Rover + 9 on verge of men’s softball title

A huge rally and some timely hitting have Rover + 9 on the verge of a championship.

Kevin Graham hit a home run in the sixth inning of a men’s softball nightcap on Thursday and Rover + 9 came away with a 9-8 win to take a 3-1 series lead over Miller/Eagles in a best-of-seven series for the City League title.

Rover rallied from a 10-2 deficit the opening game of the doubleheader and walked away with a 15-12 win.

“They’re real big wins against a good team. They’ve obviously won the league three or four of the last five years, they’re a good team and they play well together,” Rover infielder Kevin Willis said. “These are big wins for us though. This is a young team who’s never won anything and we’ve kind of got a target on our back.

The two wins put Rover on the verge wrestling the league title away from the Eagles who have won the title four of the last five years. Game 5 and a possible sixth game are scheduled for tonight starting at 6:30 p.m. at the men’s softball fields.

Down 7-4 early in the second game, Rover rallied with three runs in the fourth inning. Jordan Zempel hit a two-run home run. Johnny Zawacki followed up with an RBI single, knotting the game at seven.

Mike Sheldon led off the top of the fifth inning with an apparent home run to give Miller the lead, but Sheldon was called out for batting out of turn. In the bottom of the inning, Graham slammed an offering over the centerfield fence to give Rover the lead for good.

Curt Ravitz added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth inning.

The Eagles rallied for one run in the top of the seventh inning after Jeremy Stepaniak drove in Laine Falk, but Rover got a force out at second base after Jason Barbeau grounded out to end the game.

Sheldon gave the Eagles a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning with a two-run home run. Rover answered with a three-run shot from Steve Glomski in the bottom of the inning and added another run for a 4-2 lead.

The Eagles scored three runs in the top of the third inning to take their final lead of the game. An RBI single from Barbeau and a sac fly from Tim Alexander knotted the game at four before Keith Matthews hit a three-run shot to left field.

With a championship just one win away, Willis said the game plan for tonight is simple: just win.

“Come in and win one. We have two games to win one and we’d like to get away with a win,” Willis said. “Those guys, they’re veterans and if you give them any hope or any light, they take it. They did that to us last night (Wednesday).”

The two teams split the opening two games of the series on Wednesday. Rover won the first game 18-13 and the Eagles won the second game 22-20.

Matthews led the Eagles in the first game with two home runs among three hits. Barbeau had a home run and three hits and Alexander and Joe Mischloney also had three hits each. Sheldon had a home run and two hits and Stepaniak also had two hits.

Glomski led Rover with four hits and a home run. Zawacki had two home runs among three hits. Jensen Aubrey and Kevin Tracy each had three hits. Graham, Zempel, Willis, Chase McLennan and Ravitz each had two hits. McLennan and Ravitz both homered.

Sheldon led the Eagles in the second game with a home run and four hits. Stepaniak, Barbeau, Alexander and Chris Corwin each had three hits and Alexander had a home run. Al Courtney, Falk, Terry Curtis and Carney Knechtel each had two hits.

Glomski again led Rover with a home run and five hits. Graham had four hits and Aubrey, Zempel and McLennan each had three hits. Zawacki and Tracy each had two hits.

James Andersen can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.