Two ECSA teams victorious at 2012 Gay Softball World Series
by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
This year, the Emerald City Softball Association (ECSA) sent seven teams to the 2012 Gay Softball World Series (GSWS) in Minneapolis to represent the city of Seattle, and two of them won championship titles.
The ECSA is one of the biggest Gay softball leagues in the nation. Its reach into the LGBTQ and allied communities is impressive, with players coming from every corner of the city to play on one of the teams in a division based on their skill level. Local businesses - including bars, nightclubs, and restaurants - sponsor a team or teams.
The Seattle Gay community and the ECSA are linked in a way that amazes most out-of-town Gay visitors who play on a league in the town they are from. For many team members SGN has interviewed over the years, the ECSA is what got them acclimated to Seattle after moving here because it was where they developed a bond with their teammates, made friends, and found acceptance.
So when an ECSA team goes to the GSWS, its members know they have to represent the thousands of fans back in Seattle rooting for a win, and they play hard for the teams that didn't make it.
According to ECSA Commissioner Frank Pichinini, two Seattle teams - the Inferno and the Strokes - won the Gay Softball World Series in D Division and the Masters Division, respectively. And the stories behind those victories make them even more remarkable. SGN spoke with representatives from both championship teams so we could tell their story of winning the biggest tournament of the year and most prestigious title to earn: Gay Softball World Series Champion.
This year marked the first time the ECSA Open Division has sent a team to the GSWS in the Masters Division. And once you look at the stats, you'll find the Seattle Strokes to be very deserving of Championship status.
Dug Wehage told SGN, 'Both teams deserved their wins with a lot of hard work and dedication.' Wehage serves as the Hall of Fame director on the ECSA board.
According to Wehage, the team boasts the oldest member of the league, who is 61. Five Strokes players are currently in the ECSA Hall of Fame and two are currently in the National Hall of Fame.
Here is an impressive statistic that I think you'll find interesting. All players on the team are 50 or older, with one of the players holding the record for most consecutive years in the ECSA. He's played softball for 32 years in a row.
Two of the team members have been ECSA commissioners. Three players are current members of the ECSA executive board, and at least eight rostered players have played in the league for nearly 10 years.
'The players on the Seattle Strokes have put a lot of years into playing softball and giving back to our league and our community,' said Wehage. 'This was a win that many of them have waited years to accomplish.'
Going into the World Series, Tighe Copeland says he knew the Inferno was a solid team.
'I've been coaching the Inferno for three years, but this year something truly felt special,' he told SGN. 'The Inferno was composed of five new players to the league, some to the sport entirely, and four players who'd been on the roster since the very first year the Inferno was created. We also had four pick-up players.'
From the first time they stepped onto the field for practice, the chemistry was strong and everyone wanted to learn, says Copeland. He observed that the players were dedicated and knew how to balance competition and fun.
'From the beginning they told me they wanted to go to the World Series, so I took it upon myself to meet that challenge,' he said. 'I practiced them twice a week for three hours a practice. By mid-season, their skills grew tremendously and their cohesion was unmatchable. Making it to the World Series was such an amazing feeling, and it looked like it through the abundance of tears.'
When the Inferno arrived at the GSWS, 'family' was the term they used to refer to each other. Which, Copeland maintains, 'was the greatest factor in our win.'
'Everyone supported each other so well on and off the field, and you could see it in their playing,' he continued. 'When you have that strong bond, trust, friendship, and community amongst the players and coach, your team will succeed.'
According to Copeland, the Inferno played some tough teams and sported some memorable games, including a heart-pounding match against Ft. Lauderdale where the Inferno trailed for much of the game, but never gave up.
'The score was 11 to 10 in the last inning,' he said. 'We had one out and a runner on first. Our returning original Inferno player - who was a pickup player for the Series - stepped up to bat and wowed everyone with a two-run home run to end the game!'
'That has to go down as one of the most memorable moments as our faith and energy went through the roof,' said Copeland. 'We had a fantastic energy and support from the crowd watching from the stands.'
Someone quoted to Copeland that the game was 'one for the movies.'
The Inferno played the Tulsa Razors for the championship. Seattle had the lead 16 to 10 in the final inning, when the Razors batted in five runs to trail by only one, with runners on first and third.
