Thursday, August 5, 2004

Springdale keeps momentum going

Title within reach after two upsets

By Colleen Kane
Enquirer staff writer

It took a couple of surprises, but Springdale Cleaners remains one of two teams left in the Major winner's bracket of the Cincinnati Metro Softball Tournament. And two games are all that stand between the team and its first Major Metro championship.

Springdale's run started Saturday when the team upset perennial contender and defending champion Watanabe 24-16, and it continued late Tuesday evening when Springdale came back from a five-run deficit heading into the seventh inning to beat Robke Sales/Reds Boys 17-14.

"We were probably the underdogs in both of them," said team manager Lou Keener, who has participated in the Metro since the 1970s. "When you beat (Reds Boys or Watanabe), you've competed against the best, and that's what we want."

Springdale Cleaners next will play the winner of Wednesday night's game between Alpine Mortgage and EMR Worth in the winner's bracket final Saturday. The winner of that game will move on to the championship final Sunday evening, weather permitting. A winner-take-all game will follow if the loser's bracket champion wins that game.

"There's a lot of good teams, and we've got a long way to go still," middle infielder Brandon Chesnut said. "At this point, you've got to step your game up to match those guys and hope you can play a little bit over your heads."

A little like the team's first two games.

On Saturday, Springdale took advantage of a short-handed Watanabe team, which rushed back from a game in the National Softball Association's A World Championships in Muncie, Ind., to play in the Metro. Watanabe was still missing several starters. Springdale led nearly the whole time, hitting 11 home runs (past the Metro's limit for the Majors).

"Not too many people end up beating Watanabe out here," said Gary Henderson, another Springdale manager. "Knowing that they were going to be short-handed, I thought we had a good chance at it. When their whole team is here, they're pretty much unbeatable. But on any given day ..."

Springdale struggled to get going Tuesday. The Reds Boys held Springdale scoreless in the second, third and sixth innings and went into the seventh inning up 14-9. But then Springdale's Donnie Mills and Donnie Merril hit three- and two-run homers, and Springdale got the 17-14 win.

Springdale is made up of several Metro veterans, some of whom have won Metro titles separately, but never as Springdale Cleaners, they said. If they win their next game, they might have to play Watanabe or Reds Boys again, but either team would have to win three games in the loser's bracket, then both games of the championship final for the title.

"We've got a little bit of momentum," Henderson said. "It was a pretty big lift for us beating them."

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