.
To Deacon Jim O’Donnell of Mother of Sorrows Church, for allowing LEISL to use its field, and for his on-field prayers before each game.
To the LEISL fans: Thanks for your enthusiasm and humor! I know the players appreciate your attendance.
And, lastly, to the LEISL players: Having played softball as a young man in Ohio and California, I can say that this co-ed league has the highest level of play I’ve ever seen. Hope to see you next season!
Putinbay.com is proud to present this Put-in-Bay Gazette article from the September 2022 issue.
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