Team Previews: Langston Hughes division

Langston Hughes Division
Record: Overall (Div.) (Rank)

Author’s note. I attempted to be as stylistically consistent as possible, but I can tell you now there are occasional deviations, notably in referring to players’ positions and direct quotes in paragraph form. Yes, I can change it, and I undoubtedly will. For now, though, it seems most prudent to just hit Publish, because, you know—the season starts in five days.

– Thomas


Free State Growlers
2013 Record: 4-6 (1-6) (3-0)
Captain: Jon Bunch

After a tough start to the 2013 season and going winless for six weeks, the Free State Growlers picked it up for the last four games, handily winning out in Rank Pool 7. This season may not end up much differently. The Langston Hughes division is arguably the toughest (on paper) with the top populated by a reconfigured Love Garden Squids, the Goats (who saw its first Final Four last year), the speedy and drunk Red Lyon, and the surly Sacred Sword. Even its bottom half isn’t the worst, including the Ghosts (now with more ginger), the improved Jazzhaus squad, and a Harper Valley PTA team that somehow gets younger as it gets older. What makes matters worse for the Growlers is the first three games are against Sacred Sword, the Goats, and Red Lyon—a trifecta that could be dangerously demoralizing. Stealing a win from one of those would favorable. Remember, it took the Goats to the brink last year, narrowly losing by one run in 12 innings. After losing in the Less Awesome Championship last season, Free State looks to return the majority of its players, so 2014 might resemble the 2013 season more than it would like, but it has a strong possibility of fighting its way up to Rank Pool 4.

First Seven Games Prediction: 3-4

Ghosts, or: the Eldridge
2013 Record: 4-6 (2-5) (2-1)
Captain: Mike Pergande

The Ghosts’ past two seasons have been nearly identical, though with slight improvement. However, it has picked up some new players, notably former Space Pussy captain, Matt Cosgrove, and the Fall Kickball League’s Sparkle Town’s Luke F. and Aimee S., who both have experience playing in the Lawrence city league, as well. Looking to add some speed, the Ghosts also picked up a dangerously quick city league player. Like the Free State Growlers, the Ghosts are stuck in the Langston Hughes division that’s loaded with talent. This team could surprise some people, though. Also like the Growlers, it has a tough three-game start against Red Lyon, Love Garden Squids, and Sacred Sword. If this division plays out the way it’s expected, game 7 against the Growlers could be the deciding factor between Rank Pools 5 and 6.

First Seven Games Prediction: 2-5

Goats, or: Yello Sub
2013 Record: 7-3 (6-1) (1-2)
Captain: Shaher Ibrahimi

The Goats reached its first Final Four appearance last season by pulling off an incredible come-from-behind win against reigning champs Wildman Attack Force. It couldn’t continue its run and lost to eventual champions, the now-Terrabonne Po’Boys. Perhaps the only team with the longest-standing veterans, it may be the one that has gone relatively unscathed during the offseason. In a twist, the Goats lost LF Laeth H. to Wildman, although its core group—those veterans who just won’t stop—remain: CF Shaher I., @B Lauren P., 1B/SS Carter Carter, C/SS Joe S., 2B Lauren G., and utility players Tricia R. and Sara R.

Replete with speed, experience, and shit-talking for days, the Goats have a relatively easy first few weeks—if it can sustain the upset-hungry Growlers, especially after last season—until it faces Sacred Sword at Woodlawn Elementary.

First Seven Games Prediction: 4-3

This is what Prof. Ruggles  thinks about goats.

This is what Prof. Ruggles thinks about goats.

Harper Valley PTA
2013 Record: 0-10 (0-7) (0-3)
Captain: Staci Ahlvers

KVKL’s resident hometown team needs little introduction. Now in its third season, the Harper Valley PTA continues to grow as more and more of its founding members’ kids become eligible to play. Like Jackie said, this team is going to be a good one to watch over the years as its veterans retire and their cleats are passed down generation to generation. Regardless of its record, this team emphasizes fun—and it’s definitely fun for us to watch captain Staci Ahlvers yell at 3B Grant.

Be thankful if you’re playing on the same field as the Harpies. Though I’ve never played against or on the same field, we’ve all heard stories and its members’ graciousness. Look for its players at the Game of the Week for foodstuffs, and don’t forget to support the lovely East Lawrence Neighborhood Association.

