Empire rallies past Thundercats for Charles City Men’s Softball League tournament title
Press Staff Report
CHARLES CITY — Down by 9 runs after two innings (12-3), chasing 8 after five (26-18) and down to its last out in the bottom of the seventh, Empire managed to defeat the Thundercats 27-26 in thrilling fashion to win the Charles City Men’s Softball League tournament, Aug. 25 at Westwood Park.
Empire exploded for 15 runs in the third inning to take a momentary lead (18-15), but the Thundercats responded with 11 unanswered runs and were up by 3 (26-23) going into the final inning.
After Empire held the Thundercats scoreless in the top of the seventh, it looked like there would be “No joy in Chuckville” for the home team as two of Empire’s first three batters in the bottom of the seventh were retired.
A walk drawn by Theo Arndt kept things alive before Wade Crooks followed with a base hit, reaching base five times in as many at-bats. Mike Larsen followed with a Texas-league single to shallow right field to chase home Arndt.
With the tying and winning runs on base, Empire leadoff hitter Brandon Rippentrop hit a drive to the right-field fence to bring home Crooks and Larsen — both off at the sound of the bat — for the walk-off win.
Larsen, who scored the winning run, was later named Tournament MVP.
Though the league tournament concluded before the following weekend’s supercell activity, weather conditions were a factor as a dense fog settled onto the field during the championship game making things especially challenging for the outfielders, who were nearly completely obscured from a bleacher vantage point.
The Squirrelcats earned the league’s regular-season title after a near-perfect 23-1 season. But in the tournament, the Squirrelcats were quickly eliminated after losing their first two games in the double-elimination format.