By Tim “Shoe” Sullivan
“This year we combined the Stevens Point Police Department, the Plover Police Department, and the Portage County Sheriff’s Office. We mean business.”
So said Marty Skibba, a spokesman for the law enforcement team during warm-ups of the third annual Guns N’ Hoses charity softball game Saturday at Cub Mancheski Field at Bukolt Park.
The firefighters had won the two previous affairs.
Sheriff Mike Lukas warned, “We’ll give them a run for the money this time. If we lose again, next year I’m gonna deputize the entire “Pointer” baseball team for one day.”
They might have to. The Hoses won the highly-spirited battle, 23-10. The winners had 17 hits, four home runs, three walks, and only commited one error. The Guns actually had more hits (20), one homer, and coaxed four walks, but a shaky defense done them in. They had six errors in all, including four in the second inning.
A partial sellout crowd of an estimated 600 braved the chilly and rainy weather. When the game began, some of the fans thought a hockey game might break out. The elements, however, improved as the tilt moved along.
Bad weather was just fine with the Hoses. Prior to the event, the Fire Department’s Vic Kedrowski noted: “Rain is not gonna bother us. We’re used to water.”
The gates opened at 9 a.m., and the opening ceremonies began at 10:30. With announcers Chief Kevin Ruder and former Point mayor Gary Wescott up in the booth, the gala event got underway as the Color Guard, directed by John Adamski, commander, took its position on the field. They were joined by VFW Chaplin Frank Raschka as he gave a moving invocation. That was followed by a moment of silence to honor our fallen Soldiers, Veterans, law enforcemrnt, and firefighters as the bugle player Bob Bernest played Taps. At 10:50, the National Anthem was sung by Pat Keller of Plover. Mr. Keller also sings the Anthem at the Veteran’s Home in King.
During the anthem at Bukolt, several vintage aircraft flew over the ballpark.
Following the flyover, Dennis Kaminski of the Honor Guard observed, “This is a great fundraiser for the Honor Flight and veterans.”
Announcer Kevin Ruder agreed: “We’re raising funds throughout the year for the Portage County veterans. This game is really for a great cause.”
Then it was time for the coin flip at home plate where umpires Mayor Mike Wiza, Chris Wiza, and Joe Kirshling went over the rules with Hoses’ team captain Casey Bielen, Guns’ captain Joe Johnson, and the honorary captains Simcakowski Family.
Prior to the first pitch, home plate umpire Mayor Mike Wiza was observed accepting something from the Hoses. He explained: “The fire guys gave me the rules which they apparently wrote down on that twenty-dollar bill they handed me.”
The Guns saw the move and considered playing the game under protest.
The game started at 11:00 sharp under overcast skies. With the Hoses batting first, Trevor Howard was safe on the first of several Guns’ miscues. The visitors scored four runs in the first on walks to Frank Minervini III and Dayton Budsberg mixed in with winning pitcher Casey Bielen’s single to left and Ben Molnar’s three-RBI triple. A fine play by shortstop Jeff Coey “bailed” pitcher Joe Johnson (an avid gardener) out of further damage.
Then the Guns came to bat, and their leadoff hitter, Brian Noll, was immediately “robbed” by centerfielder Frank Minervini III with a great catch. Minervini said: “I owe it all to my outstanding pasta.”
The Guns got on the board in the bottom of the first on singles by Junior Chojnacki , Matt McDonald (who subscribes to Green Fleet Magazine), and Joe Johnson (who takes great pride in his coneflowers).
In the top of the second, the attentive crowd welcomed 21 vets from the King Veterans Home.
Then all hell broke loose as the Hoses came to bat and the Cops’ gloves sprung some serious leaks. After Ron Heibler (which rhymes with Keebler) grounded out to short (“Heebs” by the way is a huge JJ Watt fan), outfielder Travis Koch smacked a double to left. (Travis is a wiffleball stud). Matt Zander hit a wicked shot which “handcuffed” the third-baseman, and the “jailbreak” rally was on as the dude patrolling third booted Justin Thomson’s hard grounder. Lance Lewis came on to give Johnson “a rest”, and Dennis Zvara promptly smashed a fly-ball which was ticketed for the cheap seats before it was hauled in by Kevin Flick. One batter after Lewis was “summoned” from the bullpen, shortstop Tracy Aldrich walked and Jeremiah Parker was safe on another Guns’ infield error.
Lewis said, “It’s a crime we didn’t catch that cuz they had the ‘hit and run’ on.”
With the bases loaded, Trevor Howard came up and almost hit the house in left with a monster grand-slam homer. Announcer Gary Wescott got so excited he almost knocked his lemonade cup over. The Hoses tallied their seventh run of the inning when Casey Bielen scored on Frank III’s triple.
