softball

Not quite in the cellar, but on the steps

Unlike the Texas Rangers, our softball team isn’t at the bottom of our division, but we’re close, being in third place out of four teams. We dropped another heartbreaker yesterday, losing by two runs.
The game found us opposite Faith Lutheran, the undefeated squad in our group, and it was certainly the best game we’ve played against them. Yet again, I believe if we would have had time for one more inning, we may have been able to stage a comeback.
Our defense was much tighter, even with some of the mental errors made. I was guilty of committing one of these; I could have turned a double play and failed to do so. I was playing at short, with a runner on first. The ball was hit to my side of second base, and I jumped on it, coming up toward the bag. I could see our second baseman moving to the base, and I thought she might get there before me, so I tossed her the ball.
She, on the other hand, figured I had everything in hand, so she was surprised to get the ball. We got the runner out at second, but her throw to first was too late. If I had just committed to making the out at second myself, we could have pulled off the double. I’ll know better next time.
As a team, we were much more patient at the plate, and that helped us with getting on base enough to keep the score close. I was two-for-three at the plate, and if I been a little more patient myself on that third at-bat, I may have gone for a thousand on the day. As it were, I did get one run in off of my second single, though my first hit, leading off the second inning, was my best of the day, a shot over the pitcher into center that dropped in front of the outfielders.
I think the fact that team was simply playing better as a unit made this loss a little easier to swallow. Again, winning more would be nice, but it’s great to get out to the ball field for an hour or so and play, sharing time with friends and neighbors. One advantage of playing the same teams over and over again is that you get to know your opposite numbers, which leads to fun and interesting on-field banter. Here’s hoping the weather is as great this coming Sunday as it was yesterday.

So dropping game four this past Sunday was a little frustrating. I can’t speak for the rest of the team, but that’s how I felt. Our opponent played a make-up game just before our scheduled bout, so you’d think they would be more tired than usual, but in reality it appeared to have just been a decent warm-up for them.
We got behind early, again, but would tighten up as the game worn on. We just couldn’t quite come all the way back, and we lost by two runs. As a team, we weren’t as patient at the plate as we should have been, and that went double for yours truly. I was two for four on the day; one of my outs was a pop-up, the other a grounder back to the pitcher. On both of those, I should’ve been more patient. My best hit of the day was my first, a deep single I ripped to left-center that scored two runs.
Defensively, I was at shortstop, and had a little action, but spent a goodly portion of the game playing cutoff man to the left side outfielders.
Once again, if we would have had time for another inning, we may have been able to pull this one out. That’s how close it was coming down the stretch. If we could be as tight at the outset of a game as we get midway through, we’d have no problems overcoming run deficits.
In the end, though, it’s still just a game, and while winning’s always more fun than losing, it’s getting to play that keeps me going back. There’s always next week!

Dropping number three

So yesterday was the third game of the spring softball season, and we faced for the first time–this season–the good folks from Flower Mound United Methodist Church. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I really like playing against these ladies and gentlemen. Lots of kindred spirits, they keep the game in perspective, and yes, it’s really a lot of fun to win, but if you can’t do that, at least have fun playing the game.
The first inning was a back-and-forth affair, the score 1-1, our team playing the role of the visitor. The second inning we became unraveled, with their tacking on something like five or six runs. Before we knew it, we were down by seven, 9-2. Our defense tightened, but our hitting couldn’t get anywhere.
In the fifth inning, we staged something of a comeback, closing the run gap to only three, before we took our first out, but then it was two in a row, one of our hitters got on, and then the last out to end the game.
It was a decent day for myself at the plate, going two for three. I didn’t see a lot of action on defense, being in right-center. Had some stuff drop way short in front of me, which was surprising since the hitters were men, and no, they weren’t trying to place the ball there, they were popping up and going just deep enough to get behind the second baseman. Two shots were deep, but high enough to pick up for easy catches. (Though the wind yesterday was hell on figuring out initial trajectory.) I’m just glad that nothing got behind me.
We were missing a couple of our regulars, due to this being the first weekend of spring break for our school system, so things weren’t quite running as smoothly as they might have otherwise. But it was an enjoyable game, and I, at least, had fun playing.

