Was it superstition, strategy or socks?

It was a memorable season (mostly in the playoffs) for Forest Agency

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By BRAD SPENCER

They were bad, oh so bad. One player even described his team as "miserable." One coach, who had signed on because his son was friends with a player, questioned his decision "? many times during the long regular season, with the team spiraling downward." It was brutal, at times downright frustrating. They won just three games, lost 14, and finished last in the Knight Division of the PONY league. How can Forest Agency, made up of 14 teenagers, have any fond memories of the season?

Oh, because, during the playoffs, they won six of seven games over eight days to win the championship.

Co-coaches Ricky Easty and John Dirgo implemented their usual strategy for the regular season, "to develop all of the players in whatever positions are of their interest." Nearly every kid wants to pitch or catch, so Easty and Dirgo had 11 pitchers and seven catchers during the regular season. The philosophy is a bit unconventional, possibly impractical, but in the end it paid off for this team. When losses pile up, a team can slowly break apart. Forest Agency seemed to get stronger. They adopted superstitious quirks like wearing colorful socks and always putting on the left cleat first. The coaches began preaching patience to coincide with the talent. Come playoff time, things turned around. Forest Agency had endured an unremarkable regular season for a reason. Along with playing small ball (they bunted four to eight times per game. In one game they bunted four consecutive times to score four runs), the coaches were able to use six different pitchers and three catchers during the playoff week, a stretch where temperatures rose to 90 degrees or above.

Forest Agency, made up of Garrett Adams, Brian Cannon, Michael Comiskey, Christian Holkeboer, John Machiels, Tim O'Connor, Dustin Walters, Mike Browne, Eli Easty, Daniel Kent, Devin Kliewer-Foster, Paul Leo, Nathan Smith, and Nathan Gogo, defeated one of the top teams in the league, Twisted Lizard, twice in a row to win the championship.

So, let the fond memories begin.

Elijah Easty: My most memorable moment was one of two things. The first one would be my first hit. After a 0-for-9 start, I got a bunt single where the pitcher tripped and the scorekeeper was gracious.

My favorite memory happened throughout the season. It was the socks. At the very beginning of the season, my coach tried to give me a pair of socks. I turned them down. So I wore a green and yellow sock for about half the season. I felt like I wasn't doing as well as I could have, so I naturally assumed it was completely the sock's fault.

The next game, which was about the eighth game, I wore a red sock and a light blue sock. These completely didn't match my uniform. That game was my best pitching outing all season as well as one of my better hitting games. So it was the socks.

The next couple of games, other players on my team started wearing different colored socks as well. They seemed to notice that they were doing better. By the end of the season, about half the players on the team were wearing different colored socks. Keep in mind that this is also when we started winning more games.

So my theory is we won the playoffs because either the coaches coached us really well or it was the socks. I think it was the socks.

Nathan Smith: My most memorable moment was in the championship game in the bottom of the seventh inning when the bases where loaded, no outs, and Tim [O'Conner] strikes out the first two and the game winning play was a force out at third base. That was a very tight spot to be in and we got out of it. I didn't even think that we could of made it that far and I don't think many people did with the bad start to the season.

Devin Kliewer-Foster: I have two memories, one from the regular season, and one from the playoffs:

1. I remember when, at the beginning of the season, my pants were too big and I was pitching, and they were falling down. I still had a one-two-three inning, though. After that inning, they gave me new pants.

2. Since I've always been on a losing baseball team, going into the playoffs, I was thinking, "This is going to be another losing year." But once we started winning, I knew we had to win the championship, and that is what we did.

Tim O'Connor: When we had a bad losing record late in the regular season, and coach Easty sat us down on the bench and told us that we had talent and the capability of doing good in the playoffs. Not really anyone believed him. I guess coach was right though.

Mike Browne: Winning the championship game was the most exciting for me because I didn't think it was possible for the team to make it that far. We won only three games in the regular season. I got some hope when we beat Twisted Lizard, the No. 1 team at the time, in the second to the last game of the season, but I still didn't think it was possible to win it all. I was glad to have hit a home run in the first championship game against Twisted Lizard.

Christian Holkeboer: The playoffs were the most memorable, especially the last four games. The big difference between the regular season and the playoffs was that we played smart. We had smarter at bats, and knew where to throw the ball. The team was great and we all got along. My favorite moment personally was the last two games against Twisted Lizard when I made a diving catch in left field and I stopped a one hop line drive to short and threw out the fastest guy on their team.

Paul Leo: I started the year doing great. However, I was soon in a mid-season slump. My friend on the team, Eli Easty, came to my house before one of our games and presented me with a yellow sock. I wore this sock on my right foot, and a blue sock I had on my left foot, and claimed these to be my "lucky socks." I had a great game that day, and decided to keep my lucky socks. In games to come, I would frequently hit doubles, and have games where I would go 3-for-4 or 3-for-5.

Dustin Walters: In addition to the magical championship season, I'll remember these three highlights from the playoff season (as you probably know we did not have many victory highlights during the regular season):

1. In our first elimination game (we had five) I hit a two-run homer in the top of the seventh inning that put us ahead of H.E.R.E. by four runs (we won 13-8). It was against one of their best pitchers and I think it was his curveball.

2. In Saturday's championship game against Twisted Lizard I had a key two-run single through a pulled-in infield in the sixth inning that increased our lead from 8-7 to 10-7.

3. Also, in the championship game I pitched the fifth and sixth innings and was the winning pitcher. I came in with the score tied at seven and held Twisted scoreless and left with us leading 11-7 ( final score).

CONTACT: bspencer@wjinc.com

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