In a terrific showing by teams comprised of former and current college and pro players, the Pickled Parrot took the 2012 Baltimore Indoor Lacrosse League championship at Myers Pavillion Tuesday night with a thrilling 12-11 overtime victory over the 1st Mariner Mortgage squad.
With both squads finishing the regular season at 7-3, the Pickled Parrot downed Team Toyota 10-7 in one half of the BILL playoff bracket, while 1st Mariner Mortgage defeated the Rebel Lacrosse Club 9-7 to advance to the finals.
Like many of the regular season games this season, the BILL’s championship matchup was tight the whole way, with the teams locked at a 3-3 tie after the first 12-minute quarter and an 8-8 deadlock at the half.
The teams continued to battle throughout the third and fourth quarters, often exchanging goals in succession and many of the players becoming emotional on the floor and on the bench, making for a tense atmosphere in the small venue. Thanks to a four-goal effort from Will Harrington (Towson/Maryland) and a go ahead goal from Jordan “Bear” Kenney (Stevenson), the Pickled Parrot found themselves clinging to an 11-10 lead with about a minute and a half to play.
Just when it seemed the Pickeled Parrot was going to hold on for the win, a huge winding shot from 1st Mariner’s Justin Mullen (Virginia) found the top right corner and sent the game into an extra frame. While regular season overtime contests were decided by a shootout, league officials and the teams decided to let sudden-death overtime determine this year’s league champ.
After Pickled Parrot’s Brandon Hastings (UMBC) — who was very tough off the draw — won the opening face-off to start overtime, the ball was turned over. But after the 1st Mariner squad turned it back over just moments later, Mike “Tree” Simon (Stevenson) came up with the ball and sprinted down the floor, burying a shot on the run to seal the victory for the Pickled Parrot.
In the loss, 1st Mariner Mortgage’s Dan Marohl (UMBC/Minnesota Swarm) registered six goals.
The Parrot’s win marked the close of the BILL’s 28th season. Commissioner Hunter Francis, who spent 17 years as a goaltender in the league, said that the teams and players competing take a great deal of pride in the small circuit.
“It’s been the only league in the country for many years that was designed to convert field players to box players,” says Francis, who played college lacrosse at North Carolina (‘81). He said the league got its start in 1984, a couple years before the establishment of the Eagle Pro Box Lacrosse League, which began in 1986 and would morph into the Major Indoor Lacrosse League for the 1988 season and, eventually, the NLL that exists today.
The basic idea of the BILL, Francis said, is “to take all this field talent and get them playing box lacrosse.”
“You see the field players that try out for the NLL teams; they don’t make it,” he said. “And that’s because you can’t go to a camp and try to figure out how to play the game. That’s going to be pretty true in the North American Lacrosse League because you see we’ve got a lot of veteran talent here.”
In addition to Harrington, Marohl and Simon, the Pickled Parrot roster featured the likes of Pete Cannon, Eric DiProspero, Ryder Henry, Jeff Joy, Josh Hoffman and Dave Shortt. Names on 1st Mariner Mortgage included Buggs Combs, Shawn Nadelen, Matt Alrich, Dan Cocchi, Casey Connor, Josh Funk and David Tamberino.
Those and other veterans — scattered across the four BILL rosters — will comprise the bulk of the names on the Baltimore Bombers roster, a member of the North American Lacrosse League that will open play in 2013. The team starts its training camp this coming weekend, and Francis, who will head the Bombers organization, says the close of the BILL season is the perfect segue.
The BILL, as anyone in attendance could see, has an intense, competitive feel that should serve as important preparation for the players who will jump from the local league to the new national circuit.
“It’s part of the game,” Francis said, commenting on the physical and even sometimes chippy nature of the BILL contests. “The guys are real compeititive. Most of them are here because they’re real competitive. And when it gets down to the championship, it is 28 years old and it means a lot to some of these guys.”
The former organizer of the Baltimore-based Team Toyota, Francis was also involved with the Baltimore Bayhawks and the old Baltimore Thunder NLL franchise. Possibly the biggest proponent of box lacrosse in Baltimore, Francis said the quality of play, the development of the players and the ultimate end goal — helping field players become pro box players — is much more important to the BILL than attendance and media attention.
“We don’t really worry about trying to market or publicize this league,” he said. “We work hard to recruit young guys into this league because it’s developmental and sometimes it’s unbalanced. Sometimes have a team what might not have no lefties; that’s very unbalanced team. We had to shrink the league three years ago, and we have four really competitive teams and most of the games end up like this. We had six shootouts this year.”
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