Sunday, April 13, 2008

Game 4 against Oak recap

On Thursday we played the runners-up from last year. They have a star pitcher and several gals that play for travel teams. They are flat out good. I expected we'd get crushed. Especially when I heard that my starting pitcher was out with the flu. I have other pitchers, but they are more like "old man beer" softball pitchers than legitimate ones with any speed. In addition to my starting pitcher, 8 other players were MIA. Rather than 20 like I've been carrying to games, I brought 11.

When we got to the field (which is way better than what we practice on) and immediately started getting ready. My 2nd string pitcher couldn't find the strike zone. She was all over the place. I assumed we'd give up 20 runs in the first inning and it would all be over by then.

But it wasn't. OAK started their 2nd string pitcher, who was wild and walked the bases loaded. Then my clean up hitter, did exactly that. She laced one up the middle to score 2. Unfortunately, the bottom of my order (all freshmen due to short roster) either struck out or popped out to an infielder.

In the bottom of the first, my starting pitcher was so slow that OAK didn't know what to do. They were way ahead of the pitches and when they made contact, it was little squibblers or short pop-ups. We only gave up 1 run that inning. WE WERE AHEAD 2-1 after 1.

In the top of the 2nd, we were at the top of the order and it was a near facsimile of the 1st inning. OAK walked the first two batters and the third batter hit a slow roller toward the right side. The 2B, 1B and pitcher all converged on it leaving 1st base free. We loaded the bases with no outs. I was salivating. The clean up hitter stepped into the batters box and promptly swung at a high pitch that she popped up. Infield Fly Rule in effect and she was out. I had less faith in the bottom 1/2 of my order. But luckily OAK's pitcher was wild. She threw a passed ball that allowed my runners from 3B to score and the other two runners advanced. Then my batter struck out. But the next batter hit a grounder to 2B, which scored my runner from 3B and we had two more on the board. Unfortunately, the next batter struck out.

In the bottom of the 2nd, my pitcher got the first girl to swing at junk and strike out. The next batter singled to right. Then my pitcher walked the next two batters. I figured we were done for now. Bases loaded with 1 out. Amazingly the next batter hit the ball back to the pitcher, who threw home and forced the runner from 3B. (We never practiced that. My catcher just literally shouted so loud the pitcher reacted on instinct). Bases loaded, 2 outs and no runs scored. The next batter took a mighty swing and hit the ball straight up. It went maybe 40 feet from home plate down the 3B line. My 3B and pitcher and both broke for the ball. I imagined a bad collision, so I started screaming the 3B's name. The pitcher backed off at the last second. The 3B made the catch and stormed off the field demanding to know why I was screaming her name. Even after I explained that it was for her own safety, she seemed miffed. But I wasn't 4-1 after two innings.

In the third inning, we put some runners on but didn't score. In the bottom of the inning, OAK took advantage of two errors to score 3 runs. Going into the 4th inning, we were tied 4-4.

In the top of the 4th, even my freshmen were hitting the ball. The #8 and #9 got on base with no outs. It took us awhile, but we scored 'em both. 6-4 after 3 1/2 against the 2nd best team in the league! I was seeing a surprise win (we were closing in on our 2 hour time limit). Then OAK stepped up in the bottom of the 4th. It started badly. The first two hitters scorched the ball up the middle. I moved my SS to cover up the middle and the next batter hit it between SS and 3B. OAK scores. Then a pop fly to my LF. She drops the ball. 2 more score. Then a walk. Then another single.

I called time and walked to the mound. My pitcher (the only one on my roster) was running on vapors. I tried to calm her down and remind the infield we had to make the plays. It didn't get any better. OAK had my pitcher timed and she didn't have anything left in her arm. After giving up 10 runs (and any real hope we had of winning the game), my pitcher was crestfallen. She called time out and told me to come out. I told her I'd have to take her out and she said, "Yeah. I know. I'm done."

What does a coach say to that? I crossed the line and took the ball. I looked to my SS, who pitched in middle school, and told her to do her best. She did ok. Gave up 4 more runs (only 1 charged to her) and got 2 more outs.

It was hard to rally the troops after that inning. In the top of the 5th, gone was the old pitcher and we had the 1st string pitcher in. She throws nothing but high heat. My girls quake in their cleats. 1-2-3 we went.

Game over. 18-6 was the final score, but I was pleased. An improvement on 18-2 from earlier in the week and plenty of exposure for my freshmen to varsity-level softball.

Two more games this week (Mon and Thurs), so stay tuned for more from the 1-3 Varsity Softball Team