Monday, March 8, 2010

More games, more rain

We had a weekend tournament scheduled as a final tune up before we head to Arizona. It rained. Hard. We got one game in early, and got pounded. 13-3 loss. Rabbit absolutely crushed the first pitch he saw and it barely went foul. After that, four wide ones were quickly issued. The defense was a confused mess. I was actually a tad concerned, but remembered what the coach had told me. Saturday was when we learn, Sunday is when we play our best. The idea is that the kids have to make their own decisions, right or wrong, during pool play. This helps them learn the lessons and make the adjustments. There was minimal coaching during the game, but a very detailed conversation afterward that covered the game. Still, it was a 10 run loss and I was a bit concerned, mainly I needed a nap.

I got my nap, and felt much better. We were about 80% sure that Sunday would rain out, but we got very lucky. Sunday at 6:30 am we got the news that the games were on, and it was now a one day tournament. The previous days result had no meaning or bearing. A fresh start. I got to the fields to help prepare the grounds at 7 am. There was 4 inches of standing water all the way from home plate to first base. A few rakes, a sump pump, and several hundred pounds of dry dirt later we were ready for first pitch at 8:15. I am getting pretty good with a rake and shovel these days. The 11U team didn't play until 9am so we had a chance to prep the field a little more and I was quite impressed with how it came out. As expected, with brand new grass and 5" of rain in 10 days, the infield was slow. But it looked nice, held up great, and best of all, no bad hops!

Our first game was against the same team that had rolled us up the day before. The game was tremendous, close all the way through, and ended up as a 5-4 loss in 7 innings. Rabbit made two Gold Glove plays at first, backhanding line-drive shots to save runs. He was having a good game in the field, but was horrible at the plate. 0-3, 3 strikeouts, only made contact with one pitch the entire game. It was a fun game to watch, and a marked difference from the day before. The coaches were much more involved, as expected, and the boys responded well. Blue Wave had played this same team 4 weeks ago and been destroyed by them. When Mizuno lost on Saturday I was concerned, on Sunday I knew what this team could do. Game 2 was at 1 pm and we got off to the dreaded slow start. 1-1 after the first inning, but the boys looked like they were in glue. Some defensive lapses and a few pitches left up in the zone and we were down 8-2 in the fourth. Not the finish we wanted. The boys rallied though, and pledged to play better for the last 3 innings. And they did. The defense tightened up nicely, but base running mistakes choked any momentum the offense could garner.

In the sixth, it finally happened, Rabbit got the ball. I was nervous, to be sure, since this was his debut with the new team and he had not thrown off a mound in over a month. Add in the fact he had a throwing error and was working on a Platinum Sombrero for the day, and I was not expecting much. Shows what I know. He faced the 2-5 hitters in the sixth. One hit, 1 strikeout, no walks, no runs, and a well fielded 1-3 putout. In the seventh he struck out the first batter he faced, allowed back to back infield singles, then struck out the side. A great outing, even with the distraction of pitching in the rain. Once again he had a very bizarre day where the opponents were swinging at pitches way out of the zone and taking strikes right down the middle. I don't think he threw 50% of the pitches in the zone, but got 4 ks in 8 batters.

Overall we were pleased with the team and the way they played. They turned some double plays, made some good (and bad) decisions and are much more aggressive at the plate. But, they are also playing much better competition than Blue Wave was seeing. I think Rabbit belongs at this level and will contribute. His defense and pitching showed well this weekend. His hitting, as always, will take the most work. We wanted a challenge, we wanted an opportunity to get better. This looks to be a good home for now.

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