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The tenacious Bravos showed up in force to match up with Team USA on Wednesday night May 17th on a classic, beautiful evening in Central Park. The sun was shining, the field was lush, the mood was positive, and with an open block of time the phrase “let’s play two” was uttered in many corners of the field. And that’s what occurred. In the first game, Team USA took a promising 6-0 lead, a great step toward avenging last week’s late game defensive collapse. However, the Bravos felt confident coming off a recent 3 game winning streak, stormed back in the bottom of the first to make the score 6-4. What ensued from there was more a case of the Bravos “hitting them were they ain’t”, singles plopping in, up the middle liners, that lead to a steady yet decisive trouncing of the Americans (whose bats noticeably quieted down). Bravos 12, USA 7. In the nightcap, team USA again took the offensive, and this time did not let up. Sparked by a tremendous grand slam home run by newcomer Mike Levine, and solid defensive plays all around (noticeably good plays from Casey McGee, Eric DeSantis, Ruben Gonzalez, and Brooks Hefner), the Americans notched their first victory of the promising season. USA 12, Bravos 3. Standings: Bravos: 2 USA: 1
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The grass was green, the mood was upbeat, the weather was warm but not overbearing. Cheers of Harvey were heard in the air, both directly and indirectly in the form of “who wants to pitch today”, a question that really didn’t need to be asked in decades. What started out as a promising late afternoon start for Team USA quickly descended into a pattern of worry. Game 1 consisted of a solid offensive performance by the Bravos and a cacophony of early mental and physical errors by the Americans. Team USA did somewhat settle down defensively, though right field proved to be adventurous territory throughout the game. In addition, USA rallied back from an early 3-0 deficit, closing the gap to 5-4 than 6-5. However, the comeback was too little too late. The Bravos offense proved to be crisp and calculating, helped by well-placed up the middle hits by Benny (normally a Team USA mainstay). In the end, the Bravos prevailed in a mostly dominating fashion. Bravos: 11 USA: 7
The nightcap quickly looked like a carbon copy of Game 1, although defensively it appeared that USA was falling into a better groove. Fearing a sweep and down 6-2 going into the top of the 6th inning, the Gringos showed serious gumption and resolve, and refused to give up easily. Before you knew it, the score was tied 6-6. Holding off Mexico in the bottom of the 6th, USA rallied further, lead by an astounding 2 run triple by Tommy Panas. What ensued was a lead of 9-6 going into the bottom half of the 7th and final inning. A smart heads-up double play by shortstop John Helato closed the door for any hope of late inning Bravo heroics, and sealed the victory for Team USA. USA 9 Bravos 6 Noteworthy performances included solid all around play by Mike Levine, a sharp bat from Bob Tuchman, impressive lefty hitting from Andrea Patrello, and good heads-up pitching and catching (plus that clutch hit!) by Tommy Panas. Standings tied, USA 3, Bravos 3. Note that Team USA has won 3 of the last 4 games, an encouraging sign.
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In a stunning display of over-the-top showmanship, the former Bravos (now Team Mexico, or Mexicans) lead by Juan Bello and the Bello brothers, lulled Team USA into a listless defeat. Of course losses are bittersweet because I as well as many others view the opportunity to get out on a summer Wednesday afternoon in Central Park and play a fun game of softball with a bunch of great people as an absolute honor. Perhaps the stakes were raised a bit as Mexico showed up with crisp, white head-to-toe uniforms (hats, REAL jerseys, pants, sewn on names and numbers on the back….even cleats?). Perhaps the uniforms inspired them to not flawless but very good defensive execution. A few well-placed hits and some early miscues lead to an early Mexico lead. What characterized this evening (aside from having to exit the field at 7pm, dashing hopes of a double-header) was a rather listless offensive punch despite sharp bats from John Helato and Ruben Gonzalez. Scoring chances were wasted in key situations (this author as guilty as anyone). While USA settled down defensively (lead by the fine return of Benny at shortstop and solid play by Ruben Gonzalez in left, and Mike Levine in left-center, the offense was spotty at best and showed rust after last weeks rainout. The Bravos eaked out a 4-2 victory that never convincingly seemed like it would be overcome despite the small margin. Exiting the field was not much gleam in the eye, happiness for the experience, or camaraderie among the Americanos. Look for a rebound next week for Team USA. Standings: Mexico 4 USA 3
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Team USA has faced continuous challenges throughout the 2006 campaign. A late start to the season, a roving, vagabond existence for a home field, mother nature’s merciless rains, and a revamped Mexico lineup that has proven to be tenacious. Even a rare pesticide closing on an idyllic day. But last night’s showing by the Americans proved that as long as the enthusiasm is high and the spirit remains strong, it’s pretty damn hard not to enjoy this game, play hard, smile wide, look forward to the next Wednesday, and notch a few victories along the way. And that is exactly what occurred last night in what turned out to be a wild and wooly offensive explosion for both sides at the popular one-time use Riverside Park field. Both sides marveled at the enchanting surrounds, soft artificial turf, an enticingly high, close left field wall (clearly reminiscent of Fenway Park’s green monster), all among the glistening background of the East River on a perfectly gorgeous August evening. Incidentally, the return of good-natured Ruben Gonzales added to the mood amid morale boosters Tommy Panas, Brooks Hefner, and Sabato Noto. To be clear, this was not a defensive gem of a game by any stretch