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The SweepersBy DARREN ELKIN

Here’s how things looked at the beginning of this years’ slo-pitch season: After a disappointing 2016 season, the Sweepers were looking for a little revenge and a return to form; the House of Ashkenazi was looking for its fourth title in six years; the Swingers were looking to get back to the finals - and this time show-up; the Gloverboys were just looking to win a series; and the Hammers and Diamonds were looking to survive the season and show some progress.


Let’s just say not everyone’s dreams came true, but what did happen was a very interesting regular season followed by a return to dominance in the play-offs by............
The Hammers captain Joel Samphir was able to get his young crew to play together, to believe and, dare I say, put a season together no one thought was possible! Joel’s decision to make Max Erenberg his bridge to the youth on the team was key and helped the Hammers start their trend upwards. This is a team of the future and the future could be 2018 if they can just add a couple more solid players.
The Swingers, who were one game away from winning it all in 2016, had it all come crashing down in 2017. While they were a talented team they just could not stop the ship from sinking. They’ll have many questions to answer before 2018 if they want to return to form. It Looks like Captain Jason Lichtman will be looking to add a few free agents and a possible starting pitcher.
The House of Ashkenazi was again solid, if not spectacular. They relied on their pitching and defense to win most games as their hitting left a little to be desired, but come play-off time one can never count the House out.
The Sweepers put together another solid season under the reigns of captain and league commish Shael Glesby. While their runs for were down a little, their pitching and defense were still at the top, thus making them a dangerous team come play-off time.
Finally the Gloverboys: Benji Rothman has assembled a young, fast and a solid hitting team who appear to be getting better each year as evidenced by their record and stats, but would they be able to close out a series?
Okay, let’s get this article going because you aren’t here to listen to me pontificate; you’re here because you want to know how it all turned out. The Gloverboys finished tied for first with the Sweepers at 15-5, but won the tiebreaker; the House finished third at 12-8, followed by the Hammers at 9-10-1, the Swingers at 5-14-1, and the Diamonds at 3-17.
So our two eliminations games were set. We had the Hammers versus the Swingers and the House versus the Diamonds. At first glance, one would have thought the House would run over the Diamonds but, to their credit, the Diamonds, behind the brilliant pitching of Everett Cantor and some timely hitting, managed to hold the lead throughout only to have the House slowly but surely do what they do and inch back. By the time the ninth inning rolled around the Diamonds had squandered a large lead and were trailing by two - 16-14. The Diamonds did manage to score once but, unfortunately left the tying run on second with two outs, as House all-star pitcher Richard Hechter dug deep and struck out the last Diamond, thus preventing an upset.
The House was now moving on to the semi-finals against the Sweepers – yes, the same team they swept last season in the semi-finals. Would this be more of the same or would the Sweepers exact the revenge that they had been waiting for these last 12 months?
More on that in a moment, but for now let’s focus on the other elimination game between the Hammers, who finished fourth, and the Swingers, who finished fifth. On paper one would have thought the Swingers - despite their season of turmoil, would have the edge. After all, they had been in the finals last season.
The Hammers had no real history of play-off success and, despite their much improved regular season, sometimes these sorts of improvements come crashing down in the play-offs until one learns to win.
For their part the Hammers seemed loose and had an early lead in a tight affair, but the Swingers, who have always been able to hit (It’s just the other aspects of baseball that have eluded them). slowly chipped away at the Hammers’ lead and eventually shut the Hammers down for a 13-12 victory. The Swingers were now moving on to face the first place Gloverboys again. At this point the Gloverboys had plenty of time to pick out their pre-game music, and the thought of avenging last year’s semi-finals loss to the Swingers must have been a sweet thought.
Let’s start with the first place Gloverboys versus the fifth place Swingers. Last year saw the Swingers lose Game One, only to win Games Two and Three, and move onto the finals. I’m not sure anyone believed that this would happen again, or even go three games, as the Swingers just didn’t have that sort of year that one would believe in miracles. On the other hand, the Gloverboys seemed to have steamrolled thru most of 2017, and I most certainly expected more of the same from them in this series.
