Day 2 was predictably frustrating. After losing the first game on Saturday our team settled into the feeling that we were smaller, less experienced and not as good as our competition. Suffice to say we lost both games, but a glimmer of hope started to flicker in game 2. We played very well and actually held a lead. Rabbit finally broke through with a bases loaded RBI single and pitched well. His coach wanted to keep his pitch count very low, as usual, and throw him mainly in the championship rounds. He threw 17 pitches in the first inning and was done on the mound for the day. Even with two losses, we could see small adjustments being made and the team improving.
That was the good part. The not so good part is the frustration, both amongst players and parents, that was palpable after losing 3 straight. Throw the additional confusion of who will get the 12 year old team, who will coach the 11s etc. it quickly becomes a grumpy crowd. This team needed a good win to help everyone feel better.
On Monday it was single elimination win or go home time. Coach asked Rabbit to start and go as far as he could. On our way to the park we discussed keeping his pitch count down and letting his defense get the outs. We set an imaginary, arbitrary and ridiculously low target of 4 pitches per batter. Our opponent was another team that had struggled and we were anxious to get going. Rabbit took control immediately. In the first inning he drove in a run on a shot down the RF line. With a 1-0 lead the boys took the field defensively. On the second pitch thrown a ball was hit that got through 2B and the runner took a big turn and tried for second. He was thrown out by 3 steps. A strike out and a pop-up later and we were out of the first inning on 7 pitches. We scraped another run across in the second, and again retired them in order, this time on 5 pitches, a new personal best. One more run for us in the third and then Rabbit struck out 2 and got a tremendous grab on a foul ball by the 1B. His second strikeout he threw a changeup that was ridiculous. The umpire was amazed, the poor hitter looked dejected and the opposing coach had a look on his face as if to say "I don't know either." He is throwing that pitch for outs now more often, and when it is good, it is completely unhittable. As usual, we scored 1 run in the fourth. Rabbit got the first two outs before walking a batter but then that runner was caught stealing. We broke it open in the fifth, scoring 4 runs against a clearly resigned defense. If we could hold on and not allow a run we would win 8-0 via mercy rule. Rabbit turned it up and threw 8 pitches in the inning, striking out the last batter for the CG shutout. ON 45 PITCHES! 5 IP, 1H, 0R, 5K, 1BB. He faced the minimum and no runner made it to second base. He also drilled a huge sac fly to RF. It was a great game for the entire team.
We were now in the semi-finals and faced a dramatically tougher opponent. We had some lapses in the field and fell behind early. The other team chipped away and finally the game ended at 9-1 in the fifth. The boys who had been so sharp in the morning almost seemed relieved that it was OK to lose one. Not in a negative sense, but that we had competed with some of the best teams out there. The mood was decidedly more upbeat that afternoon and we headed home for a pool party next door.
More tourneys coming up, plus LL ToC and possible All Stars. It just never ends.