Teams split doubleheader at Coca-Cola Park

Each side took one win in the IronPigs' annual media softball event

By Pat McCarthy / Lehigh Valley IronPigs | October 3, 2018 3:23 PM

When the sixth annual Media Softball Game (MSG) took place on Tuesday afternoon at Coca-Cola Park, the Radio Team Captain Tom Fallon (Fox Sports Lehigh Valley) was hoping to snap a four-year losing streak to the Non-Radio Team, co-captained by Tom Housenick (Morning Call) and Pat McCarthy (IronPigs)

Although the losing streak came to an end in a 9-4 win in Game 1 of the doubleheader, the Non-Radio Team salvaged a split of the twin bill in East Allentown with an 8-6 victory in Game 2.

With no pulled hamstrings or strained groins reported, it was clear that everyone went home a winner.

In Game 1, the Radio team jumped out to an early lead against a less-than effective McCarthy, who drew the start in his first-ever appearance in the annual classic. 

Dan Holzman (iHeart Radio) was the catalyst in the three-hole for the Radio Team. The veteran - who finished 4-for-6 on the day with a double -- singled with two outs and was brought home on an RBI from returning slugger Matt Markus (Fox Sports Lehigh Valley) for the early 1-0 advantage.

"It was my mindset from first pitch, get a run on the board and rattle him [McCarthy]," said Markus, co-host of the Happy Hour. "This being his first media game, we knew there would be jitters and we didn't want him to let him get into a rhythm. As it turns out, we had him 'running laps.'"

The Non-Radio Team was able to tie the game up the first inning against Sam Malone (Cat Country). After Housenick singled to lead off the frame, Matt Provence (IronPigs) drove him home with the first of his four hits to even the score.

The Radio Team took a lead for good with a two-run second inning off McCarthy. The scoring was the result of a pair of two-out RBI singles from Johny Safi (Connoisseur Media) and Kevin Crockett (Cat Country). Crockett, also an MSG rookie and top prospect, finished with four hits and a pair of RBI on the day.

With the Non-Radio Team managing just one run on an RBI by Keith Groller (Morning Call) over the next couple innings, the Radio Team blew the game wide open with a three-run fourth and a four-run fifth.

The first rally was capped by three consecutive, two-out RBI singles by from Safi, Crockett and Fallon - who finished the doubleheader with four singles and an RBI.

If the fourth inning didn't seal the deal in Game 1, the top of the fifth inning put the opener on ice. McCarthy was tagged for four runs during a rally in which the first five batters recorded hits - including an RBI-double by Bob Holder (Connoisseur Media) and RBI-singles by Jeff Cohen (ESPN 610) and Joe Brown (Connoisseur Media). Cohen, an MSG rookie, finished with a game-high, five hits while the second-year standout Brown accumulated a game-high four runs scored.

The Non-Radio Team tried to battle back in the bottom of the fifth inning. After an RBI single by Chris Roman (IronPigs PA Announcer) there were two runners on and nobody out. But the threat was diffused when a grounder off the bat of James Mehnert (IronPigs Radio Network) turned into a highlight-reel, 5-4 double play turned by Holzman and KJ Zabala (Connoisseur Media). This defensive gem overshadowed numerous successful scoops by Team Radio first-baseman David Sheriff (Official Scorer).

"We stuck with Sammy the whole time and he rewarded us," Fallon said. "I asked him if he needed relief; and with a look of fire in his eyes, he told me 'Coach, I'm tired of losing to these punks every year. You'll only get this ball out of my hands over Bob's (Holder) dead body!'"

Malone earned the first pitching victory of his MSB career while notching a couple hits of his own.  

"We decided to stick with McCarthy the whole game," Housenick said, "We knew early on he didn't have good stuff and was going to get hit around; Malone was shutting us down offensively so we decided to roll with the rookie, knowing we could send out a veteran in Game 2 to earn a split." 

That veteran turned out to be Housenick, himself.

After the crafty lefty turned in a scoreless first inning, the Non-Radio Team set the tone early in Game 2 - posting a three-run first inning off Holder.

The rally started with five-straight hits - culminating in an RBI-single by diaper-dandy Matt Sabados, who finished the day a home run shy of the cycle (though his cycle would've required training wheels after numerous falls to the ground).

But Team Radio wouldn't go down without a fight. Jason Springer (ESPN 610) sparked a two-run rally in the top of the second and his colleague Cohen started a two-run, go-ahead rally in the third.

It was a 4-3 deficit that finally ignited the Non-Radio Team, which had an immediate answer in the bottom of the third.

After a leadoff single by Ernie Long (Morning Call), Provence launched a go-ahead, two-run homer over the right-field wall that turn the tide for good. Provence, who, in eleven years as the Voice of the Pigs has seen many balls leave the yard, could "forget about" that one as soon as it left his bat (though his bat flip might have been higher than the actual flight of the ball).

A rattled Holder allowed three more runs in the frame to fall behind, 8-4.

"It just wasn't his day," said Fallon, of his right-hander. "He [Holder] has got to protect that lead. We always preach about preventing struggles at the plate to carry out on the field. But some of his empty at-bats may have led to his tank emptying early on the mound. The key with Bob is, and has always been, focus."

In fact, the Non-Radio Team collectively hit for the cycle in the third inning when adding a double by Stephen Gross and a triple by Sabados. The rally also featured the third of three hits on the day for Jay Floyd (Phoulballz.com).

Gross, who missed the 2017 classic for unspecified reasons, bounced back beautifully with three hits and great defensive play on Tuesday.

Housenick made the lead count, earning his first career MSG victory.

"I'm proud of the way my team bounced back and picked me up out here today," said McCarthy, who finally broke through offensively with a single in his final at-bat. "With the way Tom pitched out there today, he has my blessing to stay in that press box as long after each Pigs game as we wants next season."

The games were played in exactly two hours on an 80-degree afternoon at Coca-Cola Park in front of a record-tying crowd of three: long-time MSG season-ticket holder Rocky Groller (Provence's Agent) as well as Chuck Hixson (@PHLBaseballNsdr) and Jack Logic (Official Scorer).

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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