In a scenario as familiar as a season-finale cliffhanger, Ghost Riders won the Spring 2014 championship of Carrboro’s Co-Rec Softball League with a two-game sweep of Hickory Tavern.
“They were two totally different types of games,” said Dave Shaw, the winning pitcher for Ghost Riders (15-3).
“In the first one, we played just about as well as any team could play. In the second game, both teams played well.”
Tuesday’s championship round featured the Carrboro league’s most veteran team against one of its youngest.
Ghost Riders have appeared in nine of the last 10 finals, and they’ve won the decisive game in five of those appearances.
Hickory Tavern (12-5) was in its first season as a Carrboro league team, albeit replete with seasoned players. Hickory Tavern’s lineup included pitcher Tim Costner, one of eight players off 300 East Main Street – last fall’s co-rec champions.
“Our whole team hit well, top to bottom, and they had to do off a great pitcher,” Shaw said. “Tim is one of the best.”
Seeded No. 3 in the tournament, Hickory Tavern was one of only two teams to give Ghost Riders a loss in the regular-season, and it also gave the top-seeded Ghost Riders a 3-2 loss in the double-elimination tournament’s third round on June 17.
That sent Ghost Riders into the elimination bracket, where they beat No. 2-seeded Bread & Butter by a 14-2 score to advance.
Tuesday, Ghost Riders won its first game against Hickory Tavern by a stunning margin of 15-0 to force a second and deciding contest.
Ghost Riders survived a back-and-forth battle in game two to win 10-9.
“We won three straight to get to the championship, and then we just didn’t come out strong in that first game,” said Hickory Tavern captain Will Hemsworth. “Nothing worked. We only got three hits in that game, and Ghost Riders was finding all the gaps.”
When the Ghost Riders weren’t slapping out singles, they were clouting three-run and two-run homers.
Game two was more like the game everyone expected. Ghost Riders led early but saw Hickory Tavern surge ahead 9-7 in the top of the sixth before answering with two of their own in the bottom of the inning.
Ghost Riders held the challengers scoreless in the top of the seventh and then strung together a series of singles before Greg Novatny knocked a ground-rule double into right-center for the game-winning RBI.
“After the first game, we knew the second game wouldn’t be easy. We knew they were going to put up a real fight,” Shaw said.
“We put together a complete game really extraordinary ball.”
Shaw was relieved to see Ghost Riders hit so well, giving him plenty of support. He was pitching in place of usual starter Ted Busby, the team’s captain, who was called away on family business.
“We all wanted to win it for Ted,” Shaw said. “We all think he’s the best pitcher in the league.”