Winfield residents Gary Rains and Bill Gardner spent part of the past week watching two softball championships -- from the losers' bench -- at Salt Box Park in Woodbine.
The two co-managed the CaliforniaCoolers of the Woodbine Women's Softball League and the Winfield team in the Carroll County Firemen's League. Pet Stop upended the California Coolers, 8-2, Thursday, to win the Woodbine Women's postseason crown, while Reese topped Winfield, 5-4, in eight innings Sunday to win that postseason tourney in unbeaten style.
Regular-season Firemen's League winner New Windsor placed fourth.
Both Rains and Gardner are volunteer firemen in Winfield and are friends of the Coolers players. Despite two frustrating near-misses in three days, Gardner wasn't too distraught.
"We were just happy to have the chance to do it (go to the finals)," he said.
His underdog Winfield firemen's squad, only fifth during the regular season, topped Manchester, 7-5, and Union Bridge, 10-6, in Saturday firemen's tourney games.
But Winfield's budding postseason title hopes were --ed by Reese, which had beaten the South Carroll team in two of three regular-season contests.
Reese won their first meeting Sunday, 3-1, knocking Winfield into the losers' bracket.
Winfield emerged by eliminating Union Bridge in another squeaker, 4-3, and then confronted Reese.
Winfield fought to stay alive in the championship game by rallying in the seventh to go ahead, 4-3, on RBI singles by Jerry Little and pinch-hitter Ron Will.
But Reese tied it in the home seventh and won it with a run in the first overtime frame.
"We played good defense. If we had hit a little we might have won it all," said Gardner of his Winfield offense that scored only eight runs in its final three games.
"But, I thought we had a good chance to move upin position and that's what we did. We'll be back next year."
A faltering offense had also helped do in the Rains/Gardner-managed Coolers a few days before, although Pet Stop's bats also hammered a few nails into the coffin.
Earlier, the Coolers had ended the regular-season on a promising
note by blasting Pet Stop, 17-9, in a one-game playoff to break a first-place tie between the two and decide the Woodbine League's regular-season title.
But Pet Stop, which had beaten the Coolers only once in four years and were eliminated by them in last year's post-season tourney, suddenly reversed things.
It scored five first-inning runs and coasted to a 10-5 win over the Coolers in the first of their best-of-three championship set Aug.6.
Two evenings later, it jumped ahead again, leading 5-1 after three innings and cruised.
"I think we knew we could beat them," said Pet Stopmanager Cindy Welsh, whose players hail primarily from the Sykesville and Westminster areas.
"We got on top early and spread the scoring out over a lot of innings to keep the pressure on them."
Two weekends ago, Plunkert Construction placed second in the United States Slow-pitch Softball Association's women's class D state tourney at Rockburn Park in Howard County.
Plunkert won its first four games before the Howard County-based Eagles emerged from the losers' bracket to beat it twice Sunday, Aug. 4.
Plunkert won three games theday before, including 5-1 and 10-4 decisions over Danny's and the Killer Bees, two other Carroll Women's League teams.
Then, Plunkert edged the Eagles, 3-2, before the latter came
back to take 6-0 and8-3 verdicts.
"We just stopped hitting," said Plunkert manager Mike Hughes. "The Eagles just out-hit us in the championships."
But he praised his defense, which made only two errors in the six tournament games. He also had good words for the Women's League.
"The Carroll County Women's League is a very tough league. When we play good teams, we're prepared for them because we've played good teams in ourleague," he said.
He noted that the Killer Bees finished third and Danny's fourth in the 15-team field.