‘Billy Ball’: Billy picks team to challenge LanceThe recent release of the list of Lance’s best softball players revealed an outstanding team. All 15 were deserving of recognition. However, I, Billy Pirkola took the challenge and came up with a team from that earlier era that I feel could compete very well with those stars.
The following is another “Have Fun or Get Out of the Way” column by Don Leighton and Mike Granlund and their alter egos, Lance Boyle and Billy Pirkola, which runs occasionally in The Superior Telegram.
The recent release of the list of Lance’s best softball players revealed an outstanding team. All 15 were deserving of recognition.
However, I, Billy Pirkola took the challenge and came up with a team from that earlier era that I feel could compete very well with those stars.
Here is your primer on how to defeat the legends:
Solid middle defense
We have assembled two double play combinations to ensure that a hit up the middle will be earned. Roger Plachta at second base and Mark Sather at shortstop are defensive wizards, good friends and outstanding ballplayers. Having Plachta on the team will be like having a coach on the field. (Proof of that came recently when his 2004 UW-Superior women’s team was inducted into the Yellowjacket Hall of Fame.)
Scott Savoy, shortstop from Solon Springs, gives the team speed and defense. Dan Hannula, who was a teammate of Lance’s, probably would have made Lance’s team but moved away before he could put up enough stats to satisfy Lance. His play at second base was flawless and he also has the inside scoop on our worthy opponents as two of his brothers will be on the other team. (Billy even had a third double play combination in Wes Miller and Brian Nelson, but roster limitations precluded their addition)
Billy plans on using three pitchers; maybe in each game. This will allow us to use numerous pinch hitters and utilize all of our team’s hitting ability. Jack Lucas is a legend from Solon Springs who was a fine pitcher and power hitter. At around 70 years young, he still plays winter ball in Vero Beach, Fla. (He’s got “it” bad!) Bob Steen was a great high-arc pitcher who will frustrate the normal batter. (Too bad the other team is not normal, especially their coach). The third pitcher is Donnie Moreland, Kro Bar’s ace hurler. Those three will be able to concentrate on their pitching duties.
Scott Janigo from Brule, played for teams in Iron River and also for Middle River. According to teammate Keith Tanula, Scott was a great teammate and would do anything needed to win the game; hit for power, go to the opposite field or take a walk. As coach of Northwestern Tiger softball, he knows the game.
Paul Colby. Maybe too young for this team, but we want him on the team. Put him anywhere and he will perform. (Except maybe first base) He has speed, power, and a sense of the game.
Al “Catman” Wigfall was a slugging first baseman who also will be on the pitching staff. Big, strong, and fiercely competitive
Ray Kosey, SHS Activities Director, was the type of player who was dependable, fast and smart. A lock for the softball Hall of Fame.
Scott Hendrickson. In baseball or softball this player should make every “all” team ever assembled. A great hitter with a smooth stroke, and his defense is legendary. How did Lance miss this player?
Randy Gunderson was another of those fleet footed outfielders. One of the Clydesdale’s stars that went to the National Tournament.
Anyone who has watched slow-pitch softball on television knows that the great teams have a ton of big power hitters to knock the ball out of the park. We have found three former Spartans that really fill that bill.
Larry Banks played football briefly at Wisconsin, weight lifted with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and played for the UWS “Sting” defense. Banks was super strong but also very athletic.
Pat Paquette. Former Spartan who played starting offensive line for the Minnesota Gopher football team (back when they were good) and could hit the ball a mile. Also very athletic — Billy saw him dunk a basketball with ease even when he weighed close to 300 pounds.
Doug Sutherland. Once hit the “kitten Ball” so far that the SPCA* considered charges against him. A local strong man who was a football and track and field star for both the Spartans and the Yellowjackets. He had a great career later on as an NFL lineman for 12 years, including many years as a starter on the Minnesota Vikings’ defensive line that was nicknamed the “Purple People Eaters.” He also played in three Super Bowls. His linemates were Carl Eller, Jim Marshall and Alan Page.
So there you have it. Billy’s team will challenge Lance’s team with power, pitching, defense, versatility and speed. Don’t bet against them, either.
NOTE: *SPCA = Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
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