2013 Champaign – PLAYOFFS Softball and Hoops (Nov. 13)

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Updated: November 14, 2013

What a night! Wednesday Night was a first for All Sports Series — as the weather last week pushed everything to this Wednesday Night. We started with nine hopeful Teams and ended with one group of Champions.

Before we Wrap-Up the Playoffs… It is time to unveil who you voted on to be elected to the very first Champaign League All @AllSportsSeries Team and League MVP!  Congratulations to: Captain Brian Harris, Corey Glaser, & David McCaffrey of Team Harris (No. 7 Salon & Spa), Connor Dart & Captain Patrick Rafferty of Team Rafferty – Sig Ep (Cookie Jar), Captain Garrett Fisher of Team Fisher  – AEPi (popchips) and Zach Aranas of Team Lehrman – ZBT (Stanley Steemer)

An even bigger Congrats goes out to the leading Vote getter and MVP — Captain Patrick “2013 Champaign League MVP” Rafferty!

Here’s a link to the special extended Weekly Video Highlights.

This is how this week’s Wrap-Up will work.. We’re going to go game by game in chronological order from the Opening Round and Elite8 Softball Games on through to the Final4 and Championship Hoops Games. Enough of the precursor lets get to the action and see who became the first ever Champaign League Champs!

Opening Round Softball (Round of 9)

8. Team Witt – ZBT SR (Houlihan’s) v. 9. Team Lemke – SAE (IHotel) – Team Witt wins 5-0

The winner of the Opening Round game would earn the right to play #1 Overall Seed Team Harris in Elite8 Softball.. However, before either team could worry about that they needed to get past each other.. I have been singing Team Lemke’s praises all season long — they had the hardest schedule BY FAR of anyone in the League and that in many cases will be a recipe for success come Playoff Time.  However, on this night they couldn’t awaken their bats and Team Witt refused to give them anything for free.  Team Witt jumped out to a 5-0 lead and that was that.  Team Witt really looked good in this one.. the frigid temperatures weren’t affecting them and they seemed poise to take down the Big Fish – Team Harris in the Elite8.  As for Team Lemke — many of this SAE crew were Juniors and they will be back in 2014 with much needed experience (and hopefully an easier schedule which will lead to a better seed).  They are a strong group of guys and if they can build a bit of momentum come next September they will have a much longer run into November.

Elite8 Softball

1. Team Harris (No. 7 Salon & Spa) v. 8. Team Witt – ZBT SR (Houlihan’s) – Team Harris wins 8-5 in 9 innings

Team Witt’s W in the Opening Round set up a rematch from Week 6 Softball that saw Team Harris have their biggest scare of the season as they managed to just eek out a 6-5 W late in the game.  Team Witt rolled into this one with momentum and they totally used that to springboard to an early lead.  The cold air was not exactly a welcome site to new teams as they arrived on site and Team Witt had already acclimated themselves to it.  The 8 Seed jumped out to 5-0 lead over there familiar foes and the buzz in the park was “Oh man this is going to happen!”  Team Harris possess a veteran lineup, not just with All Sports Series, but many are 5th year Seniors.. The deficit did not rattle them as they knew if they buckled down that there was still a chance.  They began chipping away at the lead.. The score became 5-2, then 5-3… Then 5-4.  As we went to the 7th inning the #1 Seed and Regular Season champs were 3 outs away from going home for the winter.. But there was still a chance… Base runner after base runner reached and with 2 outs they managed to score that 5th run and tie it up!  To extras we went.. No score in the 8th, but in the 9th, Team Harris struck gold — driving in 3 runs and putting away the shell shocked Team Witt for good.  For Team Witt, you have to wonder “what if?”.. They were without their Captain — Sam “Switness” Witt for the back half of the Season as he fell to mono and it’s hard to not think his Senior Leadership could have been the difference in keeping that 5-run lead.   Many of the players on this crew are underclassmen who will no doubt be back in future Champaign Leagues.  These guys now have a Playoff W under their belts and they could taste the first true upset of the Playoffs this year.. They will be back and likely be a force to be reckoned with.  For Team Harris.. Survive and Advance.. That is the only important part of Championship Wednesday.  1 down, 2 to go.

