The 42nd Security Forces Squadron Defenders enjoy the spotlight after winning the intramural softball championship with a dramatic 5-4 victory over the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. (courtesy photo)
Defenders set to defend softball title

by Senior Airman William Blankenship
42nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

4/4/2014 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- With intramural softball season fast approaching, the reigning champion Defenders are preparing to be crowned back-to-back champions.

With last year's heroic blast in the bottom of the final inning from Airman 1st Class Ross Griffin still fresh in their memory, the Defenders anxiously await their opportunity to step between the lines again.

"I am familiar with going into a following season as returning champion," said Master Sgt. Patrick Acre, a captain on the Defenders. "We know there are some things we can get better at, and we are going to do that. Our mindset going in is that we haven't won anything yet. But, you want to win championships. That is what we play for."

Like many teams, the champs will suit up several new faces this season, but their goals remain the same.

"Every year because of PCS-ing or other reasons, we will have changeover throughout the lineup," said Acre. "Hopefully, the newer guys will be influenced by those still here who have tasted winning. We talk about our goals, not to get hurt and to win championships. Not necessarily in that order. The continuity we build out there, as a team, will grow as the season progresses and hopefully carry over into the workplace."

Last year ended a five-year drought since their last intramural softball championship. After a slow start to their regular season, the Defenders rallied their troops during the playoffs, earning a seat in the championship game.

Down 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh, Defenders outfielder Staff Sgt. Brandon Barnes roped a double with two outs giving them a shot at the win.

As if the baseball gods wanted to see it again, Griffin stepped up to the plate and delivered a 1988 Kirk Gibson-style decisive blow to win the game.

"For me it was an unusual feeling," said Acre. "I have been on teams that have won many championships before, but seeing a group of young men that were so inspired and watching it from the coach's box was simply incredible. Griffin was just another cog in the wheel, but in that moment, on that day, he stood out as a star."

Senior Airman Christopher Tinney was part of the Defenders program for five seasons before he tasted victory.

"Seeing that ball land and realizing we were finally going to close the deal, that was awesome," he said. "All those years of underachieving can cause almost an obsession with success. At this point, I'm just ready to do it again."

This year's season is planned to begin on, or about, May 12. To participate in the upcoming season, squadrons must complete the letter of intent by April 25.

Anyone wanting to challenge the Defenders by placing a team into the league should contact Melanie Gess, Maxwell fitness center recreation specialist, at 953-6654 or