Thursday, August 12, 2010

Softball Playoff Update

The game lived up to its hype. The championship round matches up the two rival Lake Success teams. I'm a ringer on my team, an "outsider", but the other teams never care because I catch and bat 11th. Of course, if they realized I am our teams secret weapon and closet manager, they'd be seeking to bar me. I don't know if the teams have names or my mind there's only "our team" and the "other" team. I love my team, but I don't feel the rivalry the way my teammates do. However, if my team is psyched, I'm psyched. If the rival is talking trash about our team (I heard one of them say we were 8-1 underdogs in the series), I'm mad and I'm playing hard.

The first game drew a big crowd, with wine drinking wives and extended family and friends. Lots of yelling and cheering. I admit it, the biggest crowd I've played in front of in a long time. It had both teams playing intensely and at a high level.

Softball wise, everybody knows what this series comes down to. The teams are evenly matched (personally I think we have significantly better players), but the other team has a great pitcher. OK, maybe "great" is too strong. He's a "B" league pitcher, pitching in a "C" league. He is MUCH better than any other pitcher in our league. He throws hard, and he never gives in and throws an easy one. He never "lays the first one in" to try and get ahead. His control is good enough to throw hard on any count. I actually like hitting against him, because he seems nice, and it's a challenge.

The other team also plays a smart defense, suited to their pitcher. They play their outfield very shallow, especially against weaker hitters, and they play their right fielder practically on the right field line. I will also say something nice about the other team.....they batted all the players who showed up. This makes it harder to score runs, as the better hitters bat less often, and some weaker hitters are using up outs. After all, in a seven inning game there are only 21 outs, and they all count. End of nice comments. I'd love to teach the opponents a lesson, the lesson being "it ain't much to brag about when you boost your mediocre team with a ringer pitcher". I do realize that regardless of the outcome of the series, lessons like this are lost on some people.

The game turned out to be a pitchers duel. We expected to have some trouble scoring runs. Not only is their pitcher good, but we went with a long lineup too. What was most impressive was that our pitching and defense made it a battle.

Both teams played tight defense and were making all the plays, with few errors. Going into the top of the 7th, we were down 2-1. In the top of the 7th we scratched out a run to tie the game at 2-2, and had a man on second with two outs. Had we managed one more hit to take the lead, I think we'd have clamped down and won. However, we didn't get it, and went to the bottom of the 7th, in the field with a tie score.

It's never comfortable for the visitors when the home team is batting in a tie game. There is no margin for error. With a man on first and one out, one of their batters hit a long drive to right center. I knew it was trouble right away, and I saw that as our shortstop went out for the relay, the runner was going to score easily, all the way from first. When the throw came in I didn't even bother to catch it, because the winning run had already crossed the plate and the other team was celebrating.

Except.....our third baseman (Jeff) was screaming at me "GET THE BALL!!!". I yelled back "WHY?!?!?" He said "APPEAL AT THIRD". So I got the ball, and noticed the umpire was still on the field, a good sign. I threw the ball to Jeff at third and looked at the umpire. He mumbled "You have to say something". I said "Appeal, he missed third base." And then....
the umpire made a fist with his right hand and and said "OUT".

Of course, the other team went nuts. Lots of screaming, calling the play "bush league" and the like. I had a good vantage point to hear all this nonsense, and at one point I turned to one of the apoplectic opponents and said "How hard would it have been to touch third base?" As an aside, I was told later by their third base coach that the runner had "missed it by a mile".

So it was back to baseball. Now we had a man on second and two out. We decided to walk the number six hitter and pitch to the next batter. I guess there was some poetic justice in what happened next.....the batter hit a single to left, and the winning run scored.

So, the 8-1 underdogs lost a nail-biter, 3-2.

Nothing to be ashamed of. Next game is Tuesday.

We can beat these guys!!! Let's get it on!!!!!

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