1-1

I totally forgot to blog about the spring softball season opener last week, so for those of you who could really care less, here’s all there is to know up through today’s play.
There are only four teams in the league this season, which is kind of crummy, but this just means we play everyone three times instead of the usual two. The newcomers are from Westside, and I don’t know if that’s Baptist, Methodist, Church of Christ, or whatever; I should have asked them when we played them today, but just like forgetting to blog about the game last week…
Right, last week. We opened against Faith Lutheran, and to sum up, our hitting didn’t show up and theirs did. We chalked it up to the team gelling–we’ve got a few new players–and getting back in to the rhythm of play. Like the rest of the team, my own time at the plate wasn’t well spent. I was only one of three, including hitting in to a fielder’s choice.
I was in left-center while on defense. I let one ball get behind me, and another took a wicked doink! off my glove, both of which allowed for extra bases. I owned the third inning, though. All three outs came at the expense of their hitting my way, and it was especially pleasing to get that last out while on the run.
So the first game was a loss, but we were optimistic about the future, and we’ll have two more cracks at the Lutherans.
Today we played Westside, and it’s always interesting playing a team for the first time. They won the toss and elected to bat first, and the first inning didn’t go well for us, with their scoring five runs. The extra bases were usually a case of our team trying to make something happen when we would’ve been better off just hanging on to the ball. We put a run on the board, but gave up another in the top of second. But then it was time for our bats, to quote one Pedro Cerrano, “to wake up”.
The end result was a 17-8 victory for our squad. Our defense settled down and tightened up as the game progressed. I was at short this time around, and had a chance at turning a double play twice, but couldn’t manage either. I took a cleat-clad toe to the knee while tagging one guy out at second, so that’s slightly swollen and aching quite nicely, thanks. The injury streak continues!
My pal Brad was monster at the plate today, ripping an in-the-park homer his first time up, putting a few runs on the board. His second trip to the plate was a triple which netted us at least one more run. No chance at hitting the cycle, though, as with only an hour to play, he only had one more at-bat, and popped out to left-center.
I was .667 at the plate today, with an unintentional bunt my first time up. Hey, it advanced a runner, and I made it to first without a throw even being attempted. (I may be chunky, but I’m quick.) I’ll take it. My last at-bat was my best thus far in the early season, a shot in to left-center I should’ve stretched in to a double: I thought the fielder had made a good catch off the ground and was coming up throwing, so I trotted back to first when I could’ve been going to second. Oh, well; the base coach thought he was going to get the ball back in quick, too. I did bring in two runs on that shot, so I’m hoping that’s a trend for the rest of the season. My RBI total this past fall was paltry.
So the team’s at five hundred two games in, and we played much better during this second game. Things look to be a little tough for us next week; we’ll be short one of our gals (meaning with only nine players we have to take an out at the top of the batting order), and we’ll be playing our friends from Flower Mound UMC. Of course, this latter means I’m really looking forward to the game, as it’s always fun playing against them.

Yeah, I’ll be heading back next week

So, with the spring softball season upon us, I went to the batting cages this afternoon. After a four-month-plus layoff.
Oy.
The experience started out rather nice. I asked for three tokens (20 balls per token) and forked over my five bucks. The attendant “miscounted” and I went to the cages with four tokens. Must be a slow day.
The first twenty balls were all about just connecting and getting timing down. The second set of twenty were the best of the day, and I was putting them where I wanted to, more or less. After a brief respite, I started on the third set, and could tell I was tiring midway through. Another rest, then the fourth set, and I was pretty much hitting every ball back to the pitcher or shortstop. Mental note: longer rests between sets next time, which would help if other people went with me.
It actually was a slow day at the cages. There was a guy in the other slow-pitch cage, and he left when I started on my third set. There was a guy and gal taking turns in the 75 mph baseball cage, and a mom watched her son in one of the slower-speed baseball cages. So I appreciated the fourth token, even if it didn’t yield desirable results.

