By Marlon McRae
Mo’ Better outlasted Another Level, 8-5, in eight innings to win the decisive fifth game of the series on Oct. 19 at Kingston Park and another Brooklyn United Softball Association title.
“This was hectic,” said commissioner John Calhoun. “It was an excellent series, the last two games going into extra innings. This was one of the best series I have seen in this park in a long time. It’s just too bad somebody has to lose.”
Salaam hit a grand slam for Mo’ Better in the top of the eighth inning to put them ahead, 8-4, and give them the lead for good.
“It [home run] was awesome,” said Mo’ Better player/manager Chris LeGree. “It’s funny, that was a guy that was struggling, but I stuck with him.” Another Level scratched out another run in the bottom of the inning, but fell short.
They took the first game of the series 6-4. Mo’ Better won the next two games with scores of 10-7 and 11-6. Games 1and 2 were played on Oct. 5 while the final three games were played two weeks later.
Game 4 might have been the most exciting contest of all. Mo’ Better could have put the series away but squandered several opportunities. They took a 6-4 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning but a two-run homer by Another Level’s Derek Oliver aka D.O. tied the score at 6-6 and sent the game into extra innings.
Another Level took a 7-6 lead in the top of the eighth inning when Vince Williams scored from first on a two-out single to short right-center field.
Mo’ Better responded by tying the score in the bottom of the inning. Another Level added two more runs in the top of the ninth to build a 9-7 lead. It appeared that Mo’ Better would tie it up again in the bottom of the ninth, they scored a run and managed to get runners on first and second base with one out. But LeGree pinch-ran for Jerome Blackman and made a costly blunder on the bases.
A slow grounder was hit toward first base. Instead of advancing to third base LeGree stopped midway between second and third base. After getting the runner at first, Another Level threw to second and tagged LeGree, getting the final out and forcing a Game 5.
“We had an injured player,” said LeGree. “I didn’t want to further damage him physically and I wasn’t mentally prepared. That was bad.” But Mo’ Better responded like true champions in the final game to win their 11th title in 12 seasons.
The victory by Mo’ Better was an upset considering that Another Level were a league-best 26-1 during the regular season and had home field advantage. They also featured former members of Mo’ Better on their roster.
“Yeah, that’s tough [the loss],” said Oliver. “We had them on the ropes- we was the home team and we should have won. But it didn’t pan out that way.” “But like Chris LeGree said, it was ‘Going to come down to a home run’ and that’s just what happened a home run was the difference. I tip my hat off to them.”
While many of the members of the first Mo’ Better championship are no longer a part of the team, Blackman and LeGree have been mainstays and members of each championship team.
Winning year after year might be a bore for some, but for LeGree, each championship victory has been sweeter than the last. “It feels good,” said LeGree. “It always feels good. This one felt just as good as the first one did 10 years ago.”
So just how long will LeGree continue to play and keep his stranglehold on the BUSA title?
“I plan on continuing as long as I still have the competitive edge to compete,” said LeGree. “I like the action. I like being on a winning team. I love competing and I’ve been blessed with a lot of athletes that love to compete also.”
As for Another Level, they can always look ahead to next season and hope to have a better outcome. But don’t count on all of its members returning. “Next year, who knows?” Said Oliver. “I might be somewhere else. I love playing with these guys but sometimes you have to move on to another team.”