Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Baseball, Games 3 and 4

In a year of historic rainfall, the boys' first doubleheader came on the sunniest, warmest day of the year so far.  They were matched up against one of their local rivals, Las Lomas, for the first time, so they would face off against players they will see for the next several years.  Knowing that Las Lomas had been blown out in consecutive games by Miramonte, our primary, Hatfields-and-McCoys-level rival, the boys were optimistic that they would come away with their first win of the season.

The first game got off to a bright start.  Our ace pitcher mowed through the Las Lomas lineup, giving up one harmless hit and striking out four through the first four innings, breaking our habit of  giving up sloppy runs in the first.  Even better, we scored three runs in the second inning, with Michael driving in his team's first run of the season. 


It wasn't pretty –  a hard ground ball off the pitcher's glove – but it got the job done. 

Safe!
He later got a great read on a single to score from second (a talent he has displayed in a few games in recent seasons) to score the team's fifth run in the sixth inning. 

Unfortunately, that is all we would get.  On the other side of the ball, Los Lomas chipped away in the late innings to tie the ballgame in the bottom of the sixth.  In the bottom of the seventh with the score still tied, the coaches brought Michael into pitch.  


He got the first hitter on a very long fly ball that our centerfielder did well to track down. The next batter got on with ground ball to the third baseman that was foul by foot in the eyes of everyone in the park except the home plate umpire.  A stolen base and an error put the runner on third, still with only one out.  After a meaningless walk, the next batter popped the ball into short left field.  An awkward catch and a late throw allowed the runner to tag up and score from third to end the game.

The boys were outraged that they lost, believing that although the top of the Las Lomas lineup included some high quality players, the balance of the roster was, in our boys' eyes, below our level.  The scoreboard said otherwise, of course.

The coaches changed things up in the second game, starting a few players who had not played as much over the first few games.  The boys started well again, putting a run on the board in the first inning with a couple of walks and an RBI single.  For the second game in a row, we got a great effort from our starting pitcher, who kept things under control over the first four innings by giving up only one run.

With the score 2-1 in our favor going into the fifth inning, things started to get interesting.  One of our players walked and proceeded to score on a series of balks called by the umpires that frustrated the pitcher and drew the ire of the Las Lomas coach.  We managed to score another run to go up by three. 

In the bottom of the fifth inning, the first Las Lomas batter struck out.  However, because our catcher dropped the third strike, the better could attempt to advance to first.  The throw from the catcher went straight over the batter's head and arrived at first base at about the same time, resulting in a collision between the batter and our first baseman.  The Las Lomas coach, still steamed about balks called against his pitcher a few minutes earlier, argued with both umpires, apparently on the theory that our first baseman had impeded the batter's progress.  This is not the rule, as the fielder may go wherever he needs to go receive the ball.  As he returned to his dugout unsatisfied, the opposing coach appeared to me to animatedly exhort his team to play rough.  In the worst possible reinforcement of bad coaching sportsmanship, the next Las Lomas batter was rewarded for physical play.  The throw on his ground ball drew our first baseman off the bag and into the batter's path.  The batter aggressively ran into our first baseman, knocking the ball out of his glove.   The runner should have been called out for extending his arms rather than simply absorbing the collision, but the umpires apparently had had enough discussions with coaches.  The inning unraveled from there in a haze of walks, errors, hits and two pitching changes.  When the dust finally settled, we were behind 8-4. 

In the top of the sixth inning, we put our first two runners on base.  Michael, who had entered the game two innings earlier, blasted a double to the left-centerfield gap, scoring one run. 

Michael loves any picture that shows off his rippling muscles...
A sacrifice fly scored a second run, bringing us back to within two runs.  Unfortunately, we gave up a few hits in the bottom of the sixth, pushing the score back to a four-run deficit.  Down to our last at-bat, we loaded the bases with two outs.  Two walks (including one to Michael) pushed across two runs, but we could get no further, losing 10-8.   Michael was frustrated that he batted with the bases loaded with the game on the line and got nothing to hit.  He earned an RBI with his walk, but he was swinging the bat well (in addition to his double his last at-bat, he had also driven a ball  to deep centerfield in the first game) and would have preferred to have had the chance to knock in more runs with a hit.

The two losses to what the boys considered an inferior team were supremely frustrating to them.   On the positive side, their bats finally awakened, and they showed a little fight in coming back in the second game.  Unlike the first couple of games of the season, though,  the pitching and defense showed significant weaknesses.  We are still looking forward to seeing the boys play well in all  phases of the game at the same time.  The ability is certainly there.


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