Winning ways

Hooooooolyyyy cow.

That’s all I can say after tonight’s softball game.

While I was enjoying some Fun at Summerfest, our team lost the regular season finale. We finished the season with a 5-7 record and got the eighth and lowest seed in the playoffs.

Last Tuesday night, our team opened the playoffs and played the kind of ball we’re capable of playing. The guys won the game 18-3 in 3½ innings on the strength of a nine-run first inning and some awesome defense.

And that meant we moved on to face the No. 1 seed tonight in the quarterfinal round.

We played a 6 o’clock game. The temperature app on my phone said it was 95 degrees outside and it felt like 104. The game was a battle and we gave it everything we had tonight. My legs were Jell-O when it was over.

But the good news? Here’s the line score …
Us   000 431 3 - 11
Them 016 010 0 – 8
That’s right, we were behind 7-0. Our defense faltered in the third inning. We booted ground balls. … And I suddenly lost my ability to grip the ball at shortstop. On two consecutive plays, I fielded ground balls cleanly, but couldn’t get a grip on the ball and threw it away both times. On the second play, I went into a slide and soaked up a ground ball hit to my right – it was beautiful – but when I popped up to throw out the lead runner for a force at third base, the ball sailed over the third baseman.

But then our bats came alive. In the top of the fourth inning, we found some holes, got on the board and caught a few breaks in the form of dropped balls that let us back into the game. We did it again in the fifth inning. And when our opponent scored a run in the bottom of the fifth to retake the lead, we matched it in the top of the sixth. In our final at-bats, a dropped fly ball in right field helped us score the go-ahead runs.

I wish I could say I contributed to the offense, but my hitting woes continue. I went 0-for-3 tonight. I hit fly balls to left field in my first and final at-bats. In my second at-bat I slapped a line drive that was just low enough for the shortstop to make a nice catch on it.

At the same time our bats warmed up, our defense clicked, too. I found my grip on the ball and notched several putouts, including the start of a double play.

If we could get through the bottom of the seventh, the game was ours. We got the first out on a strikeout, but then we gave up a walk and a couple singles that loaded the bases.

Midway through the game, I moved up in the infield, off the edge of the dirt to a position in front of the basepaths. The move paid off in a big way when the fifth batter of the final inning hit a laser line drive toward the middle. I reached to my left and snagged it for the second out. Huge. Had it got through, it would have been a game-changer.

The next batter hit a towering fly ball and our slugging center fielder caught it for the final out.

There was great celebration on the field. And now it all comes down to Thursday night.

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