Defense is a forte of the Congregation Shir Tikvah softball team. Mark Small is a big reason for that strength.
Defense is a forte of the Congregation Shir Tikvah softball team. Mark Small is a big reason for that strength. (Herschel Poger)

Shir Tikvah won the Rosen Division title this summer, beating Congregation Beth Ahm 9-6 in the division playoff championship game at Keith Sports Park in West Bloomfield after falling behind 5-0 in the first inning.

A euchre tournament and a Purim carnival are important chapters in the story of Congregation Shir Tikvah’s first championship in the Inter-Congregational Men’s Club Summer Softball League.

Without those chapters, there wouldn’t even be a team.

Shir Tikvah won the Rosen Division title this summer, beating Congregation Beth Ahm 9-6 in the division playoff championship game at Keith Sports Park in West Bloomfield after falling behind 5-0 in the first inning.

Shir Tikvah of Troy joined the Inter-Congregational league in 2013.

Earlier that year, synagogue member Herschel Poger had a chance meeting and conversation with Chuck Freedman at a euchre tournament.

“While we were playing at the same table, Chuck mentioned that he was involved with the Inter-Congregational league,” Poger said.

“I remembered the league because I had played in it in the 1990s for Adat Shalom Synagogue. I thought it would be great if Shir Tikvah had a team, so Chuck and I exchanged phone numbers.”

While he was at a Purim carnival at Shir Tikvah a few weeks later, Poger said, he spoke with five or six synagogue members who also were interested in forming a softball team.

An idea became reality.

Ken Williams
Ken Williams Ken Williams

Six players on the first Shir Tikvah softball team got to experience the team’s first championship eight years later. In addition to Poger, they are Matthew Bassin, Scott Litt, Mark and Jordan Small, and Ken Williams.

Pitching and defense are Shir Tikvah’s strengths. They have been through the years.

“We don’t have a lot of power. We’re a singles and doubles team,” Poger said. “Pitching and defense are never a problem.”

A big reason that pitching is a Shir Tikvah forte is Williams.

Off the softball diamond, Williams, 57, is the dean of mathematics and science at Oakland Community College, a job he’s had for four years after he was a math professor for 25 years at Marygrove College, which ended its undergraduate programs in 2017.

“Ken looks like a college professor because he is a college professor,” Poger said. “He’s a humble guy and would never say this, but I think he’s the best pitcher in the league, in any division.”

Poger is a credible source when it comes to Williams’ pitching. He’s Shir Tikvah’s catcher.

Williams didn’t attend any preseason practices before Shir Tikvah debuted in the Inter-Congregational league in 2013 in a doubleheader.

He played left field for Shir Tikvah in its first game, a game in which Shir Tikvah lost big.

“Our pitchers couldn’t get the ball over the plate in that game,” Poger said.

‘I Can Pitch’

Williams talked to Poger between games of the doubleheader “and said the most important three words in our team’s history,” Poger said.

“Ken said, ‘I can pitch.’”

Besides pitching for the Big Rapids High School baseball team, Williams had pitched while playing intramural softball at the University of Michigan and in recreation softball leagues.

Even though he hadn’t pitched for a few years, Williams quickly regained his form.

“I can’t remember how we did in the second game of that doubleheader, but it was competitive,” Williams said.

His softball pitching strategy is simple.

“You must throw strikes,” he said. “Walks will kill you.”

Mark Small is Shir Tikvah’s backup pitcher.

“There isn’t much drop-off when Mark pitches,” Poger said. “Mark can play any position on the infield, so he’s also a valuable guy there.”

Shir Tikvah won the Rosen Division regular season title this year with a 13-7 record.

But it lost its opening game of the double-elimination division playoffs to regular-season runner-up Beth Ahm, sending it into a win-or-else mode for the remainder of the playoffs.

A 14-2 win over Beth Ahm on the second and final day of the playoffs paved the way for a winner-take-all championship game between the two teams.

Shir Tikvah trailed in that game until Jordan Small’s two-run double in the bottom of the sixth inning gave Shir Tikvah a lead it would never lose.

Here’s the game ball from Congregation Shir Tikvah’s playoff championship win, with player Herschel Poger’s mitt and team cap.
Here’s the game ball from Congregation Shir Tikvah’s playoff championship win, with player Herschel Poger’s mitt and team cap. Herschel Poger
Show of Power?

Michael Reamer’s solo homer proved to be Shir Tikvah’s final run of the season. Reamer also hit the team’s first homer of the season. Each homer was hit at Keith Sports Park, but at different diamonds.

“Having a home run for our final run of the season is the antithesis of who we are,” Poger said. “We usually play small ball.”

Poger made sure he secured the game ball in the playoff championship game after the final Beth Ahm batter grounded out to second baseman Mark Small, who threw to first baseman Jordan Small.

“I was on the bench,” Poger said. “As soon as the final out was made, I made a beeline for Jordan.”

The ball — now with “Champs! 2021” written on it by Poger — along with the division championship trophy will be displayed at Shir Tikvah, Poger said.

His team cap and mitt also may be in the display at the synagogue.

Also on Shir Tikvah’s roster this season were Robert Breitman, Kyle Edwards, Howard and Joel Fershtman, Brook Morris, and Aaron and Brendan Small. 

Please send sports news to stevestein502004@yahoo.com.

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