By Bill Moor
“Dud” is what some of Gary Duddleson’s softball teammates call him.
Yet he hardly lived up to that nickname Tuesday night while leading Wesolowski Insurance to an 18-11 victory over Prep & Polish in the South Bend senior division (62-and-over) championship game at the John Byers Complex.
Far from a dud, Gary delivered three hits — including a homer and a double — along with four RBIs for the newly crowned champs. In fact, he almost had a three-homer game.
His double just missed going out, and John Albers of P&P crashed through the temporary outfield fence while making a spectacular catch on Duddleson’s only out.
The Dud was The Dude.
“Hey, it’s just really fun playing with these guys,” said the 72-year-old. “Rich Sparks (the Wesolowski manager) and I have been playing together for 40 years along with some of the others. I don’t want to ever stop.”
Especially if he keeps playing like he did Tuesday.
He had plenty of help from his teammates, especially winning pitcher Jim Gannarelli, who had a home run of his own along with four RBIs. A newcomer to South Bend and a guy who took up bench space as a hurler for Arizona State University long ago, Gannarelli hadn’t played ball for 13 years until this season.
“It’s been great to find a team like this,” he said. “I’m really happy to be back in the Midwest and playing ball again.”
Wesolowski started out with a 5-0 first-inning lead as they exploited holes in the P&P infield. P&P was playing with just 10 players (and four infielders, not five) instead of the usual 11.
Too soon, Wesolowski had two five-run innings in the first four frames and carried a 10-2 lead into the fifth inning. Duddleson seemed to be adding a fatal blow when he sent a towering fly to the left-field fence.
Albers literally knocked the fence down and took a run off the board as he made a spectacular catch. In that instant, the momentum shifted toward P&P.
In the bottom of the fifth, P&P put together a five-run rally that included hits by Albers, Bob White, Mike Clark, Doug Hann, Jerome Keller and George Hartman. That 10-2 deficit suddenly was just 10-7.
Unfortunately for P&P, Gannarelli chose the top of the sixth inning to hit his first home run of the year. The three-run blast, against the wind to right field, ignited another five-run rally to push the margin back to 15-7.
Albers homered in the bottom of the sixth, but that seemed like P&P’s final gasp. Both teams scored three runs in the seventh, and Wesolowski claimed its first-ever tournament championship.
In senior softball, defense matters. Wesolowski shut down P&P rallies by turning three double-plays.
But offense matters as well. Wesolowski batted 12 players, and all of them delivered at least one hit. Five of them – Moorhead, Duddleson, Terry Hayden, Steve Sporinsky and Bruce Cernak had three hits apiece.
The bottom four hitters – where rallies often go to die – delivered seven hits in 11 at-bats.
P&P didn’t leave quietly. Coach Ron Betzer’s team had battled out of the losers’ bracket to take on Wesolowski. This showdown brought out the best in the short-handed crew.
Of its 10 players, nine recorded hits. Joe Caruso, Hann, Jerome Keller and Hartman all had three hits apiece. Bob White, Hann and Hartman all drove in two runs apiece.
In its final at-bat, trailing 18-11, P&P rapped out five straight hits to raise the tension level. But then a runner was thrown out at home plate and a nifty double play followed to quickly end the game.
Two of P&P’s stars — Albers and Keller — had been on the junior division (52-and-over) championship team two weeks ago.
This team was no stranger to pressure. They had beaten Unity Gardens last week with a two-run, two-out walk-off homer by Caruso.
This game ended another big season for senior softball. The arms might not be as strong or the feet as fast as they once were, but these senior players still play with a lot of heart. And if they do push their bodies too hard, P&P has two physicians — Caruso and White — in their lineup.
But nobody had to limp off the diamond on Tuesday, and both teams could proudly stand tall. At this age, it’s a privilege to play games that friends and family will remember.
Commissioner Ken Bradford tried some new things during the playoffs — including a Dollar Night where everything at the concession stand — pizza slices, hot dogs, etc. — were just a dollar. He has also started the website that is hosting this story.
One thing was for certain, the end of the season was far from a dud.
Boxscore (courtesy of Gary Marcus)
Wesolowski 505 005 3 –13
Prep&Polish 020 021 3 –11
Wesolowski: Bob Fonseca 4-1-2-1, Tod Moorhead 4-2-3-1, Gary Duddleson 4-3-3-4, Terry Hayden 4-2-3-0, Steve Sporinsky 4-3-3-1, Ken Richmond 4-1-2-2, Curt Kent 4-2-1-1, Jim Gannarelli 4-2-2-4, Bruce Cernak 3-0-3-2. Rich Sparks 2-1-1-0, Kevin Peczkowski 3-1-1-0, Dave Varner 3-0-2-0. Totals 43-18-26-16
Prep& Polish: John Albers 4-2-2-1, Bob White 3-1-1-2, Mike Clark 4-2-2-0, Joe Caruso 4-1-3-0, Ron Betzer 4-0-1-0, Doug Hann 4-3-3-2, Jerome Keller 3-1-3-1, George Hartman 4-0-3-2, Phil Zillman 4-0-1-0, Heinz Hayen 2-1-0-0. Totals
Bill Moor is the former longtime sports editor and columnist of the South Bend Tribune. His current writings are on moorandmore.net