Monday, December 15, 2008

As the year draws to an end

We had two games on Sunday, with the luxury of knowing that regardless the outcome of the early game we were in the championship final. This was a great opportunity to give players a look at different positions and rest some arms. Rabbit, however, stayed at first. It is quite comforting to see him there.

The game started at 7:45 am, and it was 36 degrees when we pulled into the parking lot at 6:50 am. This needs to stop! We were visitors and batted first. Rabbit drew a walk on 7 pitches and was sent to second by the coach who was trying to catch the defense napping. No such luck, he was out at second. Blue Wave scored three in their half of the first and then got the opponents 1-2-3 in the bottom half. Rabbit played much better defense and recorded 2 of the three outs. His next at bat was a 4 pitch walk where he came around to score. Third trip was an 0-2 single into LF and another steal. His approach at the plate is amazing. Even down 0-2 he is still dangerous. In the bottom of the third (we were ahead 11-2 by then) Rabbit made 2 great defensive plays, including a pop up over his shoulder. After the previous days shaky defense it was great to see him play so well. His final at bat he was robbed of extra bases, and possibly a home run, by a great leaping grab. Even though it was an out it was hit where he wanted it to go, and hard. The team coasted to an easy 14-5 victory.

We headed home as the final game was not until 3:45. We got a quick rest in, some lunch, and then headed back to Chino. After watching the warm ups and first inning I told my wife I expected us to lose 12-4. Sadly, I was eerily prescient.

Things started off with us going 1-2-3 in the top of the first. 2 of those outs were on stunning defensive grabs. We were inches away from having a great inning. We only allowed one in the bottom of the first. Rabbit, still at first and still batting clean-up, got an infield single to start the second. He came around to score after a few steals. We were tied at 1 after 1.5 innings. Then the wheels started to fall off. You could see it coming. Some poor decision making about when and where to throw the ball, coupled with a few misplayed balls let 5 runs in. Even when we scraped 3 of our own together in the top of the third they responded with 2 in their half. By now Rabbit was brought in to finish the game and lost his composure. It was cold again, the sun had gone down, and was maybe 45 degrees on the field. Rather than checking with the umpires or coaches he decided on his own that he could not blow on his hands to keep warm. This dramatically reduced his ability to grip the ball. He opened the 4th inning with 6 straight balls, and I could see his shoulders slump. It took about 4 batters to find his groove. Once he did, he got 3 of 4, but by then 4 more runs had crossed. At the plate he finished with a strikeout and a walk and the final was Blue Wave on the short end of a 12-5 score.

As disappointing as the loss was, it was very heartening to see this team win three games in a weekend for the second tournament in a row. It also marked their fourth finals appearance since June. There is still a ways to go, but the team is getting better by leaps and bounds.

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