July 19, 2012 - The Honey Badgers and Beaver Fever met one last time at St. Cloud Commons to decide who the league champion would be. Beaver Fever won the coin toss and appointed themselves home team. The pitchers for the game were none other than the league's two best: Josh Berletich (Badgers) vs. Greg Sowards (Fever). Many were expecting a pitching duel between the two in this important game but offense played a critical role in the game. The Honey Badgers drew first blood in the top of the first scoring on a fielding error and taking a 1-0 lead before allowing the Fever to bat. Then Greg Sowards and Kyle Hetrick both struck out to end the inning. An initial bad start for the leading team in the league. It seemed as if Beaver Fever would finally lose their first game in nearly 3 months.
The second inning is when the pace of the game changed. After the Honey Badgers left two hitters on base in the top of the second without scoring, Beaver Fever unleashed a scoring barrage. Once they loaded the bases, Kyle Hetrick brought in two runs with a single to take the lead 2-1. Sowards then walked, which loaded the bases once more. What happened next was truly unexpected. Hetrick, who has never hit a home run in his entire career, hits a grand slam to give Beaver Fever a 6-1 lead over their contender. The even no doubt affected the morale of the Honey Badgers. Berletich then nailed the strike-zone furiously and struck out Sowards to end the inning. Hetrick's game changing grand slam resulted with him being awarded game Championship MVP.
The Honey Badgers never recovered from the blow and failed to get a rally together. Through the final 3 innings of the game they only got on base twice (one of which was a fielder's choice), striking out 3 times. Beaver Fever, however, was not done. In the bottom of the third inning Greg Sowards hit a solo shot over the center field wall which led to a pitching change - enter Arielle Hord. Hord did well on the mound by only allowing two more hits and striking out Sowards at this next at bat. Unfortunately for Hord the damage had already been done and the Honey Badgers just could not get the runs they needed. The game was not as close as it was initially expected to be. It lasted only about 40 minutes (one of the shortest games of the year) and the weather cooperated long enough for the game to be completed. The field was damp from the downpour earlier in the day and balls had to be continually wiped off before being pitched.
The championship confirmed what most of us had already assumed - that Beaver Fever is the best team in the league...at least for now. The off-season could prove interesting as teams acquire players and new teams spring up. Can the 13-1 Beaver Fever hold on to their title in 2013? The victory has probably solidified a top 5 spot for them in the national rankings. The Honey Badgers had a fantastic season as well. Their record (including the championship) is 7-5 which is amazing when you consider that they struggled to stay above .500 during the last half of the season. They brought in a new player, David Dillon, that breathed new life to their offense. Dillon would have easily won Rookie of the Year if the league had such an award. It makes one wonder what the standings could have been like if Dillon had been with the Honey Badgers from the start... Nevertheless, the Honey Badgers still performed well and won awards for their performance. Berletich won Silver Slugger and Strikeout King while Hord won Most Patient Hitter (and yes...that is a good thing).
It's been an interesting season and both teams look like strong contenders to claim the HWL title in 2013. Could there be a re-match or will there be a new team to take on the crown? We'll find out next spring.