Balls 'N' Dolls, on left, finished as 2014 regular season champions and pose after finishing as runners-up to Shake 'N' Bake, right, in the Suffolk Spring Co-Ed Kickball League tournament. Front row, from left: Rick Evans, Will Parker, Brian Bennett, John James, Buddy Wirt, Brooke Smith, Kasey Smith and Jeremy Branch; middle row, from left: Wendy Wirt, Angie Thompson, Chris Joyce, Ginger Rawls, Colt Eason, Victor Taglis, Matt Greene and Aaron Stacy; back row, from left: John Branch, Kelly Outlaw, Matt Cunningham, Jennifer Brackett, Jason Rountree, David Strickland, Brian Ashburn, Jesse Tengowski, Tabb Griffey and Jason Bailey.
Balls 'N' Dolls, on left, finished as 2014 regular season champions and pose after finishing as runners-up to Shake 'N' Bake, right, in the Suffolk Spring Co-Ed Kickball League tournament. Front row, from left: Rick Evans, Will Parker, Brian Bennett, John James, Buddy Wirt, Brooke Smith, Kasey Smith and Jeremy Branch; middle row, from left: Wendy Wirt, Angie Thompson, Chris Joyce, Ginger Rawls, Colt Eason, Victor Taglis, Matt Greene and Aaron Stacy; back row, from left: John Branch, Kelly Outlaw, Matt Cunningham, Jennifer Brackett, Jason Rountree, David Strickland, Brian Ashburn, Jesse Tengowski, Tabb Griffey and Jason Bailey.

Kickball in the family

Published 10:20pm Thursday, June 26, 2014

Branch brothers lead top teams

The adult Suffolk Spring Co-Ed Kickball League is seven years old now and has long been a forum for a good-natured and intense family rivalry.

This year was no different as Jeremy Branch’s No. 2-seeded Shake ‘N’ Bake team and brother John Branch’s No. 1-seeded Balls ‘N’ Dolls squad met in the league tournament championship on June 16 at Peanut Park. Shake ‘N’ Bake took the long road to its second consecutive title.

The team went 7-1 during the regular season to earn the No. 2 seed, but fell to No. 3 Rec N Crew to start the double-elimination tourney. This forced Shake ‘N’ Bake to work its way back up from the loser’s bracket.

“I think that first loss of ours we just weren’t ready for, and we had our heart in it to win the rest of them,” Jeremy Branch said. “We made a few changes in our defense.”

Shake ‘N’ Bake defeated a team from outside the city that was part of the league, Kickin’ Ballz. Then, the No. 2 seed engaged in a marathon of kickball on June 16.

“We played a total of 22 innings that night,” Jeremy Branch stated in a text message.

He and his team defeated Rec N Crew 4-0 in the 6:30 p.m. semifinal game. Then, Shake ‘N’ Bake needed to defeat Balls ‘N’ Dolls twice to claim the championship, with little rest in between games scheduled around 7:30 and 9 p.m.

Barring a tie, the league’s games last five innings. For the final two games, the league extended the length to seven innings. The two Branch-led teams fought through 10 in the first game before breaking a tie, as Shake ‘N’ Bake ultimately prevailed 4-1.

“Both our teams are so good at defense, so it’s hard to score, so that’s why we go extra innings,” Jeremy Branch said.

Shake ‘N’ Bake battled for a 2-0 victory in the second game, defeating Balls ‘N’ Dolls in the championship for the second straight year.

John Branch said his team fought hard, but “we committed errors.”

Both brothers noted having a consistent, experienced core has helped them succeed over the years.

Shake ‘N’ Bake benefited from players new and old, including Jesse Tengowski and Kasey Smith, for their kicking abilities, and Tabb Griffey, who pitched both of the final games.

Balls ‘N’ Dolls has appeared in the championship game every year, winning it four times. It went 7-1 in the 2014 regular season to become the regular season champions.

“It means a lot,” John Branch said of the achievement.

He described playing against his brother in the title game as highly competitive and exciting.

With the loss this year, he said, “It hurts, but it’s definitely fun to have the competitiveness out there with all the teams.”

And the brothers’ mother, Mary Branch, does her best to support both sons.

“We got her a shirt made with both our team names on it,” Jeremy Branch said. “It says ‘Mom Divided.’”

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