Well, the Gloverboys did not disappoint me. They hit and hit, never looked back and battered the Swingers into submission and an early off-season with wins of 26-9 and 25-16. They were now moving on to their first ever WJMBL finals with a yet-to-be-determined opponent.
Our other semi-finals featured the second place Sweepers (2014 & 2015 champs) versus the third place House of Ashkenazi (2012, 2013 & 2016 champs) in a series that would most certainly showcase great pitching and defense. The question was: Who would get those timely hits to win? Would Matt L have his House dynasty, or would the Sweepers be going for three titles in four years? Time would soon tell.
Game One saw the Sweepers dominate early , hold the House scoreless for the first six innings, and build a lead. The House did manage to score four runs in the seventh inning and three in the eighth, , but it was far too little and far too late. The Sweepers won a game they controlled from the onset 13-7, and now were one game away from exacting revenge for 2016 and returning to the finals.
Game Two saw the House jump out early with four runs in the first, which I’m sure made them confident and, after three innings the House was up 6-5. It was a small lead for sure, but considering it took them until the seventh inning to score a run in Game One, this must have given the House some confidence.
Well, this also woke up the Big Red Machine, as they held the House scoreless for the last six innings of the game, while scoring ten runs to win easily 15-6. They were now headed for a date in the finals with their good friends, the Gloverboys. The Sweepers’ pitching and defense was outstanding, as they held the House scoreless for 14 of the 18 innings played. To its credit, the House played well, but just could not get those timely hits to put any pressure on the Sweepers in either game.
So, here we were, headed to the finals with the Gloverboys versus the Sweepers; this time in a series to see who would win it all! These finals had all the makings of one of the best in many a year, with two 15-5 teams facing off at RRC Field, along with the intensity these two teams bring when they play each other.
Let’s get to Game One action: Game One saw the home team Gloverboys shock the Sweepers early and build a 9-2 lead after two innings, only to watch the Sweepers pitching, defense and hitting come alive. By the time it was all over the Sweepers had rolled to a 23-12 win and a 1-0 series lead.
With Game Two delayed a week, old mo was certainly gone, but early on the Sweepers took a 10-2 lead and held that until the seventh inning. Then, the Gloverboys raised themselves from the dead, scored ten runs in the seventh inning, ripped the game away from under the Sweepers’ noses, and won going away 19-10 to tie the finals at one game apiece.
We were headed for another Game Three between these two teams, and frankly no one should have expected anything different. One might have thought the Gloverboys were relishing the thought of the Sweepers blowing a one game lead in a series! With Game Three only two sleeps away the Sweepers had to put the Game Two debacle out of their minds, and the Gloverboys had to remember there was still one more game to be played.
Game Three was now here; questions were answered early and often as the Sweepers plated seven in the top of the first and never took their foot off of the pedal. By the time dusk came and darkness was almost upon us the Sweepers had throttled the Gloverboys 34-15 in seven innings (mercy rule invoked) and had claimed their third championship in the last four years.
The Sweepers are a mixture of old, really old and young. Over the last four years of myself playing on the team I have seen the young guns: Jordan Vine, Blake Oman, Daniel Glesby, Ira Kaye, Jason Glass, Sol Raber and Adam Meyers, help aid in the creation of a championship culture on this team. I think the old guard on this team can truthfully say these kids have kept us young and hungry to keep this going. They are a class group of guys. On a sad note, Danny Braunstein of the Sweepers announced his plans to retire, so it was a fitting way for a class act to go out. We wish Danny well.
A special thank you to Meyer Thompson (Jordan Vine’s grandfather), who is our number one fan. I don’t think Meyer missed a game regardless of weather .Even when Jordy was not playing, Meyer was still there. Consider yourself a Sweeper for life Meyer!

The following are the trophies handed out this year:
Earl Barish Championship Trophy: Sweepers
Jack Koffman Trophy: Gloverboys (First Place in the Regular Season)
Trevor Paul Trophy: Seth Nepon (Sportsmanship/Attendance/Dedication to his team/league)
Richard Tapper Trophy: Jon Bitton (Spirit/Enthusiasm/Commitment to his team/league)
As always, a special thank you to League Commissioner Shael Glesby for all his hard work, and to Garth Nemy for keeping the Facebook page up and running, schedule making and for coming out to watch the playoffs As well, to Don Smart, our chief umpire, and to all his crew for making this year another successful year in the WJMBL.