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.
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...|
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.