By Gavin Menu
The final series of the Sag Harbor men’s fastpitch softball season was reminiscent of the Cold War, an arms race to the finish.
With a record number of bombs flying over the outfield fence at Mashashimuet Park, it was Immaculate Pools that had more firepower in the end, blowing out Madison & Main one last time to claim the 2013 championship.
At the center of the post-game celebration were Bruce Schiavoni, Nick Dombkowski and Tim Pilinko, the three longest tenured players from Immaculate Pools. It was Dombkowski whose walk-off homerun in the bottom of the fifth inning ended the game early with a mercy-ruled final score of 29-13.
“I’ve been here 14 years, Tim 15 years and Bruce 13 years,” Dombkowski said afterwards, holding the current trophy, which dates back to 1989, in his arms. “This is our third straight year in the finals so it feels pretty good to finally win one.”
Monday night was the final game in a best-of-five series that had it all, most notably an abundance of offense that produced a total of 205 runs in five games, which, according to Fred Marienfeld, who has been with the league since the 1970s, is remarkable and unprecedented offensive production.
Immaculate mercy-ruled Madison & Main in the first two games as well and many thought the series would be over quickly. But coach Carl Shank and the Madison & Main players—led by the trio of C.J. Shank, Danny Bakke and Nick Aquino—had other ideas. Games 3 and 4 were once again slugfests, but instead it was Madison & Main sweeping both games by scores of 28-26 and 20-18.
“In last week’s article, Bruce said it would be over quick,” Shank said before Monday night’s game, referencing an article in The Sag Harbor Express. “It wasn’t.”
Both teams seemed confident heading into Monday’s final. Bakke drove in Teague Florio for a run in the first inning, but Immaculate blew up immediately in the bottom of the first inning. Pilinko hit a homerun to start the scoring and two batters later came a two-run homerun from Brian Anderson, a huge pick-up for Immaculate this year who used to play for Sag Harbor Liquors. A flurry of singles and doubles followed and before most fans had settled into the bleachers, Immaculate led 10-1.
Both pitchers, Pilinko for Immaculate and Robbie “The Rock” Brewer for Madison & Main, tossed rare shutout innings in the second, but with the third came another offensive eruption, this time from Madison & Main, which scored 12 runs in a rally punctuated by a pair of two-run homeruns from Acquino and Bakke to take back the lead, 13-10.
Immaculate came back and scored two runs in the bottom of the third and another in the bottom of the fourth to tie the game at 13.
The defensive play of the game came in the top of the fourth after Madison & Main had loaded the bases with two outs and the power hitting C.J. Shank at the plate. Shank roped a shot to the gap in right-center field only to watch Tyler Gilbride make a sliding catch to prevent all three runs from coming home.
“I saw Nick [Dombkowski] coming from leftfield and he yelled for me to get there,” said Gilbride, who also led the league this year with 19 homeruns. “I was busting as hard as I could and just laid out at the end.”
“I think that was the turning point of the game,” coach Shank said afterwards. “But I have nothing bad to say about my team. They played hard to the finish.”
Pilinko pitched a 1-2-3 “Goose” in the top of the fifth, setting the stage for a dramatic final inning at the plate.
Gilbride and Christian Cooney, who each hit multiple homeruns in the final series, smashed three-run homeruns that put Immaculate up, 21-13, in the bottom of the fifth inning. The league’s run rule states that if a team is up 15 after five innings of play, the game ends. After six more runs, Dombkowski smashed his homerun to provide a 16-run cushion and he, Pilinko, Schiavoni and Immaculate Pools were finally able to celebrate a championship a decade-and-a-half in the making.