Last Saturday my niece had a softball game. I knew it was a tournament, but her team was pretty bad the last time we saw them play and the tournament was single elimination, I figured one game and we'd be gone. But there was no way that I would miss a game of hers in our town less than a mile from my house if she was going to be there playing. She lives over 30 minutes away and it's only the 2nd time I've gotten to see her play.
Amazingly, they won the first game. I kept thinking that the other team was more fundamentally sound and could hit better. But they had a problem with throwing strikes, and that mad all the difference.
Two hours later we were back for game two. The first batter up was the smallest girl I had seen at the tournament. I even laughed about how short she was. She could barely hold the bat up. Expectedly she walked. But then the team didn't do much. In the bottom half of the first they came out to the field and the shortest girl on the team was the pitcher. I was dumfounded. She had good mechanics, mostly, but she couldn't quite find the strike zone. Another game was won with lots of walks. So again, we would head off for food and come back for another game.
Two hours later we were back for the championship. The team that I hadn't expected to win a game could finish no worse than 2nd. It was a huge accomplishment. Strange that over the course of a single day I felt as if I had grown to know some of these kids. Even though I only know their first or last name, I got a sense of them. The urge to coach came back to me. I wanted to get out there and help them, try to teach them new things that can help them improve. Alas, there is no time for that in a championship game, that all has to come before, in practice. Still, I longed to be involved and I am curious if there is a way that I can be involved in a Clinton team next year.
The championship game was great. It wasn't like the earlier games of walks. Both teams were playing defense. It started with the coin toss where we won and chose to be home for the third time of the day. Why stop what's working? Out into the field we went and the opposing team came up. Unlike the miniatures from the last game, these girls were giants. At least 4 of them were taller than our tallest girl and more than half of our team was smaller than there smallest. However, with some luck they went three up and three down. We came up to bat and got a walk, but then the next three went down in order. The 2nd inning was about the same, one runner reached for the opponents, and none for us. This was not just that batters were swinging poorly, good defensive plays were being made. The 3rd inning some runs were scored against us, and we got a few runners on, but couldn't quite score. Again in the 4th a few more runs were scored, as we came up in the bottom of the 4th we were down 4 to 0. The leadoff hitter got on base and the other pitcher had a mental breakdown. She didn't go crazy, but you could see the sudden frustration she felt. She walked another batter then started giving up hits. We scored 3 and finally gave up our 3rd out with the bases still loaded. The ump called "last inning" and the teams came out for the 5th. Two quick outs and we were excited, but then it fell apart. Mallory couldn't throw a strike and walked a couple of batters, then gave up a big hit. Coming up to bat in the bottom of the 5th we were down by 3. We weren't amazing in our chance to come back and win. With two out we had runners on first and 2nd, but an easy grounder to the first basemen ended the game without much of a threat from us to score. The final game was the shortest one of the day and by far the most exciting and best played. Both teams deserved all the praise and glory that they felt from being where they were.
After the game the coach gave a much deserved rah-rah speech to the team that included reminded them that the first time these two teams played this year they lost 26-7. 6-3 was a huge improvement. Good job girls. Here is your 2nd place trophy, enjoy it, you have earned it.