The Columbus Lodge #2143 Golden Lions came back from a five run deficit in the 5th inning to defeat Universal Wrestling Federation Champion Sunny Beach and his All-Star team 11-10, at the Second Annual Arthritis Foundation Celebrity Benefit Game, held at John J. Burns Park, in Massapequa, on Sept. 25.
The Columbus Lodge No. 2143 Order Sons of Italy in America presented a donation at the 2nd Annual Arthritis Foundation Benefit Softball Game; then defeated Universal Wrestling Champion Sunny Beach (2nd from right) and his all-star team, 11-10. WALK-FM's Dave Weiss broadcasted the game. Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto was on hand.
Among those in attendance were NYS OSIA Grade Lodge Trustee Dan Calontone, Township of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto, Columbus Lodge Past Presidents Sam Novarro and John Juba and current Lodge President Ed Bochynaski Sr., who watch his son play.
Pre-game ceremonies included Patrick T. Mcasey, president of the Arthritis Foundation, accepting a cash donation by the members of the Columbus Lodge #2143 Order Sons of Italy in America. WALK-FM 97.5's David Weiss provided a play-by-play broadcast of the game and USSSA Umpire Jerry Becker called the balls and strikes.
The game began with both pitchers in command, however, in the home half of the third, Sunny Beach's All-Stars began to find the holes. After a couple of seeing-eye base hits, the Lions' Daron Tripoli was hand-cuffed by a ground ball to short and the All-Stars scored the first run of the game. A pair of doubles to centerfield and a bloop to rightfield allowed a total of five runs to cross the plate.
Down 5-0 in the fourth, the All-Stars had the look of an executioner, who was ready for another victim. The Columbus Lodge wasn't ready to dye. They asked their pitcher, Pete Gisonda, to shut down the All-Stars' scoring and he did; thanks to the slick play of the Golden Lions' outfielders and the tight defense by the Lion's infielders.
With one out in the fifth, consecutive singles by Tommy McLoughlin and Glen Rice put runners on third and third. Ed Bochynski, captain of the Lions, hit a slow grounder to short, scoring McLoughlin. Two batters later, Lions' rightfielder Tony Novarro drove in the their second run with a single to left.
In the top of the seventh, the Lions staged their second rally, and it started with a double by Daron Tripoli, Anthony Curran's single scored Tripoli and McLoughlin promptly tripled in Curran. It was time for the Columbus Lodge's 38-year-old rookie centerfielder, Glenn Rice, to come through. The Massapequa Park resident drilled a pitch up the middle, scoring McLoughlin and tying the score.
With momentum on their side, the Golden Lions' Tony Novarro led off the eight with an infield hit; his third hit of the evening. Then, lefthander Jeff Saviano, who had flown out in his previous two out bats, connected on the first pitch and crushed a triple over the rightfielder's head, giving the Lions their first lead in the ball game, 6-5.
As they headed into the bottom of the eighth, the Arthritis Foundation All-Stars had not scored since the third inning. However, with one out, the All-Stars had a base runner on first, with UWF Champion Sunny Beach batting. The six-foot-five, 280 pound wrestling champ drilled a 2-1 pitch off the leftfield wall, some 275 feet from home plate, for a run scoring double that tied the score at 6-6.
The Lions' Dave Saviano and Daron Tripoli opened the 9th inning with singles, which placed runners on the corners. After an Anthony Curran SAC-fly, McLoughlin and Rice hit run scoring doubles and the Lions led by three. Then Ed Bochynski smacked an opposite field triple down the right field line, scoring Rice; Bochynski scored on catcher Glenn Merto's SAC-fly to leftfield and the lead was five.
As the Arthritis Foundation All-Stars batted in the bottom of the ninth, the All-Stars began to tee off on flat pitching. In a blink of an eye, they scored 4 runs, and had the tying run at 2nd base and the game-winning run at 1st base. With two outs, the mighty Sunny Beach stepped up to the plate.
Columbus Lodge's first baseman, Ed Bochynski, approached his pitcher. "He told me to keep the ball up and not to worry about walks," said Gisonda. The first pitch was high and tight and Sunny Beach swung with all his might. "Strike one," shouted the umpire. Gisonda followed with the same pitch. "Strike two," cried umpire Becker.
UWF Champion Sunny Beach stepped out of the batter's box. In a (Babe) Ruthian stance, he pointed his bat in the direction of the centerfield wall and then pounded his bat upon the plate. The pitcher released the ball and the air was shattered by the force of Sunny's blow. As the ball ascended toward the heavens, 3rd baseman Joe Pasale watched with concern.
Oh somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright, the band is playing somewhere and somewhere hearts are light; and somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout, but there is no joy in Mudville ¬ mighty Sunny has popped out.
When Pasale's glove closed with the final out of the game a very successful season ended for the Golden Lions. "These are a great group of men. All year, they've pulled for each other. Tonight was just another example of a team win." said Ed Bochynski, "everyone contributed."
The Lions finished 1999 with a tournament record of 6-1; the only defeat was a semifinal loss at the McDonald House Sports Festival. "Ed (Bochynski) gets the most out of the talent he has to work with," said Columbus Lodge's Joe Contorno. Since forming the team in 1997, Bochynski has compiled a tournament record 10-4. According to Anthony Curran, "as a strategist, he's the Gene Mauch of softball managers."
In what might have been his final game, Tommy McLoughlin finished the Arthritis Foundation game with 3 hits, (including a double and a triple), 3 runs scored and 2 RBIS. Susan McLoughlin, Tom's wife, left the door open on Tom's return for the 2000 season; the Columbus Lodge's participation in charitable softball events and in-kind donations helped local charities raise over $128,000 for 1999.