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Sweepers: front row (kneeling) left to right-Shael Glesby (captain), Sol Raber, Adam Meyers, Jason Glass and his son Goose Middle row-Left to Right-Darren Elkin (blue jacket), Jeff Koplovich, Daniel Glesby (black jacket), Blake Oman (red cap), Meyer Thompson (holding the trophy) & Jordan Vine Back Row left to right-Ben Carr (blue cap), Jared Tworek (black cap), Ira Kaye, Reese Ratson & Chaim Raber.

By DARREN ELKIN
There were a number of questions left after the 2017 season which one wondered if they would be answered in 2018? One being, would the Hammers take the next step forward and improve on a solid 2017? Could the Diamonds add some youth and improve on a rather dismal 3-17 record from 2017?


Then there was the question: Can the defending champs, the Sweepers, win it all again - making it 4 championships in 5 years? The Gloverboys and The House are always favourites to contend, but could either team take that next step to overcome their disappointing end to the 2017 season? And finally: the Swingers - could they shore up their roster and once again be a team that no one wanted to play?
These questions seemed to get answered early and often as both the Hammers and Diamonds jumped out quickly to the front of the pack with dominating wins. Last year’s finalists, the Sweepers and Gloverboys, did not look like the two teams who battled all last year for first place and, in the finals, both teams looked rather sluggish.
The Swingers, who had their roster gutted by injuries and free agency never seemed to hit their stride, and continued 2018 in much the same fashion as 2017. And finally, the House: Over the winter months they lost a couple of key players to retirement and just were not able to replace them.

The season ended with the Sweepers taking first place with a 14-4-2 record, followed closely by the Hammers at 14-5-1. It took until the last regular season game for the Sweepers to claim 1st with a dismantling of the Hammers in that game 26-9.
The Diamonds finished 3rd at 10-7-3, followed by the Gloverboys at 9-10-1. The House fell all the way to 5th with a record of 4-14-2 and the Swingers brought up the rear at 4-15-1.
So we were now set for our first elimination game, which featured the 3rd place Diamonds versus the 6th place Swingers. After getting beaten badly in their final game against the Diamonds, no one but Swingers Captain Jason Lichtman gave the Swingers much of a chance.
Well, the Swingers controlled the game from the outset and by the time it was all said and done they had beaten the Diamonds rather easily 24-15. This could possibly have been the Swingers’ best game of the year. Afterwards their captain Jason Lichtman was heard to say, “We want the Sweepers!!” This defeat will leave a bitter taste in the collective mouths of the Diamonds over the winter.

Our second elimination game featured the 4th place Gloverboys versus the 5th place House. The Gloverboys seemed to be righting the ship just a bit over the final 5 to 6 games, so the odds makers had them as heavy favourites to defeat the House. While the House kept it close for a while they always trailed, finally succumbing 22-17, and were eliminated from further play. After getting swept in last years’ semi-finals and finishing well below .500 this year, the House have some work to do if they want to see the top of the mountain anytime soon.

Our first semi-finals featured the 1st place Sweepers against the 6th place Swingers, who had just upset the 3rd place Diamonds. One had to believe that the Swingers were feeling good going into game one of their tilt with the Big Red Machine! The Sweepers, on the other hand, didn’t appear to be too worried about their opponent.
Well, that changed quickly as a close game got broken open mid way thru and the Swingers held a 14-11 lead heading into the bottom of the 8th. Perhaps a tad of worry was now setting in on the Sweepers bench, but the Sweepers had been there before so one had to believe they had one last push left!
This is when the Swingers’ dream of upsetting the Sweepers became a nightmare! They watched the Big Red Machine plate 6 runs and steal the game right from under their collective noses by a final score of 17-15. Sol Raber delivered the final blow with a 2 run home run over the left field fence in the 8th. That would seal the victory for the defending champs and put them within one win from returning to the finals.

Game two was now upon us and, if I am completely honest, while I didn’t see the result coming the way it did, it was clear to me the Swingers had just lost game two in the bottom of the 8th in game one!
From the start of the game until it ended the Sweepers were in complete control and the Swingers looked almost lost for answers. When all was said and done it was a Sweepers victory by a resounding score of 24-0 (I believe this to be the first shutout in play-off history) and another trip back to the big show and a chance to defend their 2017 championship.

Our second semi-final would feature the always dangerous Gloverboys versus the Hammers. The season series favoured the Gloverboys, but this was a different Hammers team… one that was certainly more confident than in past years! But the question had to be asked: Did the Hammers just overachieve in the regular season or were they for real?
Game one was a low scoring affair which the Hammers had control of until the top of the 9th when the Gloverboys managed to score 9 runs. Unfortunately for the Gboys their late rally fell short, the Hammers escaped with a 14-12 win and were now one win away from advancing to the finals. This had to have given confidence to the Hammers while the Gboys were left to wonder: Would 2018 end in disappointment like the past few seasons had?