The Guns “picked up” two runs (Guns-Runs) in the bottom of the second on singles by John Lawrynk (who immediately put his bat on Ebay), Mark Smallwood (who hugged his small fluffy dog in the dugout), and outfielder Brian Brooks plus walks to Jeremy Mueller (who wasn’t wearing his multi-colored wig) and Justin Klein who dedicated his base on balls to his beanie babies. A fine catch by Ethan Przebylski put out the fire.
The third inning got underway after Katy Heibler, the general manager of Wausau’s HuHot, gave a short speech at home plate.
Following that, umpire Wiza suggested to the Cops that they might have better luck with the calls if they followed the Hoses’ lead and slipped him the rules written on a twenty.
Apparently something was done because the first three batters for the Hoses in the third were all called out on strikes.
The Guns netted one run in the bottom of the third when relief pitcher Lance Lewis singled, advanced to second on Robert “Bobby” Roser’s base hit, and scored on an RBI base knock by catcher Joe Quisler who then left the ballpark to go play Pokemon Go.
11-4 after three.
A bunch more came in for the FireGuys in the top of the fourth after Pat Keller sang “America The Beautiful”. Heibler sparked the rally with a long double off the left-field fence and Matt Zander doubled him home. Zander credited his pedicure for his fine at bat. Dennis Zvara and Tracy Aldrich then both singled and everyone came home on Jeremiah Parker’s moon-shot three-run homer.
16-4. Halfway through.
The Guns made it fairly close by picking up five more in the fifth. A walk to Mark Smallwood and singles by Brent Thauer, John “Law”rynk, and Josh Ostrowski set the stage for Mike Long’s two-run blast and Brian Brooks and Justin Klein also added hits. 16-9 after five.
*Before the fifth inning started, Katy Heibler of HuHot came out to officiate a “frozen shirt” contest between Quinn Thomson and his younger brother Riley. Quinn seemed to be winning until the Hoses’ Jodi Baganz ran out there and grabbed Quinn’s shirt and tossed it towards the dugout. Riley was declared the winner. Afterwards, Jodi was asked why he did that. He said: “Why not? We’re always chasing those kids around the station anyways.”
The Guns ended their scoring with one more run in the sixth. Lance Lewis singled, moved to second on Jeff Coey’s base rap, and scored on another RBI single by Joe Quisler.
The Hoses went nuts in their half of the seventh. They poured in seven big runs thanks to singles by Travis Koch (rhymes with Book), Justin Thomson (without the “p”), the hot-hitting Dennis Zvara, and Tracy Aldrich. Frank Minervini (which rhymes with nothing) contributed a sliding triple, and Jeremiah Parker bull-frogged (that means hit) another 3-run homer and Casey Bielen also went yard with a solo shot which hasn’t landed yet.
Before the sixth inning, the crowd was treated to a Action Track vehicle presentation by Jeff Davis of the Hoses. The seventh inning also featured a lady who came up to the score-booth upon winning something like over $400 in the “50-50” raffle. She promptly donated it back to the cause and Gary Wescott and Kevin Ruder duly announced the fine gesture.
A big check was also presented late in the festivities.
OTHER NOTES: Throwing out the first pitch were James Vannoy, Mike Miller, Chris Budzinski, and Al Tessman.
Wescott and Ruder did a great job announcing the action.
Umpire Wiza led the crowd doing the “wave”.
The Hoses took some good-natured parting shots at their opponents in blue. Paul Mattlin warned: “It was a three-peat for the SPFD. Pretty soon they’ll be rounding up jailers, inmates, Pointers, you name it. But we got their number.”
Jeff Davis added, “Next year they’ll probably bring the FBI.”
After the game, Mayor Wiza was walking off the field when a disgruntled fan yelled: “I saw better calls on a pay phone!”
Wiza later said: “Hey, it was a great game for a great cause, and the umping was terrific!”
Casey Bielen, the Hoses’ captain, summed it up best: “Unfortunately, someone had to lose the game, but the veterans and community are the big winners.”
And that’s the way it was on a dark overcast morning at Bukolt Park which was full of sunshine by the end of the day.
TOP HITTERS FOR GUNS:
Junior Chojnacki: three singles. John Lawrynk: two singles. Mike Long: two-run homer. Mark Smallwood: single, walk. Brian Brooks: two singles. Justin Klein: walk, single. Lance Lewis: two singles, two runs, didn’t get “save”. Joe Quisler: two singles, some RBIs.
TOP HITTERS FOR HOSES (which Mr. Wescott kept calling “Roses”):
Trevor Howard (no relation to Moe or Dwight): Grand-slam homer in second. Casey Bielen: single, solo homer in seventh. Frank Minervini: walk, two triples. Quinn Warner: scored run, went on injured reserve. Ben Molnar: triple.
Ron Heibler: doubled off the fence. Travis Koch: double, single. Matt Zander: double. Dennis Zvara: Sac. fly, two singles. Tracy Aldrich: walk, two singles. Jeremiah Parker: pair of three-run homers.
Rumor: It has not been confirmed if Mayor Wiza got a speeding ticket on the way home.