2. Team Rafferty – Sig Ep (Cookie Jar) v. 7. Team Grazioso – ATO SO (Sparkt) – Team Grazioso wins 12-10

What makes All Sports Series so special is that match-ups dictate everything.  You can’t ever just simply rest on your laurels because in any given sport and on any given night you might run into a team at their best; this causes upsets!  Upsets create Cinderellas and well the rest becomes History..  In every All Sports Series Playoffs there is always one Team that catches everyone off-guard and makes a true run at the Crown.  You never know where it’s going to come from or how they will pull it off exactly, but you can always count on someone making that leap.  The 2013 Champaign League Cinderella team is Team Grazioso – ATO SO.  These guys caught lightning in a bottle on Wednesday Night as they knocked out one of the League’s best teams in the Elite8.  Team Rafferty possessed one of the best Rosters in the League including League MVP Captain Pat.  These guys, if I’m being honest, were my favorites to take the Crown.  I really thought they had the right pieces.  However, for 7 cold innings on Wednesday Night Team Grazioso played like they were the team to beat. Actually, they played like they had nothing to lose.. Which is the right way to pull the upset.  They knew they were playing with house money and nothing would rattle them.  They jumped out to an early lead behind several big hits from Michael “a star was born on Wednesday Night” Bosco.    For Team Rafferty, it’s hard to see such a solid group of guys (played the games the right way) end their season with such disappointment.  I’ll tell you this — they are Juniors and they are instantly my favorites to take the 2014 Crown.  Still want to congratulate them on really great 2013 Season.  Team Grazioso had an hour to kill as they’d play the winner of…

3. Team Fisher – AEPi (popchips) v. 6. Team Samawi – ATO (Gamefly.com) – Team Fisher wins 10-3

The top 4 Teams in the Champaign League really separated themselves from the pack during the Regular Season.. There was a large gap between those 4 squads in the Standings from the rest of the group and for great reason.. Teams Harris, Rafferty, Fisher and Gross were almost locks for Ws week in and week out..  So it was no surprise when Team Fisher jumped out to an early lead in their Elite8 game… They pushed on the pedal early and never looked back.  More impressive was their Defense, with Captain Garrett “Congrats on being named to the All @AllSportsSeries Team” Fisher on the mound and Ethan “Ozzie” Smith at short.  There was little doubt as the innings rolled along that these guys would earn a spot in the Final4 to take on their 2nd ATO group of the night.  As for Team Samawi — they were a solid bunch that were just plagued by a unforeseen events which hindered their lineups.  I think if they had their full crew each week they might have climbed up even farther in the Standings (not that a top half finish is anything to scoff at) and that might have made the difference for them in the Playoffs.  Captain Mike is one of the nicest guys in the League and I think these guys will be back next year as Seniors with a bit of a chip on their shoulder..  Look out.

Final4 Hoops

1. Team Harris (No. 7 Salon 7 Spa) v. 4. Team Gross – ATO SR (Hollywood Liquors) – Team Harris wins 54-42

This is what we had been waiting for all night! Going inside!!! No but seriously, these were 2 of top 3 or 4 Hoops Teams in the Champaign League this Season and now they would meet with a spot in the Championship on the line.   Team Harris came out on fire but Team Gross went on a hot streak of their own shortly before half.. It was just a five point game at recess.  What makes Team Harris such a strong Hoops team is that they can come at you with 5 different guys who can all score and from anywhere on the court.. They don’t waste possessions and you literally cannot relax on defense EVER.  They kept pushing the lead in the middle of the second half and eventually Team Gross just ran out of time to stage a comeback.  Team Harris was led by Corey “All @AllSportsSeries Team” Glaser’s 21 points in the Final4.  He scored more than anyone in either Final4 game actually.  For Team Gross, on a different night they definitely had enough to take home the entire thing.. But it just wasn’t meant to be on Wednesday.  Many of these guys are Seniors and will be wrapping up at U of I in the Spring.. Captain Joe gave me some insight that there is a possibility a few will be back for next Fall however and if that is the case — these guys will have a second chance at glory.  A possibility of joining forces with their younger brethren of Team Samawi seems like the perfect recipe to take the 2014 crown.  Team Harris is now just one win away from that EXTREMELY RARE — 1 Seed Championship…  Can they do it?

3. Team Fisher – AEPi (popchips) v. 7. Team Grazioso – ATO SO (Sparkt) – Team Grazioso wins 53-51 in OT

Team Fisher was supposed to be here.They had been studs all season long. Team Grazioso had their ups and downs but were feeling pretty high on themselves after upsetting 2 Seed Team Rafferty just an hour earlier..  Something had to give.. Team Fisher came out and poured it on as they had done twice already in Hoops earlier in the Season.  When I mentioned the two teams in the other Final4 game were 2 of the 3 or 4 best in the League — Team Fisher was who else I had in mind..  They could do no wrong.. They were up by 18 at halftime..  Team Fisher continued to up the ante as they went up by as much as 22 in with about 18 minutes to go in the 2nd Half.  The one thing that they left room for improvement with was their free throw shooting — nothing terrible but they had left points on the board — really did it matter though?  They were up 22!  Team Grazioso called a timeout, took a deep breath, and came back with the “what’s the worst thing that could happen” mindset.. They began flying around.. They were pressuring the ball, they were blocking jump shots, they basically looked like the Monstars all of a sudden.  Oh and their 3ball came to life.. They managed to make it at least a competitive game.. but still trailed by 10 with just 4 minutes to go.. Again, Team Fisher kept heading to line but not capitalizing on their freebies or this one would have been donezo.

