Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Weekend From Hell c.3

Chapter Three – The Son of Denkinger

Sunlight greeted me as I exited Pop’s at around 6am, and I quickly made my journey down I-55 towards Cape Girardeau. Outside of Imperial, I breezed through McDonalds for some coffee and a Sausage Egg McMuffin (no cheese), but the coffee was absolutely putrid. Completely undrinkable. That was a pity, because I love McDonalds coffee, and I really, really needed the caffeine. I didn’t want to stop again.

Further down the road, I became more and more fatigued. It was worse than last night. The bright sunlight beaming in from my left made me squint, and the squinting made my eyes want to shut. It was a battle. I had a trusty bottle of 5 Hour Energy drink handy just for this emergency which I quickly gulped it down, and waited anxiously for it to take effect. But, the farther I travelled, the more fatigued I felt! This was not good.

Amazingly I arrived at the ballpark at 7:30am. I plodded across the lot to the diamond, dragging my lawn chair and sorry ass. I plopped into my chair and zoned out as they flipped the coin to determine home and away. It was already hot.

Their first opponent was the Midwest Freedom, from the New Baden area, I believe. We didn’t know much about them. It would be a real bitch if I’d just driven all this way to have them lose the first game! But, that’s the risk you take. Come on, girls! Hit the ball!

And that they did. This go around, the girls were hitting them hard, and won the opening day match 7-0! Sami was 2-3, an RBI, a couple RS, and in prime form. I was so proud of her! This was a decent team, and we simply took it to them! It was worth the drive just to see it! Man, we were feeling good! It was wrapped up by 9:30am.

Mom hadn’t checked out of the Drury Suites as of yet, and amazingly, there was now a window between now and the next game that allowed me to race back to the hotel, sleep, and still have time to check out and make the next game. She simply had to make a phone call, requesting that we check out at noon instead of 11am. Wow, sometimes things just fall into place! I just had mom drive back to the hotel, and I basically started my nap on the way there.

She woke me at noon, and I was very groggy. I think I was even talking some gibberish, because I didn’t quite have all my faculties yet. Even on the ride to the facility, my eyes were thick and droopy, and my head was cloudy. It was almost as if I hadn’t slept at all.

But that quickly changed. Once I was in my seat armed with a bottled water and a bratwurst, I started to feel rested. Hot, but rested. In fact, it was blazing hot. Parents with canopies banded them together on the first base side, and we all huddled under its shade. That kept the sun off us, but the heat was everywhere, and there was no breeze to be had. Brutally hot. Sweat poured off my arms, and it wasn’t alcohol from earlier. I didn’t have enough. It was just plain ole Midwest summer heat in full swing. This felt like August, not June.

Our foes for the next game were the S.L.A.M once again. That would be interesting. They gave us quite a game the last time, and I’m sure they were confident this time they could overcome us. I knew there wasn’t a whole lot of room for error, because if our girls started to choke, these girls would have the confidence to knock us out this time. They were so close to beating us last time.

But, that wasn’t about to happen. The Extreme girls were hitting their stride now, and quickly dispatched the S.L.A.M. 12-2. We pounded the ball! Sami line drive tripled her first at bat to right center, and hit later in the game for an RBI. All the girls’ bats were on fire. What a way to come at them after the shenanigans their coach tried to play the day before. It wasn’t even close this time. We were pumped, and the girls had momentum!

Which brought us to our next opponent: The Downstate Rippers ’95. The rematch. This was going to be a game! The Rippers went down to the Phoenix earlier in the Winners Bracket. That left three teams: the Phoenix (unbeaten), the Rippers, and the Extreme. Our ace pitcher was ready, and it seemed so were our bats. Winner plays in the finals. Loser heads home.

The first couple innings were evenly matched. Both teams managed base runners, but both pitchers pitched out of it. The Rippers struck first an inning or so later, scoring a run after a miscue. But we answered for a couple more, taking the lead! The girls were playing with so much confidence! And our ace pitcher was throwing smoke. She hits 60mph from 40ft (she’s used to high school, where the pitching rubber is 43ft). She’s also got good command, and some specialty pitches, like a drop, rise and change. Pitching is so important.

Disaster struck when on a bouncing grounder to second with the first baseman playing in, our second base man fielded a tricky hop but had no one to throw it to. She raced to the bag and dove for it, slapping the ball laden mitt onto the base just before the batter touched!

“Safe!” came the call from the ump, located by the third base bag across the diamond. No!

Normally, he’d be in position at first to make that call, but with runners at second and third, he moves to the other side of the field as the closer plays will be made there. There was no way he had a good view of that play at first, and obviously made a terrible call. We hollered and complained, but it was to no avail. He was within his rights to appeal to the home plate umpire who had the better view, but he refused to. The downward glance of the home plate ump explained it. That guy blew that one.

It was a tough one to swallow. Several runs scored, when that would have been three outs and we would have held the lead. I think we surrendered another afterwards, which gave the Rippers the lead, and time was running out. We had to get some runs!