Fall season opener

This past Sunday, the 27th, we had the first softball game of the 2006 fall season.
I am continuously amazed how we can go three months without seeing one another, except for those rare moments at church, and yet fall right back in to the same banter and camaraderie in the dugout.
This first game was against the Renegades of First UMC in Lewisville, and we were behind from the first inning on. The banter and camaraderie may have returned, but our playing ability was lacking. Still, we fought on, keeping the score close throughout.
I found myself at left center, where I had played only a couple of times before. We only had the minimum number of players show up, five of each gender, so there were no substitutions available. I don’t mind the outfield, though I need to get my arm strength up, and it would help if I dropped some of my excess baggage–of which there is now ten less pounds–to make it easier to get around the grassy expanse beyond the baselines. I made one great catch; the ball hung up there forever, in the sun, but in the end, I barely had to move at all, just concentrating and not losing sight of that white sphere. I also had a bad error, not squaring myself in front of a hopper, and it bounced right over my glove, allowing an in-the-park home run.
My time at the plate was pretty abysmal, especially considering I’d hit the cages the morning before. I went one for three at bat, but made it to first twice, thanks to a throwing error by the opposition shortstop.
In the end, our team staged a fifth-inning comeback–home team advantage comes through again!–scoring three runs to win the game by one. We were pleased with our hanging in to the end, and hopefully this game cleared all of the cobwebs from our collective play. No games this coming weekend, due to the holiday, so we’ll have to wait until the tenth to face our friends from Flower Mound UMC.

The season thus far

I haven’t blogged yet about the spring softball season, and given how today’s game was the best one this season for me personally, I thought an update in order.
The league expanded to eight teams this season, so we will have a four-team playoff at the end. Currently, we’re the number two team, with not much hope of catching number one. That spot is held by one of the new teams, and they’re good. You’re doing really well against that team if you lose by less than double digits. They’re pounding everybody. My fervent hope is after a couple of seasons they’ll get bored and move on.
Today’s game was against the other new team. We got off to a slow start, and fell behind early. We slowly battled back, and I went in to the game in the fourth inning, at third base. I didn’t see much action, fielding-wise, but was able to make it count when I did. We had a bases loaded situation, with one out, where the line drive came to me, I threw it home for the second out, and we held the runners at all three bases again. The next batter popped out to center-right, getting us out of the inning.
My first trip to the plate proved fruitful. I had yet to collect any RBIs in the previous five games; it seemed I was always coming up to the plate with a runner on first or no runners on at all, and when you’re pretty much a singles hitter, and in those situations, it doesn’t lend itself toward scoring opportunities. Today, Tiffany had just cranked a two-out double to score a run and she was at second.
First pitch, I swing and connect. Wow. Did that feel ever so good coming off the bat. Deep to center-left field, over the heads of the outfielders. A triple, with a run scored. The second-best hit I’ve had since I began playing on this team two-and-a-half years ago. (Number one would be the other triple I hit in another season, which was nearly an in-the-park home run and scored more runs.) I would score when Jennifer, our coach, knocked a single up the middle.
My second and final at-bat was a single, right up the middle in to shallow center, and it, too, scored a run. I would advance to second when the opposing pitcher walked Jen, then head from second to home when Chris D. put one in to deep center-right. The only downer was that I pulled my left quad a bit rounding third, limping to the plate.
So it takes six games for me to get a single RBI, and batting 1.000 today, I get two. The team improves to 4-2, and we remain in second place with two more games to go. I won’t play next week; we have tickets to the Stars’ playoff game, provided they don’t get swept by Colorado after a disastrous opener.

