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Rec Sports Spotlight: Batters master Carroll Co-ed Softball League

Randy Groves had spent five years struggling to put together a championship team in the Carroll County Co-ed Softball League. In fact, he said he became so frustrated that he almost quit trying.

Well, things finally broke right this fall. His Master Batters roared to the title of the league's Lower Division. After a first-place regular season, the Batters swept four October playoff games to take the championship, winning the final by an 8-7 score.

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Groves explained that a lot of players had come and gone over the team's five-year run. Five new ones came on this fall, changing the 8-8 summer team's roster by almost half. Many on this revised roster were from the Westminster area and some, including Groves, were from Hampstead. A couple of players even commuted from Hanover.

Groves described the new aggregation as "friends and friends of friends."

This mix of players had the magic, although he wasn't sure just how magical they would be when the season got ready to start.

Groves admitted that he didn't know how the new players would fit or how well the team would do at that point. But he quickly learned that the pieces were all there, and they all fit together very nicely.

"It was a completely different team this fall. It all just fell into place. They were all comfortable with their positions. And, there wasn't a lot of drama and complaints over where they were playing," he said.

In addition, these were players who were committed to showing up at the games. The team was rarely short-handed.

And when they weren't playing, they enjoyed getting together socially.

With the right mix now in place, the team set about to winning some games. In their regular season, they went a sparkling 15-1.

Groves found that he had a squad that was strong both fielding and hitting-wise. The key to any co-ed softball team's success is the quality of its female players, and Groves' team had good ones. Some had played college softball.

When it hit adversity, the squad persevered.

"We sometimes had a bad inning, but we'd push through it. We'd just took things slow and came back when we needed to," he said.

The team would illustrate that resilience in the postseason tournament's championship game as a matter of fact.

The Master Batters opened that tournament with a 13-1 win over UnNatural Disasters.

Rick Kumrow pitched the first of three excellent games for the winners in this one. Groves went 3-for-3. Dereck Boone and Tracy Manley were each 2-for-3.

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The second game was another easy one with the Batters beating Ragrets, 9-1.

Cailin Kwecer was 3-for-3 and Morganna Davis, 2-for-3 for the Batters in this second game. Dan Bateman and Chris Buddemeyer each drove in two runs for the winners, and Buddemeyer had a triple.

That was it for the laughers. The final two games would test the team's ability to win the close ones.

The third game was against third-seeded Family Affair. It would go eight innings before Groves' team pulled it out, 3-2.

Dan Bateman, who went 2-for-3, scored the winning run. Randy Groves Sr. went 2-for-2.

The fourth and final game started disastrously for the Batters. They fell behind, 4-1, in the third inning and then trailed, 7-2, after six. Family Affair was cruising behind pitcher Rick Miller. Groves said his players were pretty worn out by the seventh inning, having played an inning shy of four games already. And losing that badly, they were expecting to have to play another game with Family Affair to decide the championship.

But fortunately for the Batters, the games are seven innings long. And in that final inning, their bats suddenly became very masterful. The team strung together a bunch of singles to cut the lead to 7-6. Then Dan Bateman singled in Diane Bateman with the tying run, and Kwecer beat out an infield grounder to plate Bateman with the winner.

Diana Bateman was 2-for-4 and played an excellent outfield in that game. Taylor Chaffman drove in two runs and was 1-for-3. Sammi Joe Grove scored two runs for the winners.

"Everybody was tired and beat up, and we were losing, 7-2. But we clawed back to win. It was really awesome. Everybody was jumping up and down at the end," Groves recalled.

"I waited five years to get a team like this, and it went wire-to-wire to win. Now we'll try again next year."

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