Still, at this point, there was chatter in the gym about Team Harris taking on Team Fisher — it was a foregone conclusion..  But Grazioso’s guys just kept churning.. Cutting the lead to 7, a Fisher free throw made it 9 (one of their only makes), then down to 6 with another 3ball from Grazioso.  With under 90 seconds to go Grazioso’s Michael “honestly could have been the MVP of the Night” Bosco drained another 3 to cut the lead to 3.  They had comeback 19 points in about 15 minutes — it was insane.  Still Team Fisher had the ball and had time on their side.. Another missed free throw and a turn over later and the stage was set with 6 seconds left for Team Grazioso to do the unthinable.. Team Fisher had a foul to give and smartly used it with 1.8 or so seconds left on the clock..  So Team Grazioso, down 3, had a sidelines out abounds with enough time to literally catch and shoot.. If you can only watch 15 seconds of the Video from this week, it’s still worth it — Chills every time… The ball gets passed in and fading away over two Team Fisher Defenders, SPLASH!  The Slipper still fit!!! Team Grazioso managed to comeback from 22 down to tie the game and go to overtime!

Overtime:

Somehow through all the emotion, both teams needed to lineup and then play a two-minute overtime session.  For those who think momentum don’t exist in Sports.. Well this game is Exhibit A, B and C.  Team Grazioso grabbed a hold of the lead quickly into OT and didn’t relinquish it after that.  It was simply stunning.  No one could believe it.  In 4 years of doing All Sports Series this comeback truly stands out above the rest.  Just incredible.. Team Grazioso, the Cinderella story of the Champaign League Playoffs has just knocked off the 3 Seed an hour after defeating the 2 Seed.. Next Up, of course is the 1 Seed in the Championship Game.

For Team Fisher — your heart just breaks.. They played so well for 30 minutes of the game and a few missed free throws really threw them out of whack.. I take that back, they played so well for 8 weeks.. I’m sure that at this point they have gone through every single play and what could have gone differently in those closing moments.. Literally 100 things could have happened differently and they would have been playing for the Crown..  Sometimes, certain things are just meant to be.. Team Grazioso somehow was meant to get into that Championship game and unfortunately for Team Fisher that meant they’d have to go home.. These guys are All Sports Series vets at this point and I think they are among early frontrunners to take the 2014 Summer League College/Prep Crown.. Even in the hardest of losses these guys acted with great character — something that is awesome to see.  They are going to win the whole thing eventually and probably soon.. This night, will be looked back on as a turning point for their All Sports Franchise.  I promise.

On to the Championship we go..

Championship Hoops

1. Team Harris (N0. 7 Salon & Spa) v. 7. Team Grazioso – ATO SO (Sparkt) – Team Harris wins 69-46 

This is the true David v. Goliath.. Team Harris had won every game they had taken place in this season with exception to a few of the tournament games (dodgeball and volleyball).. They were a majority of people’s favorites entering the Playoffs and it was a surprise to no one seeing them here in the Championship Game.  Enter David, in the form of Team Grazioso who literally minutes prior had completed one of the most improbable comebacks in All Sports Series History…  So, naturally Team Grazioso sprung out to an early lead!  They were up as many as 10 points in the first part of the game.  They were like a prize fighter going for the early TKO.  I truly believe, that they believe they could do it.  That is the essential part of pulling off these upsets.  Team Grazioso was not afraid of anyone.  They thought “why not us?” the whole night…  The difference here was Team Harris, took the sustained the punch and like a seasoned prize fighter countered with their own strikes.  Team Harris, would lead at Half but not by enough that either team felt it was over.. Slowly but surly Team Harris kept getting the shots they wanted and pulled away for good.. When the final buzzer sounded, Team Harris, had become the first ever Champaign League Champions.  More on them in a moment.

Team Grazioso who came up one W short on this night has become the talk of the All Sports Series Universe.  These underclassmen did something very special on Wednesday Night — however, with great success, of course comes great consequence.. Next Year, Team Grazioso won’t be able to sneak up on anyone.. Teams will be ready, willing and able to go toe to toe with these guys.  It’s a much different game being the hunted as opposed to the hunter.. How will they respond?  My guess — is really well — they have the heart of a champion.

Back to the Champs for the final time this Season — Captain Brian “Congrats!” Harris, competing in his FIFTH All Sports Series has finally climbed to the Top of the Mountain.  It’s so rare that a 1 Seed conquers the Crown.. Only been once before out of the 11 past All Sports Series champs.  Just amazing. His crew of Glazer, Shiner, McCaffery, Handrich, Renardo, Stuart and more — and I mean this — could win just about any All Sports Series League out there.  I’d love to see this group compete together in the Chicago Men’s League during the Summer.. They have the goods.  I want to congratulate them once again on taking the Championship, as well as their sponsor No.7 Salon & Spa and thank campusflorist.net for being our MVP Sponsor this season.

Until next fall… ILL

– Holden