Always a bridesmaid…

Today was the last game of the fall softball season. We went in to our game tied for first with our opponent, Trietsch Memorial UMC. It was a disaster, and we lost 12-2, finishing second–again–and in a tie with Flower Mound UMC, who won the game before ours to also finish 7-3.
For reasons she failed to explain to anyone, our coach decided to shift half the team to positions they hadn’t played all season. (For some of us, ever.) Due to the overabundance of male personnel, I split time with Eric at first base. I have never played first base. I’ve played a little second, done time behind the plate, but mostly I’ve always played shortstop and my mainstay, third base. I don’t do the outfield, and I don’t pitch. But today, I’m put at first.
And at third? One of our ladies, who usually pitches or plays first. Our left fielder got moved to right.
My first inning on defense, I noted to the coach that the baseline was on the wrong side. How prophetic this would prove to be later in the game. Hitter puts a shot down the line, right to our girl on third. She corrals it and fires it toward first, but she’s wide to my left. I’m used to playing the bag with my right foot on it, because usually I’m at third and throws are coming from short or the outfield. So, being a creature of habit, where’s my right foot? On the bag. Stretching and shifting to try to make the catch, and keeping my right foot on the bag, I move in to the baseline and collide with the runner. Yeah, my bad. Sue me for not thinking more about the position I’ve never played in before. The runner gets an extra bag, they score a run, and I get a bruised knee and take myself out for the rest of the inning.
Our lady at third had problems throwing to first the entire game. I don’t blame her; she was in a position she had never played in before.
Only two at bats for yours truly, and I was .500 today, with a single.
It was an extremely frustrating game. This is not to say that if none of these changes would have been made that the outcome would have been different. Trietsch was hitting well, and our hitters kept putting them out to their talented left fielder. But you have to wonder how this sudden change, for what amounts to the championship game, had on our collective subconscious. Uncomfortable players don’t play well. I, for one, was uncomfortable.
We’ll see what happens in the spring.

Three-way tie for first

The game before ours this past Sunday was important for us: we were tied with one of the teams playing for first in the league. They lost.
Then, so did we.
Now, instead of a two-way tie for first, we find ourselves in a three-way tie, because when we handed the win to the gang from Flower Mound UMC, they joined us and Trietsch Memorial UMC at the top of the standings.
It was a good game, a lot of back and forth. Both teams were hitting well, both teams made their share of flubs. In the end, we made more flubs, and they hit better, besting us by three runs.
I only fielded for half the game, and didn’t see much action except for a couple of forced outs at third, and one runner who turned his double in to a triple when the throw to me was a hair too slow. Some of my teammates were upset at the call of safe, but it honestly could have gone either way.
I didn’t help the team or myself at the plate, going one for three for the second game in the row. I really need to hit the cages again.

Less than half a season to go

This past weekend marked game six of our fall season, so now we only have four to go. I missed game five, due to a shin injury I sustained in game four. The team lost a heartbreaker, so at the midpoint of the season, we were 4-1.
With game six, we started over playing against the other teams in our league, and just as with game one, this go-around we were up against the kids from First UMC of Lewisville. We’re going to have to keep our eyes on these boys and girls; they’re getting better the more they play, and we had to fight every inning, eeking out the win by three runs.
I was at third the entire game this time, but didn’t see much action, other than some forced outs at my bag. My time at the plate was barely above the suckage level, as I went one for three, a bunt single that wasn’t intended to be a bunt. Apparently, I’m faster than I look, too, managing to leg that out to get on base. One of my teammates remarked, at the end of the inning, “Man, you were fast!” Somebody clock me next time.
So the team stands at 5-1, and through the miracle of math multiples, my season batting average and my lifetime average are the same: .583. I’m 7-12 for the season, and 21-36 lifetime. See, kids? Math is cool. Study hard.