On Saturday, August 27, the Gateway Archers and the Chicago Comets finally got to play for bragging rights and the Illinois Secretary of State Cup at the University of Illinois Springfield Campus Rec Park. The game had been postponed from its original April 30 date due to extreme weather. With the many tournaments for both teams that came after that date, late August was the first opportunity for these teams to wrap up their 2022 competitive seasons.
The day was split into three main parts. The first game, which started at noon, was for the Secretary of State Cup. At the conclusion of that game, students from the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired had an opportunity to learn the game directly from the coaches and players. Finally, a second game between the Comets and Archers with a few proposed modified rules for the NBBA was played at 3:30.
To start the day, MindsEye board member and Springfield native Liz Hill threw out the first pitch to Archers Coach and MindsEye Director of Special Initiatives Mike Curtis. The Archers won the coin toss and decided to be the home team for the Battle of Illinois game.
In the top of the first, Comets star players Rich Schultz and Dustin Youngren both scored in the first two at bats starting the Comets out with a 2-0 lead followed by three strikeouts to end their inning. In the bottom of the first, the Archers got their chance when lead off batter, all-star Kyle Borah, scored. Ethan Johnston, Richie Krussel, and Demetris Morrow each got out leaving the score at the end of the first 2-1 Comets.
The top of the second inning was a rough one for the Comets with three straight outs highlighted by a putout by Archer Ethan Johnston. Archers pitcher Jonny Walker and Archers hitters went to work in the bottom of the second putting up three runs. Marc Morris scored his first run as an Archer after coming over from the World Series Champion Indy Edge followed by runs by Kyle Borah and Rich Krussel.
After the fourth inning, the players participated in a “Wave Away the Waiting” social media moment with Damarius Blanks from the Illinois Secretary of State Organ/Tissue Donation Office to commemorate National Minority Donor Awareness Month.
The Archers continued to pour on runs while limiting the Comets’ opportunities through the middle innings. The Archers were up 11-3 going into the top of the sixth for the Comets’ last at bat. Rich Schultz and Bill Landram got two runs to start the inning, but the Comets couldn’t do enough to catch up. The Archers took the win and the Secretary of State Cup.
Final Score: Archers 11, Comets 5
MVP#94- Kyle Borah
Kyle Borah was named MVP for the game going four for five with two putouts. Kyle has had a phenomenal second year as a player. He finished eighth in scoring and tenth in defense at the NBBA World Series this year in Beaumont, TX. He was named to the inaugural BeepBall Nation All-Star game happening later this winter in San Antonio, TX. The game will host the top 30 players in the nation. Kyle is ranked twelfth.
The Secretary of State Cup was presented by IL State Library representatives Mandy Saia and Karen Egan to Archers Chad Dillon, Kim Blumenthal, and Rich Krussel.
After the Battle for Illinois Game, both teams got to do something they are also passionate about: teaching the game to future generations. Students from the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired came over from Jacksonville, IL to learn about BeepBall from some of the best coaches and players around. Students took part in hitting and fielding drills, harnessing their craft to potentially play in the future for one of the clubs. After their education as ISVI, a lot of students will return to their hometowns, including the Chicago and St. Louis areas. This background in the game can offer opportunities for team athletics that are not an option for a lot of low vision or blind individuals after leaving a specialty school.
After the demonstration, the students took their seats to have pizza and get their audio description headsets. The second game was set to play with a few modified rules that the NBBA has proposed over the years. This game would be a test or proof of concept for them. The changes were: three strikes on the batter instead of four, possession of a ball does not have to be held away from the body for a putout, and there were seven fielders and batters instead of the traditional six.
The first pitch was thrown by Marcelyn Love from Ameren Illinois, the presenting sponsor of the day’s events.
The three strikes rule didn’t have as much of an impact on the game as all pitchers and hitters had about the same contact rate as they did previously with four strikes. It took both teams a while to get it together with seven fielders as there seemed to be some confusion about what player zones individuals were responsible for.
Final Score: Archers 13, Comets 6
The inaugural Battle for Illinois was a huge success for everyone involved and both teams can’t wait to make this an annual event!
Article by Mike Curtis, MindsEye Director of Special Initiatives