Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Game Two: Tensions Rise, and a Scuffle at the Plate!

Will struck out number three hitter Corey Davis to end Game One. Corey and Will have been playing against each other for several seasons, and even though Powder Springs has won most of the time, individually Will had always seemed to outshine Corey. Corey had been on second base last fall when Will pulled off his unassisted triple play. In the top of the first inning of Game Two, Corey grounded out to Will at shortstop.

The Marlins started Corey at pitcher in Game Two. Both teams were beginning to tire in the heat. Corey was taking too much time between pitches and letting the baserunners distract him. He would throw one good pitch, wander around a while, then throw one that didn’t come close. The first three Saint hitters Russell, Curtis, and John Fulton all singled, then Tanner’s good hit was caught. Two runs had scored, and Corey seemed less interested and more tired and frustrated. On a full count Josiah fouled several off before walking. Then Corey threw the ball away, putting runners at second and third with Will up to bat. One out.

When Corey finally delivered his first pitch to Will, it came in hard, but not super fast. But the pitch was low and way inside. Will backed and turned away from the pitch, and it hit him in the calf. I wondered if it was deliberate, but quickly dispelled the notion, as Corey had been getting wilder and wilder.

Little Jack Baker batted next, and he hit a sharp grounder up the middle. Corey got a piece of the ball, slowing it down and redirecting it to the left side of second base. The shortstop scooped it up, stepped on the bag, and fired to first. An RBI single had turned into an inning-ending double play.

Corey continued to weave in and out of trouble. In the second Patrick led off with a walk on four pitches, then Colin singled to left. But Will Gray popped out, then Corey struck out the next two. In the third Corey gave up four line drive and two runs. Then an interesting thing happened: Josiah was hit with the first pitch. Another accident?

A wild pitch allowed Josiah and Tanner to advance to third and second. With two out Coach Chris told Will he needed to put the ball in play as opposed to walking, so Will swung at 1 – 1 pitch that was high and outside. The high fly ball glanced off the right-fielder’s glove, allowing two runs to score. Will ran to second, and advanced to third when the throw in got away. Will then scored on a wild pitch, before Jack grounded out to end the inning.

With the score 7 – 2 and Tanner pitching, Corey led off the fourth by walking on four pitches. Josh was up next; he had singled in each of his previous at-bats. Corey stole second on the first pitch, a strike. Will’s throw was just late. Corey took third on the next pitch, which was also a strike. Tanner’s next pitch was on the outside corner, and the umpire called it strike three. For years umpires at Mt. Paran have consistently called that same pitch a strike, certainly as long as Powder Springs has been coming to play there. A Powder Springs parent standing behind the plate voiced his displeasure, hollering “It’s ok, son. Everyone misses one now and then.” Things were dead quiet, until Don tried to lighten the mood by saying “now that wasn’t pretty.”

Next Tanner came set to deliver his next pitch to the new batter, as Corey danced off third. Tanner threw over, but the ball glanced off third-baseman Kevin’s glove, rolling through the infield dirt to the edge of the outfield grass. The third-base coach hollered for Corey to score. Kevin recovered the ball and threw home. Will caught to ball on one hop, blocked the plate, and easily tagged out the sliding Corey. As Corey stood up he deliberately kicked sand in Will’s eyes, an act seen by most everyone. Will didn’t retaliate, he just stared at Corey.

Tanner’s dad Jay was umpiring the bases, and he calmly walked over and talked to Corey and his coach. The next batter hit a fly ball to center, and John Fulton made the inning-ending catch look routine. There was plenty of game left. With one out Colin doubled to right, and he took third on Will Grey’s groundout. Preston was up, and he had struck out the last two times up. After the pitcher had thrown two strikes, he took the return throw from the catcher and turned to walk back up the mound. Colin raced home on a steal to score an insurance run.

Tanner had only allowed one run in two innings, and the bottom half of the Marlins order was up. But the excitement wasn’t over. The first batter singled to right. Instead of throwing to the cut-off man or to second base, the rightfielder threw directly to Tanner, who caught the ball at his toes…narrowly avoiding the ball rolling to the third-base dugout. Stolen base…and Will’s throw got away from shortstop Colin and the second-baseman. Strikeout. RBI double to right. Strikeout. Two out…one to go to end the game.

Grounder to short. On the large dirt infield there are hard places where the ball bounces, and sandy places where the ball skips. The more bounces a ground ball takes, the more chances there are for a bad hop. The shortstop waited on the ball to come to him. The error allowed the runner to score. The shortstop took the throw back from the outfield near second base, and his return throw to Tanner bounced past and rolled into foul territory, allowing the batter to advance to third. The next batter walked. Next came a chopper to third, but the throw sailed past first. Runners second and third, tying run at the plate.

Another chopper to third, and again the throw was off base. On the next pitch the runner on first took second, but Will dared not throw to second. Runners second and third, go-ahead run at the plate. Pop to short…squeezed for the out. Ball game!

As we were leaving Will and I were stopped by Jim, our friend in charge of maintaining the fields. Jim told Will how proud he was for keeping his composure in a tough situation, for being a fine example of Mt. Paran baseball.

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