of the imagination. One can observe that virtually everyone on both sides committed at least one (if not official) error or more than minor lapse in judgment. But seriously, who cares! We had fun as the score bounced back and forth, with Team USA taking a 3-0 lead, Bravos coming back, then 5-3, a healthy 3 run dinger by John Helato (yes, OVER the wall, how satisfying is that??), plus solid hitting from Chris Haywood and his MTA buddy Jerry (a good snag for next season). Despite repeated Mexico rallies EVERY damn inning, Team USA kept upping the ante and padding the lead. The Americans went up 9-3 partly on Helato’s shot and an impressive 2 out rally. Bravos answered in the bottom part of the 3rd to make it 9-7. Going into the bottom half of the 7th inning up 18-12, the Bravos responded with 3 more runs before the door was finally shut. Final Score: USA 18 Mexico 15. Standings: Tied at 5 Wins Per Team!! (one tie from last week).
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In what easily can be described as a microcosm of the 2006 campaign in general, last night’s final regular season matchup between Team USA and Mexico started out challenging and finished in a thrilling manner. Challenging start? Ominous skies, threat of a rainout, a washed out field, spotty attendance, a move to not one field but two, an argument with two teams over rights to two fields. One wouldn’t think this would be the flurry of a finish in a series that was tied going into the final day! But true to the spirit of their namesake, the Americans adjusted, grit their teeth (with a smile!), and just got the job done. Facing a 5-1 deficit in the top of the third, Team USA rallied nicely to take a 7-5 lead. Brooks Hefner came through with a clutch hit, as did Sabato Noto with a beauty of an opposite field single. Of course, John Helato stirred the crowd, after hitting monsterous popouts to left and center, chose right field and finished with a rousing 2 run dinger. Chris Haywood added a few solid hits in an overall solid effort. Sab Noto pitched admirably. With the score 9-6 going into the bottom of the final 7th inning, Team Mexico showed their penchant for rallying, scoring two runs and then put another man on first. Sab shut down the final two hitters (lineout to the sure-handed Tommy Panas at third) and a final flyout ot center. USA 9 Mexico 8 Final Season Results: Team USA 8 Mexico 7
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World Series Game 2:
Amid classic grey, fall skies in the middle of the great lawn, that old familiar happy feeling kicked in among both the Mexicans and Team USA. Happy to be in central park, playing a fun game, and having a good time. Amid this melancholy state, Team USA put together easily their finest effort of the year. The defensive effort was startling, obviously driven by the strong field leadership of Benny but well spread across the infield and outfield. Team USA looked stellar. And the bats came alive as well, as it felt like just about everyone was in the zone. Even the outs were strong liners, monsterous fly balls, or sharp grounders. Team USA picked up a few last additions that proved to be a strong catalyst to the effort. In particular, Palma at second base was an eyebrow-raising sparkplug, with stellar defense, a sharp bat, and standout hustle. Hopefully she returns next week! The Americans revealed the potential we knew we had all season (and harkoned back to how it all came together in last year’s fall classic). Aric Boyles return added nicely to the effort as well. Score: USA 15 Mexico 5 Series USA 1 Mexico 1
World Series Game 4:
Symptomatic of this crazy season, Team USA wore their assorted colors with deep pride amid confusion, challenges, and strife. Facing a pivotal game 4 of the World Series with a 2-1 lead, Team USA had to scramble to assemble a team. Indicative of the grit was Sabato Noto, who went out to the mound and pitched a complete game with a broken arm!! Yes, that does mean we were a bit desperate for players, but he did a fantastic job and the other assorted pick-ups were truly exceptional additions. Laural at catcher tagged out charging Bravos at the plate, and her hitting (2 for 3) and hustle boosted morale for USA. A very tight, seesaw game ensued, with lead changes oscillating between the borders. Clutch hitting by mainstays Chris Haywood (who was putting on a clinic!), Benny Santos (FROM THE BRONX), and Casey McGee had everyone confident that tonite was our night. Things turned ugly at the top half of the last inning, with Mexico winning 12-11 and at bat, when Mexico tried to cheat (as we suspect they’ve been doing all season) by changing the batting order and putting one of their better hitters up vs. a weaker player. Benny Santos called them out, and HE WAS RIGHT! BUSTED! This infuriated and motivated Team USA, and lead to a rousing 2 run rally in the bottom of the last inning to win the game, 13-12!! Whoooohooooo!!!!! World Series: USA 3 Mexico 1 What ensued from there cannot be printed in this email. Suffice it to say certain members of the team did a multi-borough tour that moved from Manhattan to 161st street in the Bronx, to a shady section of Queens. 4am anyone??
 
Final Standings of World Series, USA 3  Mexico 1 (last game canceled due to heavy rains)
 
 
 
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In a highly emotional debut of the 2006 softball season that began with sprinkling Harvey Schierer’s ashes on the pitching mound, the Bravos, recently renamed Team Mexico, rallied back with two outs in the last inning to achieve a stunning 8-6 victory over Team USA. Due to a cacophony of errors late in the game that was otherwise a decent opening day defensive performance, Team USA fell apart late in the day and was unable to try to regain the victory in the bottom half of the inning due to time constraints. Mexico was buoyed by a collection of new, bright green uniforms, just like their surprise “Bravos” jerseys were displayed during the World Series last year. Similarly, we have something up our sleeve as well. Expect to see our own jerseys and hats this week. Mexico: 1 USA: 0
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