The Quyon COMBAT Flyers headed to Quad Cities, Illinois/Iowa last week for the ISC II Tournament of Champions, hoping to improve upon their 2007 appearance, for which they were both under-manned and inexperienced.
Not only did the 2009 version of the Flyers improve, they impressed.
Ranked #27 heading into the tournament, they were certainly one of the lesser-known clubs in Rock Island, and likely not viewed as much of a threat compared to the infamous names of Ottawa Team Easton, Waterdown Hammer, Port Elgin Blue Devils, and Ashland Stockpack.
However, Quyon placed first in their division pool, with a 3-1 record, earning them a bye through the first round of the playoffs, and in their first ToC playoff action, they met up with their GOFL league rivals, Team Easton.
I have to admit - when I heard who their first playoff opponent would be, I was pretty sure their ToC magic had run out. Ranked #2, Team Easton is one of the best-known clubs in North America, well-established and boasting a veteran line-up. Easton = The Best of the Best. They have been a familiar foe for the Flyers for years, having met up with them countless times in league play and in tournaments. Wins against Easton have been hard to come by.
But it turns out, the magic hadn't run out at all. In fact, the Flyers managed a 1-0 victory against their league rivals, with Matt Greer hitting a solo homerun for the only offence of the game, Steve McCord making a reportedly stellar catch at the fence to keep it that way, and Joran Graham tossing a no-hitter.
Advancing to the Quarterfinals, the Quyon boys were immediately up against the #4 ranked team Ashland Stockpack, from Ohio. This game was broadcast live on ballparkradio.com, so I spent the afternoon on the edge of my seat, listening to the game while also following http://fitzroyfastball.blogspot.com/, where there was live blogging of the game. My speaker was pretty muffled, so I was able to fill in the blanks by reading the blog.
Quyon took an early 3-0 lead in the game, and visions of semi-finals danced in my head. I had never wanted to be at a ball game so badly in my life. Especially since there apparently was an Ashland fanbase in attendance, and I could hear them screaming and cheering and banging their cowbells right through the radio feed. It was driving me insane!! They were pretty quiet once Quyon took the lead, but Ashland battled back, giving them plenty to go crazy about.
In the bottom of 7, Ashland at bat, with two outs, and the scored tied at 3, I was a bundle of nerves. Seriously. I had bitten my fingernails as low as they could go, and the butterflies in my stomach were flying. Imagine if we could take this to extra innings and win? Imagine if we made it to the Top 4?? That alone would be a massive coup for the team! It would be just about as good as winning the whole damned thing! I was already planning the celebration we would have at the airport when the team landed if they could pull off this win...
Unfortunately, it was not to be. Ashland had runners on first and third, and apparently a high chopper was hit to second (read: Luke), and the radio announcer said he misplayed it and the run scored, Ashland wins 4-3. I swore a little bit. Okay. A lot.
But after the dust settled, and I sat back and reflected on what an amazing run the guys had all week long - well, they almost were deserving of an airport celebration. They went into that tournament as nobodies, and now a lot of people know who they are in the fastpitch world. Every team they beat was more highly-ranked than they were, and they certainly turned some heads down there.
A big CONGRATS to the Flyers on an impressive tournament, and especially to Nick Armitage for making it to the ISC Tournament of Champions All-Tournament Team. They had an amazing week, and I, for one, was sad to see it come to an end. The good news is that Michigan is only a year away, and with that much more experience under their belts, who knows what the 2010 ToC might hold for the small-town squad that are making a big name for themselves!!
We all have the perfect opportunity to welcome the Flyers back , as they take on the Blitz in their league playoffs this Thursday night in Quyon at 8 PM. It's a crucial do-or-die game, as they need to win to advance in the GOFL playoffs. Spread the word!
See you at the ball park!!