Two evenly matches teams squared off last night at the IBM Rec Center. Grandpas won the toss and elected to be the visiting team (most teams prefer to be home, to get the chance to bat last at the end of the game). We always pick visitors, to bat first. And why do we bat first? Because hitting's fun!
Our strategy paid off early as we started with a five-run first inning. I joined the fun by roping a deep shot along the right-field line for a triple. We shut them out in the bottom, and we got five more runs in the second inning. I got a single to right field, knowing this was probably the last at-bat they would let me hit uncontested to right field. In the bottom of the second, they scored two runs. At the end of the inning, I robbed their pitcher of a bloop single with a diving catch in shallow right field.
Up 10-2 in the top of the third, our bats did not cool down. I had a proud accomplishment -- hitting a double to right field while their defense was specifically shifted to stop me from succeeding in right field! We tacked on an additional five runs in the inning. The opposing baserunners started to press for extra bases, leading to some easier outs. I threw out a runner trying to stretch a single into a double -- probably my first career outfield assist!
Now it's 15-3 in the fourth inning. In a move statisticians would call "reverting to the mean", we popped out on three consecutive batters. And in a cruel twist of fate, the opposition also reverted to the mean, exploding for seven runs. With two outs, a runner tried to go first-to-third on botched ground ball by the centerfielder. I was already on my way to back him up, and the ball took a lucky bounce into my bare hand. I whirled the ball to the relay man, who turned and fired to third for out number three -- chalk up half an assist for me! It's a strange game when I'm throwing guys out from the outfield... I'm one of the weakest arms in the league.
In the fifth inning I lead off with another triple against the shift, this time hitting the ball between the right-center and right fielders. My personal good fortune is getting a little ridiculous. We end up with two runs on the inning. 17-10, and given the length of the game so far, it's a good bet that we can go home if we home if we give up less than seven runs.
The opposition starts the inning with nine of the first ten batters reaching base. If you're scoring at home, that means one out, seven runs, and the winning run on second base. At this point I'm just thinking "don't hit it to me... don't hit it to me...". The masher at the plate was obviously not impressed as he sent a fly ball deep to right field. I backpedaled, just thinking "don't trip don't trip don't trip". Fortunately I caught the ball and managed to throw it in on time to hold the runners at second and third.
Now a left-handed hitter comes to the plate. And we all know where they like to hit the ball (right field). I'm still hoping that someone else gets the "opportunity" of a pressure-packed defensive play. CRACK goes the line drive to right field. It must be good coaching, because I was standing at the perfect spot to catch out number three.
I could go for a casual seat on the bench, but I have to lead off this inning. I hit a dinky ground ball to second base for an easy out. Hey, the luck had to end sometime. The next batter also grounded out. Things are looking bleak... it would sure be a good time for a rally.
Our tenth batter is at the plate and squeezes one through. Now it's the top of the order, and we've got new life. Single, double, double, and three runs have scored. Our cleanup hitter hits a hard ground ball to the third basemen, who appears to tag the runner coming from second. The umpire yells out, and the Grandpas bench erupts in protest -- he missed the tag! Our runner is adamant that he was untouched. The third baseman looks not unlike the cat who caught the bird. In a stunning display of ethics (IBM values?) the third baseman admits to having missed the tag and the umpire reverses the call. From the bench, I look for a cell phone to dial ESPN about a possible "instant classic" game.
The hitting doesn't stop. Three more hits and three more runs. I get a shot at redemption. The defense is shifted to the right. I foul off the first pitch well behind first base. As the second pitch is in the air, I hear the umpire shout something, which I later realized was "illegal!" (That realization did not good while I was in full swing.) It's a line drive just past the second baseman, good for another double. For those scoring at home, that's an incredible three extra-base-hits against the shift. I fully expect to never duplicate that feat. We get a few more hits and runs before recording our final out, but we have recorded a total of nine runs in our two-out rally.
Our last turn in the field is much less dramatic. With an ultra-conservative, keep-everything-in-front-of-you mindset, we give up two runs while getting the last three outs. Final tally: 26-19, with my career-best line: 5-6, 2 2B, 2 3B, 5R, 4RBI, as well as 1.5 outfield assists, three catches (one diving), and an error.
What a game!