Houston (CBS HOUSTON) — The reigning champ is dead, long live the new softball home-run overlord, Brian Cushing.
The veteran Texans linebacker wrestled the slugging title away from defending champion Shane Lechler on Saturday night in Minute Maid Park at the fourth-annual JJ Watt Charity Softball Classic.
Cushing hit five home runs in the final round, eclipsing the punter, who hit two. The pair reached the finals by crushing the competition in the first round.
Prior to Cushing – who hit eighth – Alfred Blue, Ryan Griffin, John Simon, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, Brock Osweiler and DeAndre Hopkins combined for a mere two homers in Minute Maid’s spacious outfield.
The fences rested at about the 225-250 foot mark around most of the outfield, but the Crawford Boxes were left alone in left field. Cushing set the tone with five dingers, and Lechler followed with six in the opening round, including one that nearly hit the Chick-Fil-A Fowl Pole.
Watt didn’t make the finals — he said before the game he hasn’t practiced hitting all offseason — but he did crush a pair of home runs into the left-field bleachers. Former Astros pitcher and seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens was the pitcher for Watt’s derby at-bats.
New Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler received perhaps the biggest ovation of the night for any single player, but his form at the plate was not sound. He could kindly be described as a single’s hitter despite his 6-foot-7 frame.
Even though Lechler topped Cushing in the first round, it left him “exhausted,” as he told the event’s sideline reporter. It showed in the finals.
Cushing went first and picked up right where he left off, even crushing one off the Schlumberger sign high above left-center field. Lechler followed but looked spent, only posting two dingers in the final round and ceding his championship to the star defender.
It was an anticlimactic end to the fan favorite event, which was highly attended in the first season at Minute Maid. But the change in venue also left something to be desired on the home-run front, as players struggled to clear the fences.
Cushing ultimately stole the show, and the trophy, from Lechler and will have some bragging rights in the Texans locker room this season.