A one-of-a-kind playoff run ended up with a one-of-a-kind championship team. In last week’s recap we mentioned that something was different about this year’s Three Kings team and now we know what the difference is…. This year, they are Champions. For Three Kings, this is 13 years in the making. Not only have they never been in a finals, they had to endure some really bad seasons and even when they started to become regular season heavyweights they had to endure some heartbreaking playoff loses. You can say a lot of things about Three Kings (and most of you have) but you can’t say they haven’t been resilient. From tough playoff loses the last two season to an up-and-down regular season that had them at 5-6 in the middle of the summer, Three Kings just kept getting up every time they got knocked down and this year they refused to get counted out. Three Kings owner Matt Marcus had this to say after the final, “I’ve waited 13 years for this. Thank you to everyone who has played on Three Kings over the years. Thank you to my squad this year for bringing it home! This is for everyone who helped us get there and all those years of losing by 40 runs. It was well worth it! What a great day!”
Before we talk more about how Three Kings earned their title, let’s take a second to once again talk about the greatness of the WSL. We all know the community around the WSL is like nothing you will find anywhere in this city. That’s indisputable. Many of us play in other softball leagues and you normally aren’t good friends with 50+ people on opposing teams. That’s ultimately what makes this league unique. But the skill level and parity are slowly become almost as impressive as the community itself. This is the 5th year in a row where a different team has held the trophy above it’s head at the end of championship weekend and the 7th season in a row where we haven’t had a back-to-back champion. We threw a lot of information at you in last week’s recap but we forgot to mention one thing… Of the four teams to make it to Championship weekend, all were at 500 or below at one point in the middle of the season. Nest was 7-7 in August, 86ers were 500 or below all season, RSC never reached 500 and Three Kings, as we mentioned earlier, was 5-6 in July. The list of teams that have a legitimate shot at winning the title seems to grow longer each season and almost all teams have enough talent to make a run during the playoffs. Winning a title in the WSL is getting harder and harder (even for the perennial powerhouses) because the competition is getting better and better. The Kings from Queens did not have an easy game the entire playoffs… They earned their title and future champions will need to do the same.
Field #2: Three Kings @ Turkey’s Nest
The first team Three Kings needed to knock out on it’s way to the title was the 2014 champion Turkey’s Nest. After coasting through the regular season, Turkey’s Nest turned it on for the playoffs and knocked out 2015 champion R Bar the weekend prior. They looked to be peaking at the right time and were the highest seeded team left in the playoffs. This was a pick ‘em game. Almost everyone you spoke with guessed which team would win but quickly said they wouldn’t be surprised if the other team won either.
The game start with a single from Vinny. He eventually scored later in the inning on a 2B from Johnny. The top of the 1st ended with Three Kings up 1-0. Turkey’s Nest quickly answered in the bottom of the first with an MK single followed by a Chuck triple. Chuck later scored on a SAC fly off the bat of JL to give the Nest a 2-1 lead after one. After a scoreless top of the 2nd, the Nest added to their lead when Mitch hit a 2B to score Andy who lead of the bottom of the 2nd with a double of his own. Nest were up 3-1 after two.
To lead off the 3rd, Denis started with a single followed by a Jose 2B. With one out, Bryan got a single and then with two out Tommy hit a HR. Three Kings only had 4 hits in the inning but turned those hits into 4 runs. The Nest went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 3rd so the inning ended with the Three Kings up 5-3. In the top of the 4th, Joe leads off with a triple and scores on Chris’s double giving Kings a 6-3 lead. Then in the bottom of the 4th, Turkey’s Nest gets 5 straight hits from JL, Shaffer, Karl, Andy and Mitch to start off the inning and it looked like it was going to be a big rally but Denis got the next two batters to fly out and the final batter to ground out. End of the 4th – Turkey’s Nest is up 7-6…. but that would be the last time they had a lead in the game.
In the top of the 5th, Three Kings reclaimed the lead with a one out Homerun by Jose and two out RBI hit from the other Jose scoring Bryan for the go ahead run – 8 to 7. Three Kings then held Turkey’s Nest scoreless for the next 4 innings while tacking on one run in the 6th via a Johnny home run, 2 runs in the 7th thanks to a Jose triple and 3 runs in the 9th on hits from Bryan, Jose and Tommy. Going into the bottom of the 9th, Three Kings were up 14-7. The Nest showed some heart in the both of the 9th by stringing together a few hits and scoring 2 runs but a 1-4-3 double play ended the game to allow Three Kings to move on to the Championship Game.
“Mad respect and credit to Three Kings” said Turkey’s Nest manager Sean Manning. “They hit the ball really fucking hard and far and forced us to make plays. Today we didn’t make enough plays.” While the Nest couldn’t pull out a win, they had a great showing from their fans led by the mysterious hypeman known as Patrick Basketball, late-season addition Jen and the world famous Turkey’s Nest WAGS.
(Three Kings 14 / Turkey’s Nest 9)
Field #1: RSC @ Gutter 86ers
The 86ers blew the doors off this game in the first three innings. RSC scored one run in the top of the first but the 86ers dropped 6 in the bottom of the first when 7 of the first 8 batters got hits (all singles and doubles). RSC put another run on the board in the top of the 2nd but then the 86ers came back with 3 in the bottom half of the inning highlighted by a Dave Osborne 2 run home run and Chris double that scored Quigs. It’s was 9-2 after two innings.
