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1 SOPS dashes USAWFC’s three-peat title hopes

Michael Scillieri, third baseman for the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center, throws to first base during the second inning of the Schriever Intramural Softball Championship game Aug. 21 at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo. The 1st Space Operations Squadron won the game 16-6. (U.S. Air Force photo/Christopher Dewitt)

Michael Scillieri, third baseman for the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center, throws to first base during the second inning of the Schriever Intramural Softball Championship game Aug. 21 at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo. The 1st Space Operations Squadron won the game 16-6. (U.S. Air Force photo/Christopher Dewitt)

Brett Kasischke, 1st Space Operations Squadron, bats during the first inning of the Schriever Intramural Softball Championship game Aug. 21 at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo. Kasischke hit a grand slam in his next at bat to lead 1 SOPS to a 16-6 victory against the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center team. (U.S. Air Force photo/Christopher DeWitt)

Brett Kasischke, 1st Space Operations Squadron, bats during the first inning of the Schriever Intramural Softball Championship game Aug. 21 at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo. Kasischke hit a grand slam in his next at bat to lead 1 SOPS to a 16-6 victory against the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center team. (U.S. Air Force photo/Christopher DeWitt)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The 1st Space Operations Squadron scored early and often to knock off U.S. Air Force Warfare Center 16-6 and claim the Schriever Intramural Softball League championship Aug. 21.

According to 1 SOPS team captain Jon Farill, it was the only outcome 1 SOPS team members could have accepted.

"We were talking as early as January about how good we thought we could be," Farill said. "We weren't conceited, but we knew with the talent we had coming in that we had a chance to go far in the playoffs."

As it turned out, 1 SOPS lost just one game this season, against 2 SOPS in the regular-season finale.

The team rarely struggled to score runs this season and it needed that potent offense against two-time defending champion USAFWC, which battled its way through the double-elimination tournament to reach the championship game for the third consecutive year.

Eric Lewandowski roped a double off the right-center field fence to drive two runs home for USAFWC in the top of the first inning, but 1 SOPS answered back with four runs in the bottom half of the inning, thanks in part to a two-run triple from Ryan Quaale.

"That lead was shaky and we knew we needed something big to happen," said 1 SOPS pitcher Jesse Cook.

Cook did his part early, stifling USAFWC hitters in the second by inducing three straight pop flies.

"We've counted on Cook to keep hitters off balance all season," 1 SOPS infielder Brett Kasischke said. "He displays the subtleties that all great softball pitchers possess: craftiness and placement."

If the first inning was any indication as to how potent the 1 SOP offense was, the team put it on full display in the second inning.

Cook led off the second with a single past second base, Krystel Steindurf and David Hayes then both drew walks to load the bases and Darren Mucha drove Cook home with a line drive to center field. That's when Kasischke stepped to the plate with the bases still jammed.

"I got a high pitch and simply took advantage of it," Kasischke said after blasting the pitch over the center-field fence for a grand slam.

In all, 1 SOPS sent nine batters to the plate in the second inning, and seven of them scored, providing the comfortable lead they anticipated.

"From there, we just needed to clamp down on defense," Farill said. "That's something we've managed to do all season, but it was never more important than in that moment."
Lewandowski drove in a run for USAFWC in the third and the team rallied again in the fourth.

After USAFWC had already scored twice in the inning, Joshua Carter faced Cook with a pair of runners on base. He belted the second pitch he saw into the hole between first and second base, but could only watch in dismay as Quaale stretched out and snagged the line drive for the final out of the inning.

"Quaale has proven himself everywhere he's played," Farill said. "Our infield has played well all year, but we've also seen that kind of performance from our outfielders. Thanks to our speed and the great arms in our outfield, we've thrown a lot of runners out who've tried to stretch singles into doubles."

Leading 11-6, 1 SOPS scored five more times in sixth inning to put the game out of reach.

"It feels good to earn the championship, but it's important to note that we couldn't have done this without the support of our squadron leadership and our 1 SOPS teammates," Farill said. "Lt. Col. Toby Doran, [1 SOPS commander], asked folks to support us and they have come out and filled the stands for every game."


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