After a long day of exciting kickball, the field over forty teams at the annual Red Rubber Showdown narrowed to two: Kick Yo’ Couch Ninja and The Best Little Scorehouse in Portland. Both teams had played three games in the swiss rounds of the tournament and two elimination playoff games, beating tough opponents through bright sunlight and occasional drizzle. The final game was set under the lights of the stadium at Normandale Park. Several of the remaining teams, tired after over nine hours of base-running, stayed to watch the champion team be crowned.
The National Anthem was sung and the teams were introduced. Kick Your Couch Ninja won the best of one rock-paper-scissors throw, and with it, the right to the home team advantage. The Best Little Scorehouse sent the top of their lineup to the plate, but after some bad breaks on foul balls and a routine infield fly they failed to put any of their first three kickers on the bases. The Couch Ninjas retired three in a row and stepped to the batter’s box. Their leadoff man singled, but a pair of fly balls later left him still on first with two outs. A bunt from the cleanup kicker with a throw that wasn’t quite in time put runners on first and third. A deep outfield double brought both runners home, and even though the next kicker was retired on the throw to first, the Couch Ninjas left the first inning with a 2-0 lead.
The Scorehouse came out swinging in the second inning. Ron, leading off for the team, singled, and his speed and creative base-running brought him home on the very next kick, halving the deficit to 2-1. The team rallied behind him and loaded the bases with two outs on the board but were unable to bring any other runners home. The pressure was on the Couch Ninjas to extend their lead against a Scorehouse offense that had been posting big numbers all day. Clean singles and speedy base-running loaded the bags early in the inning, and despite tight fielding on the part of the Scorehouse, the Couch Ninjas brought two of their men across home base. The second inning ended with a score of Couch Ninjas 4, Scorehouse 1.
The Scourehouse offense almost succeeded mightily to mount a third inning rally, but the Couch Ninjas defense was impossibly clean. The lead kicker doubled and managed to make it home after a dropped ball at first base following a very clean bunt. A pop fly to right field brought the runner to second, but after an incredible lunging catch at shortstop and a kick that appeared to travel nearly straight up was grabbed in by the Couch Ninja’s pitch, she was unable to advance. The Scourehouse defense took their cues from the Ninjas, however, and did not let a runner get to base in the third inning, keeping the game tight at 4-2 heading into the fourth.
The fourth inning featured tight base-running calls in both halves. The top of the fourth saw several Scorehouses runners beat throws to first and to second, but critical tight play at third base and a very speedy outfield kept them them from making it around the corner. Seeing every at-bat as an opportunity despite their two-run lead, the Couch Ninjas played aggressively in the bottom of the fourth, finding small gaps in the outfield and keeping runners on the bags. Some unfortunate foul balls meant that only one run scored, however, and the Scorehouses had one more at-bat to make up a 3-run deficit.
Staring at a scoreboard reading 5-2, knowing that this chance at the plate could be their last, the Scorehouses picked up their game. Their leadoff kicker bunted cleanly to first and advanced to third on a tag-up play that recorded an out. She came home on the very next kick, bringing the score to 5-3. With one man on and one man out, the Scorehouses were looking to capitalize on having the tying run at the plate. A kick to deep center meant a base hit, runners on first and third, and the go-ahead run stretching her legs. Her bunt was fielded and the runner was thrown out at second, but the runner on third scored, and in the top of the fifth the score was 5-4 with a runner on base. The kicker stepped up to the plate and unleashed a monster, but the Couch Ninjas, who had seen their lead dwindle, jumped into high gear and made the catch.
The Kick Your Couch Ninjas are the Red Rubber Showdown 2013 Champions, defeating the scrappy Best Little Scorehouse in Portland, 5-4.