By Jim Gerhard
In the now famous 1980 Winter Olympics, the United States Olympic Ice Hockey Team played host to the Soviet Union Nationals. The Soviet team arrived in Lake Placid riding the tailwind of four consecutive Gold Medals, dating all the way back to 1964. At the time of the 1980 Winter Games, the Soviets hadn’t placed anything below 1st in nearly two decades.
In contrast, the US National hockey team consisted of amateur and collegiate players that coach Herb Brooks scrabbled together a mere six months before the start of the Winter Games. And on February 22, 1980, with the odds stacked heavily against them, Team USA launched a relentless assault, upsetting the USSR in an iconic contest that has come to be known as “The Miracle on Ice.”
Much like the Soviets, our opponent’s coed softball team was heavily favored against the much smaller Wiss squad (we didn’t have a team for the past three years due to lack of….well, being any good) as we squared off in the second week of the playoffs. And, much like team USA, we reached the general consensus that 9 times out of 10 the other team would probably win. But that wasn’t going to be on July 28th. Not THAT game.
Perhaps it was nerves, or the 98 degree heat, but the Wiss offense started off sluggish with three consecutive outs. Slightly stunned by the lack of production, the Wolfpack defense kept its composure and took to the field. We didn’t know it at the time, but that field was about to transform into a stage; a stage on which the Wolfpack was to showcase its World Class Defense.
Our opponent started the game by putting up a quick run in the bottom of the 1st, but then they got greedy, and the third base coach waved a second runner around to score. Dylan (our HR centerfielder) fielded the ball and came up gunning, hitting our underrated, underappreciated and undercompensated short stop right on the money. The short stop then fired a perfect throw into the waiting glove of first basemen, Dave Clough, who had alertly sprinted down the line to cover home just in case of such a play. Dave applied a lighting fast slap tag and the runner was out. More importantly, the tone was set: Wiss wasn’t going to roll over. Our opponent had a fight on their hands.
And so it went, back and forth, each team clawing back into the lead one inning, only to relinquish it the next. By the end of the 4th inning, our opponent was winning 5-3. In a sport where scores typically soar into the 20’s, a two-run lead was the slimmest of margins.
Wiss again regained the lead in the 6th inning, grinding out another hard-fought run. With two on and two out, our backs were up against the wall. That’s when Dylan came to the plate and demonstrated what the Wolfpack does when backed into a corner. Swinging at the first pitch he saw, Dylan crushed a 3-run home run, giving Wiss their largest lead of the game at 9-5. Our bench cleared and swarmed the plate, waiting to meet DD after his victorious home run trot.
But our opponent was the #1 seed for a reason, and they weren’t about to go out quietly. The bottom half of the 6th featured them serving hits into unoccupied parts of the field with the precision of an Olympic marksman. Scoring five more runs of their own, they reclaimed the advantage in yet another lead change. And that’s when Dan “Sports Shorts” Higgins stepped into the batter’s box to lead off the top of the 7th inning. Dan had that determined look in his eyes, the look that only shows itself on the face of the hyper-focused. With the Patience of Job, Dan worked the count to 3-0. He then watched as the next offering dropped harmlessly short of the strike zone; ball four. He flipped his bat toward the dugout and pumped a celebratory fist as, due to an obscure rule of this league, his walk meant that Risha Aijaz was allowed to reach base too.
With Dan on second base and Risha on first, Big Mike Suserman dug into the box and roped a single, loading the bases for Jumpin’ Jack Tawil. JT’s base-clearing double put Wiss in the lead, 12-10. Jen “Cuban Missile” Beceiro drove Jack home with a ribbie single to left. Then our aforementioned underrated three-hitter singled Jen home, swelling the Wolfpack lead to 14-10.
Anticipation was in the air as our opponents took their last licks in the bottom of the 7th. They quickly closed the gap by putting up a couple of runs. Then, the tying run strode to the plate in the form of a 6’4”, 250 pound gentlemen whose hulking frame seemed destined to carry the team on his ample back. He swung at our pitcher’s second offering, sending a screaming Howitzer of a shot up the middle. Your humble narrator took two cheetah-like steps to his left, stuck his glove hand out and winced with both pain and pleasure as the ball pounded safely into the palm of his soon to be black-and-blue hand.
The exhausted Wolfpack came together to celebrate. They were running on a fuel that is matched by no other: victory. Nothing could be better than this moment; the reward of winning a hard-fought battle in a game won by a tremendous collaborative team effort. A moment that is felt by so few and is so seldom needs to be cherished, as it may never come again.
Do you believe in miracles?
Jim Gerhard is a Tax Senior at Wiss & Company, who has a knack for sports writing. Reach Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org
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