Game two was not much different - close at first, but the Hammers held the lead and this time they added to it and never let the Gloverboys get one of their patented big inning rallies. When it was all said and done the Hammers sent the Gloverboys packing 17-11 and the Hammers were off to the finals. It was a fairy tale year for the Hammers, but one could see they believed in each other and the process. The Sweepers would be in tough if they were to claim a second straight championship.
On the other hand the Gloverboys’ early exit must be a huge disappointment for management after making it to within one win of winning it all the previous year.

Game one of the finals was on a very windy night at Red River Field and while the hitters loved it, neither pitcher did! Unable to get any depth or height on their pitches it was basically tee-ball for adults and it showed!
It was also a sloppy contest from the beginning to the end with both teams trading runs and mistakes at a feverish pace, and with no one leading by more than 6 runs. Neither team was able to stop the other from scoring or themselves from making mistakes!
When the umpire declared “last inning” at the top of the 8th the Hammers were leading 33-31 and added another 2 runs to lead 35-31 heading into the bottom of the 8th inning. This would be the Sweepers’ last chance to steal the game from the Hammers, but it would require another miracle rally!
The Sweepers came out hitting and after home runs by Blake Oman (2 run shot) and Jason Glass (solo home run) the Sweepers were now believing and the Hammers were thinking they were about to let this one get away! After Reese Ratson hit a triple, the Sweepers now had the tying run  on third and only one out. Next up: new recruit Jared Tworek, Jared proceeded to hit a deep fly ball to left field which looked for a moment to be going foul and most certainly looked as if it would be caught. But, to the standing room crowd’s delight, it was neither foul nor caught and we were now tied with the winning run on second base and still only one out.
Up came Sol Raber, the “Swinger Killer”, and once again Sol hit a deep fly ball to left center which was caught. The runner from second tagged up and headed to third when the relay throw was botched. What seemed almost unthinkable 10 minutes earlier was now a reality as Jared raced home and the Sweepers had won a remarkable game, 36-35.
As shocked as the Hammers looked, the Sweepers looked just as shocked, wondering how they once again managed to pull out a victory from the certain jaws of defeat. To their credit they stayed within striking distance all game long and went toe to toe with the young upstart Hammers. At the end they drew on their past play-off experience, remained calm and stole one from the Hammers.

Game two was a better night for weather. This time the wind was the pitcher’s friend and runs came few and far between. It was only 4-1 after 5 innings for the Sweepers, yet the game seemed to be in control. While some may have found this sort of low scoring game boring, I can assure you neither I nor the Hammers’ pitcher, Eric Zelcer, thought it was boring. This was how the top two defensive teams should be playing.
Then, late in the game the Sweepers took control scoring 3 runs in the 7th and then another 3 in the 8th after a Jordan Vine 3 run home run that left the park in a hurry! It was now 10-3 for the Sweepers after 8 innings as the Hammers came up empty in their half of the 8th. The Sweepers added 2 more runs in the top of the 9th to put the nail in the coffin and a dominating 12-3 victory.
The Hammers had no answer for the Sweepers’ pitching, hitting and defence on this night and, when it was all said and done, the Sweepers had claimed their second straight championship and fourth in five years. Kudos to the Hammers, who had a great season no matter the outcome of the finals; the experience they have gained should help them going forward. They most certainly are a team to be reckoned with for many years to come.

It was another great year in the WJMBL for all concerned. The influx of youth has not only created more parity, but it bodes well for the league’s future.
The following are the trophies that were awarded:
Earl Barish Championship Trophy-Sweepers
Jack Koffman Trophy (1st place)-Sweepers
Trevor Paul Memorial Trophy (Sportsmanship and Dedication to team/league)-Daniel Glesby of the Sweepers.
Richard Tapper Memorial Trophy (Outstanding Spirit)-David Alper of the Hammers.
Congratulations to Reese Ratson of the Sweepers for leading the league in home runs with 17. He managed to edge out teammate Jason Glass, who ended the year with 15.
As always, a special thank you to Shael Glesby, our commissioner, for his tireless efforts, and to Garth Nemy for his scheduling and running of the league’s Facebook page. And finally, a special thank you to Don Smart, our chief umpire, and his crew for another great season.
And finally, I just want to take a moment to thank my wife Cindy, without whose love and support it would not be possible for me to play the game I love 3 to 4 nights a week. You are a true baseball widow for 4 months every year and it is truly appreciated.

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