First Seven Games Prediction: 0-7

2013 Record: 3-7 (1-6) (2-1)
Captain: Rick McNeely

Now in its third year as the new Jazzhaus team, Captain Rick McNeely has put together a competitive team of actual employees at the bar from which it’s named. It has a solid squad that has improved season by season and could test some of the top teams in the Langston Hughes division, but it’s going to have its hands full in the first three weeks as it plays the presumed top three teams—Goats, Sacred Sword, and Love Garden. The Jazzhaus could surprise some teams this year, especially considering it, as a team, has an additional two seasons behind it with the FBKL. In spite of winning only three games during the 2013 regular season, it held seven of its opponents to 10 or fewer runs. Conversely, it only scored 10 runs in one game, and averaged an abysmal 5.3 per game. Wins against the Free State Growlers and Ghosts are possible, but if the Jazzhaus has hopes of sealing some victories, its output must improve dramatically.

First Seven Games Prediction: 2-5

Love Garden Squids, or: Billy Construction
2013 Record: 8-2 (6-1) (2-1)
Captain: Rob Zernickow

Several traditions have been in place among the KVKL for many years. Red Lyon’s traditional shot-gunning; the Goats’ pre- and mid-game bleat; Derek D. popping out; Cougar leading the 7th Inning Stretch; Chris Ford calling recruits every week. Well, it may finally be the end of at least one of those, now that Chris F. has left the Love Garden Squids for Happy Shirt. In his stead is 1B Rob Zernickow, who must have been given Chris’ rolodex after bringing in quite the recruiting class. Liz and Anne S. from the Ghosts join, in addition to the Menace II Sobriety’s Leboo.

However, it lost more than just the illustrious Ford, several of whom will be hard to replace. Notorious shit-talker RF Phil Mitchell has retired, as has SS Chris Cardinal, both of whom know the game well. Love Garden’s roster has remained relatively the same for the past five years, so seeing its members take the field for the first time might be a bit of a surprise. The end result probably won’t be much different, however. Expect aggressiveness—around the bases and from the dugout—and some growing pains as its lineup is tweaked.

First Seven Games Prediction: 5-2

Red Lyon
2013 Record: 6-4 (4-3) (2-1)
Captain: Chris Neverve

The Red Lyon tried thinning its team out last year, and, while that may have happened, it still felt like a slightly overcrowded team. According to Capt. Chris, this squad is the “same group of badasses, minus a few from last year.” It still has a remarkable amount of speed overall, but we know from last season it can be caught off guard (see: June 23rd, Asteroid Head Defeats Red Lyon, 8-6), in spite of its veteran players. What’s the strategy this season? Well, “We are going to work on increasing our shotgunning of beers throughout the games this season,” Chris says. And just because they’re doing it doesn’t mean you’re getting out of it. Chris continued: “We will be insulted if the opposing team won’t join us for pre- and post-game shotguns.” So, Langston Hughes—don’t be shitty. Grab Troy’s knife and a High Life, and meet at the mound.

We all know Red Lyon has always been a team that wants to win. That certainly hasn’t changed. You never know for sure what this team can do—and it might depend on how big that empty beer can pile ends up each week—but never discount a team replete with veterans and speed.

First Seven Games Prediction: 7-0

Sacred Sword, or: Sacred S-Word
2013 Record: 6-4 (5-2) (1-2)
Captain: Josh Hunt

Last year, Sacred Sword (then Reign of Terror) underwent a midseason struggle after losing 3B Pat Fielder and was forced to adjust its defense accordingly, putting players in unfamiliar positions. But Pat is back, and, according to captain Josh Hunt, “reported for camp wa~~~ay out of shape and will be playing catcher to start the year.” In addition, the S-Word has brought in a couple of unknown ladies due to P Katie’s pregnancy. LF Clayton has also left.

As for the team’s expectations, Josh had this to say:

We expect Chase to catch the balls that are kicked to him in the outfield this year, me [Josh] to lose a few pounds and hopefully not be too much of a defensive liability, Joel Kelly to talk about how many teams tried to poach him this off season, Mary to rescue a stray animal at least a few times at games this season, T-Bone to layout for impossible catches with a cigarette in his mouth, McKeever to lose his cool and then apologize, Mike Tiffany to take things way too seriously (and personally), Amber to be our most consistent player, Anna to say inappropriate things and Kyle to play with his shirt off when we need a rally.  We plan to talk shit all season, be mean to cougar and cut down the backstop chain link at Hobbs when we win it all in August!

Honestly, most of that sounds about right. A championship appearance would be Sacred Sword’s first, but don’t expect this squad to struggle much, especially in the second half of the season once they’ve got it together (unless of course Pat leaves again, in which case they’re obviously doomed).

First Seven Games Predictions: 6-1