Well, things could not have gone more differently.
Sunday we were scheduled to play at 10am. We were playing two Majors teams on the day and would be challenged the whole way. As with the day before, we were always on adjacent fields to Blue Wave. It was great to see some old friends and reconnect with Coach Louis. Blue Wave was having a rough go of it, playing with a mixed 10/11 roster. In fact, on Sunday the did not score a run or manage a hit in two games. It was frustrating to see good kids and families hang their heads like that.
Our day was not any better. At 9:55 we found out one of our substitute players was not coming. Simply refused to show. No warning, no notice. We had 8 boys, and panic. We had to change positions, change pitching rotations, take an out anytime the 9th hitter was due up. The boys collapsed in game 1 from all the confusion and just plain gave up. 15-0 loss with a few mitts being thrown and pop ups not being run out. I talked to Rabbit between games and asked him how he felt, as a fielder, seeing his teammates act out like that. It really reinforced to him how the team feeds on the energy of its players. Between games he went to his teammates, got everyone smiling, even apologized to the RF from the day before for making him believe that Rabbit was angry with him.
The second game was still lopsided, but a huge improvement. 11-1, but we twice got a 1-2-3 inning, even with 8 defenders! A few hits, but two rallies killed by the automatic out. No worries at all, and a decidedly more upbeat team at the end of that game. The boys could have easily thrown away their tournament at that point. They were 0-3 with two losses by ten or more runs. We had 8 players only and no idea if we would be able to field a full team for Monday. And yet, there they were, laughing, talking it up, and having a good time. It was very satisfying.
We managed to find two players to join us on Monday, meaning we would have 10. A real luxury for Mizuno! I honestly could not remember the last team we had more than 9.
As the fates would have it, we faced Blue Wave in an elimination game first thing Monday morning. We were the 16 seed out of 18 and Blue Wave was 18th. With 9 players (10 actually) we were significantly better than our 16 seed allowed. We knew this was a game we should win easily, and we did. We scored 8 runs before the first out was recorded and ten in the first inning. The game ended at 10-0 and we were on to the semi-finals of our bracket. The team we faced in the semis had beaten Blue Wave 9-1 so we figured it to be a close game. It was a great game. Back and forth, incredible defense, some timely hits and a few key strikeouts led us to a 4-2 victory. Both of our fill in for the other fill in players made huge contributions. A great win and we were headed to the bracket championship!
The championship game was a very tense affair with a few lead changes, 3 ties, and came down to the very last out. We came up one run short 5-4. We had made a few errors at the end allowing a few runs, but they were errors from new players or existing players trying to make heroic plays. As the coach said after the game "I want to see those plays, and errors now so that when we play the games that matter we get it right." We left the park satisfied after a great day of baseball. We went from 0-3 to the finals, won consecutive elimination games, and played two amazing ball games back to back.
Rabbit really improved over the course of the weekend. His demeanor was incredible, and the team as a whole went away proud of the weekend, but sad they lost. And they still laughed all the way home about it. His hitting has really come along nicely, including 3-6 on Monday with an RBI. In fact, I can say for the first time in a long time he has a 3 game hitting streak!
Ready for a week or two off, then back to the grind.