Thursday, May 03, 2007

12-9 and the season is over

We played the league champions today and I've never been so pleased with a loss before. Sure, we lost and went winless all season (0-8), but we played well and were competitive today.

It didn't start well. I told my second baseman that she couldn't hit and I was going to DH for her. She said, "Wait. So you are saying I don't have to bat?"

I replied, "Yeah. I need someone who can make contact."

She replied, "Yes!" with both arms raised in a celebratory manner. Just what every coach wants, players that don't want to play.

Then the bus to the game was 35 minutes late. Our warm-up was rushed and my pitcher was a little stiff when the umpire called for captains and went over ground rules.

The field was gorgeous and it gave all my infielders a boost of confidence that the ball wouldn't take any strange jumps. The opposing pitcher was throwing the ball moderately hard, but wasn't that accurate. I gave the "you've got nothing to lose, leave it all out on the field" pep talk and spirits were high.

My lead-off hitter drove the second pitch of the game 200 feet to dead center, directly into the outstretched glove of the center fielder. The most useful out all day as spirits rose even higher when the girls saw the opposing pitcher was hittable. We scored 2 runs in the top of the first. It was our biggest lead all year. In the bottom of the first, we gave up three stupid runs based on a combination of a walk and an error.

In the top of the 2nd, we got out the whoopin' sticks. 6 runs scored and we batted around. At that point, the opposing coach saw her undefeated season slipping away and went to the bullpen. It was obvious that she started her second string pitcher, because the next girl was as fast, but more accurate.

My batter came to me and said, "Why does this always happen to me? I had the other girl and now they've got a new pitcher. They were taking it easy on us because we aren't good, but now they are getting serious."

To which, I replied, "Well make them pay for their arrogance."

She got a little mischievous smile, took an extra hard practice swing and stepped into the batters box.

She drove the 3rd pitch she saw into right field and I got greedy. I had my runner from 2nd try to score. The right fielder threw a one-hopper into home and my runner was out by 2 steps for the final out of the inning.

Up 8-5 going into the bottom of the 3rd, girls were all standing up and cheering each other on. We had a few mental lapses and gave up 4 runs. The highlight was my catcher threw out a runner at second base. It is a tall order because base-paths are only 60 feet in softball. She threw a perfect strike to my shortstop, who put the tag down and got the girl.

Top of the 4th, we were down 8-9, but the pitcher didn't scare any of my girls. We battled and tied the game.

In the bottom of the 4th, my pitcher was running out of gas and our opponents were really clued into her timing. They were driving virtually every ball into the outfield. When they had scored 1 run, had 2 runners on and only 1 out, I went for a mound visit.

I love mound visits. My girls are too inexperienced to understand the purpose. They gather around the pitcher and look at me like I'm going to magically deliver two outs. I simply reiterate the basics and fundamentals, while taking the temperature of my pitcher.

I looked at her and said, "You are running on vapors."

With a 'don't you even think about taking me out' look in her eye, she replied, "I've got two more outs in this arm."

I may be the coach, but I'm not stupid. My pitcher was finishing this game.

The next pitch was hit into the gap in right-center. My center fielder made a fabulous play to get the girl trying to stretch her single into a double. However, the 2 baserunners scored: 12-9.

My pitcher looked at me with the saddest eyes and all I could say was, "We just need one more out, so let's get 'em!" And she did. The next girl popped out to first base.

In the top of the 5th inning, we approached the 2 hour time limit and were told it was the last inning. I let my girls know they needed 3 runs to keep playing. They gave a valiant effort, but we only got one baserunner and we left her at first.

Game over, but the game was so well played that the girls were extremely buzzed. Lots of talk about summer camps, getting together to throw the ball, and returning next year.