'The final pitch was thrown and you could hear a pin drop as the ball was popped to our right-center fielder,' said Copeland. 'When he made the final catch to clinch the game, the cheers and applause erupted tremendously. It was such a surreal moment for us. Everyone was jumping up and down, crying, and hugging each other.'
Members of the now-World Champion Seattle Inferno made calls to other Inferno teammates who couldn't make the Series, and screamed happily, 'We won!'
Minneapolis hosted a great tournament, Copeland said. He shared the sentiment of many experienced players that it was one of the better-organized Series in recent years.
One thing has to be said about Seattle, says Copeland: 'I've been to the World Series four times now, and our sense of community and support is unrivaled. We are always at each other's games supporting each other and cheering loudly. It's a great feeling as a player to know you have all these people behind you rooting you on, and I feel it even improves your game. I felt that the vast support from our league members played a vital role in our success.'
Copeland said he told the Inferno, 'At the end, not only did you play hard on the field and win this World Series, but you also won the hearts of other cities, and lead as an example of team sportsmanship and dedication.'
'It was a great way to represent Seattle,' he concluded.
The Inferno went in as an underdog because it was their first time making it to the GSWS, but in the end, the team emerged as respected and well-loved champs. They won undefeated.
Copeland admitted, 'I never thought, at the age of 24, I could coach a team to victory in the Gay Softball World Series. I'm so proud of my team. I'm definitely not stopping now. Inferno will take it up to C Division next year, and I say: D.C. [next year's host], here we come!'
ECSA GSWS STATS
The ECSA teams that competed in the 2012 GSWS were:
B Division - Dirty Dawgs and Battalion
C Division - Seawolves and Pilots
D Division - Saints and Inferno
Masters Division - Strokes
Two ECSA teams came home as the champions of their divisions. The Seattle Inferno went through the winner's bracket of the D Division undefeated. They went 2-and-2 in pool play but once double-elimination play started they never lost a game. These are the scores of the double-elimination games:
Inferno 18, Norfolk Gunners 3
Inferno 10, Rhode Island Bandits 0
Inferno 12, Dallas Demolition Crew 2
Inferno 12, Fort Lauderdale Hurricanes 11
Inferno 14, Knoxville Cyclones 14
Inferno 21, Philadelphia Honey Badgers 16
Inferno 15, Tulsa Razors 15 (Championship Game)
The Inferno is coached by Tighe Copeland, who also played with the Seattle Battalion in the B Division of the World Series.
This is the first year that the ECSA sent a team to compete in the Masters Division. The Seattle Strokes won the Masters Division Championship going through the winners bracket undefeated as well. All players on the Masters Division teams had to be 50 or older. The Strokes went 1-and-4 in pool play but went undefeated in double-elimination play, beating a couple of teams who mercy ruled them in pool play. The scores of their double-elimination games were:
Strokes 16, L.A. Gang Grey 9
Strokes 17, Atlanta Leathermen 9
Strokes 28, Chicago Sidetracks 22 (the Strokes were down by 6 runs going into the 7th inning and scored 12 runs to take the lead for good)
Strokes 23, L.A. Gang Grey 8 (Championship Game)
The Strokes team had (5) ECSA Hall of Fame members on the roster: Don Moritz, Time Time, Greg Bannish, Bruce Caszatt, and Frank Pichinini. Time and Frank are also North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (NAGAAA) Hall of Fame members.
Pichinini coached the Strokes and also coached the Battalion at the World Series.
This is the first time in the history of ECSA that Seattle has won two championships at a World Series. They have won only four championships total in the 34 years of the league.
The Emerald City Softball Association (ECSA) is an established softball league in Seattle and has been operating as such for over 30 years. ECSA not only stands for Emerald City Softball Association but is an acronym that represents aspects of what the league embraces: Excellence, Community, Sportsmanship, and Acceptance. Their focus is to provide a softball league that includes LGBT and non-LGBT members and creates a unique community of excellence, sportsmanship, and acceptance for playing softball. Membership in the ECSA is open to anyone 18 years of age or older. The league has four divisions (A, B, C, and D), which provide a place for everyone from advanced players to those who have never played softball before. The division that a player is allowed to play in is determined by a player rating system established by the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance, of which the ECSA is a member. The ECSA season generally starts in April and runs into June or July of each year. They also have a Fall Ball Season that starts in September and goes into October. For more information, visit www.emeraldcitysoftball.org.
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