The end of an era

The 2019 Chicago Hounds campaign came to an end Saturday afternoon in Maywood as the Hounds lost to the Pirates 9-4 in the CMBA one game play-in playoff.

The Hounds kicked off scoring in the top of the first when center fielder Nick Schmidt (2-3, 1 2B, 2 RBI) singled off of that-Pirates-pitcher-that-the-Hounds-always-face, scoring utility-man Brian Lehman. However, the Pirates promptly answered when their leadoff hitter doubled, stole third base, and crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly.

Both teams went down rather quietly in the second inning. The Pirates struck again in the top of the third when their center fielder reached on an error, then scored on a double by #15, making the game 2-1.

The Hounds’ took a 4-2 lead when they scored three runs on four hits and a walk in the top of the fourth, starting with a Matt Burch walk, followed by an Arron Kruse (1-3, 1 R) single, a balk, a Nick Schmidt double, a Brent Schoenbach single, and a TJ Rinaldi single.

Veteran Pirate, #42, stroked a double to start the bottom of the fourth. The bases were loaded with one out after two walks and a flyout. The nine-hole hitter, #56, picked up an RBI on a soft fly ball to the Hounds right fielder that clanked off of his glove, struck the ground, was picked up and fired in to second base for the second out (E-9 and assist). Alex Reinke induced an inning-ending groundout to himself (his 10th of the year) in relief of Riggenbach (3 2/3 Inn., four hits, three strikeouts, two walks, one put out, zero errors). The score stood at 4-3 after four.

The top of the fifth appeared promising for the Hounds when Justin Thorton singled to start the frame. The rookie second baseman then made his way to third base on an error and a Brian Lehman groundout. Thornton’ hit was the last of the day for the Hounds’ offense, which was promptly shut off like a light. Burch (0-2, 1 BB, 1 R) “grounded” to short, failing to score the base runner from third with one out, and Arron Kruse lined out to end the inning. The next six Hounds were sat down in order, the final three by strikeout (all swinging) after interim manager Tony Correa gave an arousing speech.

The decisive blows came in the bottom of the fifth when the Pirates scored 5 runs on a few hits, a couple of walks and an error. This put the Buccos up 7-4, their first lead of the game, and one they would not relinquish. The nail in the coffin came in the bottom of the 6th when Pirates’ right fielder and closer, #6, hit a two-run home run to bring the game to its final score of 9-4.

With that, the 13th (or the 11th, according to Matt Steffans’ parting gift) Hounds season comes to a close. 17-16 was their final record, which was good enough for 7th place and a spot in the “playoffs”. Notable season highlights include the addition of many new, great teammates (Nick Ingram, the Charlies, Justin, Casey Peterson, Joe), the return of Garrett, lifting the K’s cup, and DiCola putting on a belt at Southwest Park.

The end of the year also marks the final full-time season of Hounds’ founder, shortstop and manager, Matthew Boyd Steffens (#5). The always-pesky Steffens ended his managerial career with a record of 189-187-5, enough for the third highest win total of all time in the CMBA. A 13 year staple at shortstop for the Hounds, Steffens mark of 1,294 assists put him alone at the top of the CMBA career leaderboard. “Skip” was a career .263 hitter with an on base percentage of .334, 80 doubles, 245 stolen bases and one home run. On the mound, “Matty”, was 20-8 with a career era of 5.46 and 11 strikeouts in 109 innings. He is also 5th on the CMBA career list in games with 400. Steffens, who is still expected to make 10-15 appearances going forward, is retiring to New Orleans where he will patiently wait for his CMBA Hall of Fame call.

It isn’t only the direct, in-game contributions of the Hounds’ founding father that will be missed, but also his burning desire to always be correct (competitive spirit), glass half full personality and strong memory. Megan, his wife and the Hounds’ first fan, will also be sorely missed (Megan, good luck at work tomorrow).

With that, we look forward to seeing most of you next year when you come back, as the Hounds don’t really hang out in the off-season.

– Matt “Daddy” Burch