The 86ers ended any doubt who would win this game by plating 9 runs in the bottom of the 3rd. The hit parade started with a Matt G home run followed by three singles from Dre, Barnes and MalVP. Two of the next three batters flew out so it looked like the damage was going to be contained but then the top of the 86er line-up “Finished Them” like Street Fighter. Osborne single, Rich home run, Quigs 2B and Chris home run. When RSC got up off the mat, they were down 18-2 and their dreams of returning to the Finals for the first time since 2010 were crushed.
RSC threw another run on the board in the top of the 5th but the 86ers answered again with two in the bottom of the 5th, one in the bottom of the 7th and one in the bottom of the 8th. The game ended 23-3 and it was not the type of game RSC was envisioning coming into Championship weekend. However, RSC still has a lot to be proud of this season. It was an impressive run for a team that started off the season 0-7. They were ranked last in the league for a few weeks and ended up making it farther in the playoffs than 14 other teams. They put together something that they can build off of in 2017 similar to what the 86ers did last year.
(RSC 3 / 86ers 23 )
86ers @ Three Kings
In 2015, the 86ers lost to Black Betty 2-1 in extra innings in the semi-finals. Some people thought it was just a Cinderella run and doubted the 86ers would even have a winning season in 2016. At the beginning of the year, it looked like the doubters were right. The 86ers started off the season 3-7 and had a hard time scoring runs. But then they ran off 6 straight wins, turned their season around and entered the playoffs as the 5 seed. In the first round they upset the Clems and in the second round they ended Black Betty’s residency in the WSL finals. To the disbelief of many, the 86ers were back at Championship Weekend but this time they made it to the finals.
In the other corner stood Three Kings. The highs and lows of this team have been well documented but this was their time to put all the doubts to rest. Making it to the finals was a huge step forward for the Three Kings franchise but being this close and not taking home the title might hurt more than being upset in the first round. With these two teams in the finals, the storyline was going to be the same no matter who won…. These were two teams that spent a long time not being competitive and emerged the last couple of years to be legit contenders. For one team, the story was going to have a proper ending.
The first inning was quiet. In the bottom of the second, Three Kings would be the first team to put any runs on the board. Tommy lead off the inning with a triple, Johnny and Joe got singles and Chris V hit a three run home run to give Three Kings a 4-0 lead. The 86ers sent three up and three down in the top of the 3rd but Three Kings hung another 2 on the 86ers with a two out rally started by singles from Vinny & Bryan and ending with a 2 run single by Jose. At this point it was 6-0 and Three Kings were feeling good about their chance of holding a trophy at the end of the game.
The 4th, 5th and 6th inning were very similar for the 86ers – few batters and zero runs. In face, the 86ers didn’t send more than 4 batters to the box in any of the first 6 innings. For Three Kings, they tacked on one run in the 4th when Laura singled in Joe and three more in the 5th on a home run from Jose A, a triple from Bryan (scoring Vinny) and a Sac fly from the other Jose. At the end of the 6th inning, the score was 10-0 in favor of Three Kings and the NYPD was calling in the riot squad to prepare for a Three Kings victory celebration.
In the top of the 7th, the 86ers showed some life offensively when Ben lead off the inning with a single followed by Rich, Jimmy and Chris also getting hits and Dylan contributing with a Sac fly. The 86ers closed the lead to 10-4 and gave Three Kings something to think about. In the bottom of the 7th, the Three Kings didn’t score and the 86ers were back at the plate to see if they could put another inning together like the 7th. That’s when Three Kings ace – Denis – put his foot down and closed out the game with a scoreless 8th and 9th. The game ended with a beautiful double play turned by defensive beast Francesca and Three Kings stormed the field to pile on their all-star SS in celebration of the franchise’s first championship.
“The season was very up and down…” said manager Joe Tomeo, “Seemed like we could never get our full team on the field and we had several rainouts & cancellations. But once the playoffs started, we put together a game plan for each game and talked through every at bat. Our team doesn’t have an MVP. We were a team this year in every sense of the word“.
As Tomeo mentioned, it would be hard to pick a star of the Finals or even a star of the playoffs. On offense, several players had a great set of games. Bryan Munoz went 10-15 with 8 runs, Joe Tomeo went 10-14 with 10 RBIs, Jose Segini had 5 HRs (hitting one in each game), Jose Martinez went 8-10 and Chris Valerio had 10 hits including a huge 3 run HR in the finals. On defense, you don’t get a more sure-handed SS than CES and you don’t get a better pitching performance in the finals than what Denis gave Three Kings by pitching 8 scoreless innings. Overall, it was a really impressive playoff performance for Three Kings that carried into an even more impressive post-game celebration. We were slightly disappointed no cars were set on fire or overturned but the NYPD did get called so we can’t say the celebration was tame.
Congrats to Three Kings… 2016 WSL Champions…. And once again, thanks to everyone in the WSL that allows this league to be bigger than just a Sunday bar league. It’s been another great year. See you all in 2017!
(86ers 4 / Three Kings 10 )
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