Tournament games are timed, roughly about and hour and twenty minutes, depending on tourney rules. If time expires during an inning, the home team will bat if necessary. We were home team, so that was something we had going for us. If we at least tie, there would be extra innings, which are handled a special way in softball, what they call “International Tie Breakers”. A runner is placed on second base, and you play a complete inning. If the tie isn’t broken, the next inning they place a runner on third. Then add more runners. You get the picture. But, we had to tie it now before even worrying about that far ahead.

Our ace pitcher had become fatigued, and coach decided to pull her, putting in our lefty, Jess. Jess is a talented athlete, probably the fastest on the club, and a solid hitter, our leadoff. She plays lots of positions like outfield and first base. She’s not our strongest pitcher, but she’s learning, and honestly she’s been getting the outs and getting the job done in games we’ve thrown her in. We’ve lost one of our solid pitchers earlier, who is just now starting to throw again.

This was a big challenge for her, and her father was sitting next to me. Basically covering his eyes, as he wasn’t at all excited about this prospect, seeing the game in her hands at a position she’s new to. He knew the best thing she had going for her is that her speed is so much slower than our ace, they would be having difficulty compensating, and even if they do hit her, the ball probably wouldn’t travel as far.

Well, the gambit paid off, and we managed to hold them in the top half of the inning. We made a couple great plays in the field, and as expected, they struggled with her changeup and slower pitches. Now we had to score one. Or two to win it!

Our bats came through in the bottom half to tie! What an accomplishment! The Rippers made a great play to end the inning and keep us from winning, but we’d managed to tie it and send the game into extra innings! A team that walloped us the day before! This team has so much guts! Another life, girls, lets take it!

Jess walked back to the mound again, and I could feel her father’s nervousness. God, he didn’t want her to blow it. She struggled a bit, and at one point the bases were loaded. This proved to be some what of an advantage because it takes some of the small ball game out of it. They put the ball in play, and we simply threw home to get the lead runner in a force. Grounders, babe, grounders!

Jess did throw one in the dirt which scooted under the catcher’s legs and back to the back stop. Dammit! Ok, they only scored one, and that was only the forced runner placed at second. That one almost always scores in extra innings. Just can’t let any more score, and we’ll get our shot in our half of the inning.

Jess managed to pitch out of that, only allowing only the one run! That was a tremendous relief! Yes, we were down, but we now have a runner at second, and getting that run in isn’t hard; just takes a base hit. And we can hit! We’ve proven it.

We managed to move our runner to third on a grounder, but our next batter popped out, stranding her at third. The mood was tense, but exciting. We knew we could get that girl home! Jess, our lead off came up with two outs. She has power from the left side, and great speed. She’s a slap hitter, too. Lots of weapons. And she’s one of our top girls in average right now, because she’s so speedy, she beats ‘em out!

Jess smacked the ball hard, sending it to short. With two outs, Kate on third broke for home. If Jess was safe, the runs scores and we’re tied again. Short bobbled the ball, which is death with a fast runner heading to first! She hurled the ball to first, smacking the glove pocket a split second after Jess ran past the bag!!

“OUT!” cried the first base ump.

Bedlam erupted. Jess’s father next to me literally climbed the fence, shouting in anger. I had some choice words myself, as did most of those watching. I admit, at least this time the ump was in position to make the call. But, he blew that one as well. A heartbreaking end to our tournament.

Bad calls are part of the game. Sometimes you get them, sometimes you give them. Champions battle through them. We would have won if we’d not allowed the pass ball earlier, or made a play here or there. Destiny was in our hands, not the umps. But to suffer two blown calls like that at key points of the game was extremely frustrating and something these girls couldn’t overcome. In that heat, well, it’s a wonder we took it as well as we did.

We calmed down eventually, and some said that in conversations with the other ump, he would have over ruled the first blown call if the other ump would have ask his opinion. The second call was blown too, but there was no appeal for that. Even the Rippers believed we got screwed.

The girls took it in stride, and Sami told me they were routing for the Rippers to beat the Phoenix. Seems that the game I missed Saturday night, the Phoenix players were very rude and cocky. The girls had no love for them. They respected the Rippers, and wished them luck. I’m curious as to who won that one. It was too hot to stay to watch, and I was too tired.

Mom told me she discovered a Logan’s Roadhouse in Cape, my favorite! Father’s Day dinner at Logan’s! That’s the stuff! I ordered an ice cold 55 Select and a delicious, juicy ribeye, and enjoyed a quiet time with my girls. Well, when they weren’t texting someone else! Of course, they declined to ride home with me because of my broken AC, so I followed them back home. Tired, weary, thinking only of my bed and my poor dog that hasn’t hardly seen me all weekend, we made the long trek back to Granite, not at a particularly rapid pace, stopping once for cheap gas.

Next week, the Downstate Rippers play in our tournament. Let’s see if we can beat them this time!


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