Iconic softball act wins true laugher at Lippold

CRYSTAL LAKE – It was the flukiest home run Anna Patras ever hit.

Tori Stevenson’s RBI single had to have been one of the funniest hits of her softball career, too. Little of the action Tuesday night at Lippold Park made much sense.

But that was precisely the point.

Softball standouts from around the area – some of whom play in the Crystal Lake Tidal Waves organization – faced off against the iconic traveling act, The King and His Court, in a chaotic four-inning game designed to make the locals look silly through the King’s antics. The act won, 10-2, and the game was part of festivities for the 19th annual McHenry County Youth Sports Association’s
Summer International Championships.

The MCYSA, in conjunction with the United States Specialty Sports Association, runs its summer baseball tournament through Sunday, but did not host games Tuesday.

“It was a ton of fun to come together with all these girls and play against these historic guys,” said Patras, a 2010 Prairie Ridge graduate who attends the University of Minnesota.

The four-man team is concluding its 65th season of traveling across the country, and Crystal Lake was one of 100 stops they plan to make this summer. The King and His Court will close up shop for good Aug. 27 in Walla Walla, Wash.

The King and His Court has played in 102 countries, in front of 70 million people, both live and on TV, and was named Sports Illustrated’s eighth all-time favorite sports team in 1999.

Ringleader and “King” Rich Hoppe pitched between his legs, behind his back, from second base and blindfolded. Catcher Charlie Dobbins provoked Hoppe. Ron Davenport played shortstop, and Chicago Bandits head coach Darrick Brown filled in at first base.

Hoppe warned the Tidal Waves that if they got too many hits off him, they’d have to chase the balls themselves because there were more of them.

But Hoppe was as fast and crafty as advertised. Patras knocked a slow roller past third base in the bottom of the second inning, and Davenport let it roll into left field. Patras ended up with an inside-the-park homer and the Tidal Waves’ first run.

Stevenson knocked in 2010 Marian Central grad Kaitlyn Bliss in the bottom of the fourth inning for the Tidal Waves’ final run. Bliss had led off the inning with a triple, and Stevenson hit a Hoppe curveball thrown from second base to short.

“I was happy he was pitching from second,” said Stevenson, a 2011 Crystal Lake South grad who will play this fall at Trinity College. “But he is fast even from second base.”

Hoppe tried a few blindfolded, tossed a couple pitches between his knees and dared Tidal Waves pitcher Emma Gaulke to strike out his players.

Gaulke initially was intimidated to pitch in the game, but said the King and his players made it fun and relaxing.

“It was a little nerve-wracking,” said Gaulke, a 2011 Cary-Grove grad, “but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. It was really fun.”

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