Thursday, August 03, 2017

Freshman Baseball Update, Games 10 and 11

After an entire season spent on the road, the Campolindo freshman baseball team finally played at home for the first time in their tenth game.  The boys faced a rematch double-header against archrival Miramonte, playing on the home varsity field for the first time.
The first game was a taut pitcher’s duel, with Campo winning 2-1.  Campo’s ace went 6 2/3 innings, allowing only three hits and one run.  The few times Miramonte threatened, he managed to induce the critical outs to prevent the merry-go-round and comedy of errors that we had seen so many times over the years against the Miramonte players.  For his part, Michael drove in the first run with a walk, made a few routine defensive plays, and was involved in a critical pickoff play to eliminate a runner he had allowed through an error.  Campo scored its other run on a sacrifice fly, doing just enough to win the game.
Juuuust a bit inside ...
... to earn a walk and an RBI for the first run
In typical Campo-Miramonte fashion, the game hung in the balance until the very end.  Campo’s ace pitcher struck out the first batter in the top of the seventh, but the next batter singled and stole second.  Everybody in the park knew what was coming.  The next batter bunted, and as always seems to happen, something went wrong, and the batter ended up on first thanks to an error.  Then he stole second, putting runners on second and third with only one out and Miramonte down by only one run.  The next batter popped out for the second out.  

Unfortunately, Campo’s pitcher had run up against the mandatory pitch count limit.  That put the ball in the hands of one of the other pitchers, who had closed out a win against Miramonte earlier in the season.  He got two quick strikes, but then ran the count to 3-2.  With the tension in the park as high as it would ever be for a freshman baseball game, he induced a game-ending ground ball to first baseman to seal the win.  Campo did not exhibit much offense, and ran themselves out of a couple of potential rallies, but played well enough behind an ace pitching performance to earn quality win
And there was joy in Mudville

During the break between games, the Campolindo families initiated a practice that will likely become a tradition.  The parents laid out the spread of sandwiches, chips, drinks and desserts for the players, coaches and families of both teams.  The Miramonte parents and players were appreciative, and there was a palpable sense (in the natural course of the way the rivalry between these neighboring towns and schools works) that a gauntlet had been thrown, and a challenge had been accepted.

Rivals breaking bread together
It takes a lot to feed two baseball teams
Campolindo sent out a new lineup for the second game, so Michael sat out most of the contest.  The game started as shaky as the first game had been solid: Miramonte’s first batter reached on an error, and the runner stole second and third.  Fortunately, he did not score.  Both teams put runners on base in the first couple of innings through hits and errors, and Campo scored first, pushing across three runs in the bottom of the second.  Miramonte responded with five runs top of the third, including a two-run home run and a steal of home on the front side of a double-steal in typical Miramonte fashion.  Each team put up a single run over the next half innings, until Campo tied the score at six in the bottom of the fifth inning.  With the contest level, two innings remained to determine a winner, a setup Campolindo partisans would always be happy to accept.

Working the sidelines
The top of the sixth did not start in an auspicious manner for Campolindo, but it felt familiar.  The first Miramonte batter reached a dropped third strike, and the second batter was hit by a pitch.  In a series of events that seemed to confirm that the days of the Moraga boys always losing to the Orinda boys as a matter of holy writ were over, the Miramonte lead runner was thrown out trying to steal third.  Two pitches later, the second runner, who had stolen second, was picked off second, with Michael – having just entered the game at shortstop – working the second base pickoff with his pitcher to perfection.  The batter during all this drama then struck out.  Thus ended a typically crazy inning: only three batters came to the plate, two of them got on base without a hit (one by strikeout), both were erased from the base paths, and the ball was never once put in play.  

Picking off a dangerous runner is always a good reason for smiles   
 (All photos courtesy B. Maher)
In the bottom of the sixth inning, with two outs the Campolindo batters string together consecutive singles.  Unfortunately, a runner was thrown out at home for the third out – the third Campolindo player thrown out at home in the game.  In the top of the seventh, the fates got back on script.  A single, a stolen base, a wild pitch, and a ground out gave Miramonte to the go-ahead run, and an error later in the inning gave them an insurance run, even as Campo’s catcher threw out another runner attempting to steal.  Down to their last chance in the bottom of the seventh, Campo got a runner on base with a single but could not bring him around to score.  Michael popped out in his only at-bat and the game ended on a called third strike, with Campo going down 8-6.  

The game was lively but a bit sloppy (the teams combined for 24 hits and four errors), but the Campolindo boys were never out of it the way they used to be against their Orinda foes over years of youth baseball.  They finished an even 2-2 for the season series and served notice that they would not roll over in habitual defeat anymore.  As they continue to play, they will clean up the mistakes that usually sealed their fate.  We look forward to several more years of this spirited rivalry, particularly as Miramonte’s program has, for the moment, surpassed the Campolindo program (Miramonte’s varsity team almost went undefeated this season, beating Campolindo in the Northern Coast Section semifinals, only to suffer their sole loss in the NCS championship game).

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