Oh no! The other team came out to take infield. You teach your players to watch the other team. This is a great time to get valuable information, to scout them. It was not looking good. This was going to be one of the weaker opponents on our schedule. They graduated a big class last year. They are near a big city school which are allowed to “recruit” the better players in the area. They were going to be young and inexperienced at this level. You want your players to watch the arms, the footspeed, the angles that their fielders have or use. This lets you know whether you can take the extra base or how aggressively to run the bases. Should you try to bunt for a hit? Does the thirdbaseman charge hard and throw well. It started off pretty sloppy. Their outfielders caught the flyballs but they didn’t take good routes and caught most while backpeddling. We should be able to be aggressive on our tagups as they don not catch the ball in good throwing position.
The infield did not have very strong arms. The shorstop was pretty athletic, but had a little trouble fielding the ball cleanly. The firstbaseman didn’t have very good footwork.
I went to our dugout to get our lineup. I needed it so I could announce the game. The coach turned to me and said “I don’t think we will be on the field with these guys very long tonight.” Ugghh! I could see it coming. I’ve seen it many times over the years. Sometimes you play down to your competition. You have to stress to your players that they are playing against the game not the other team. It does not matter how good or bad your competition is if you don’t play against the game. Our pregame infield was not stellar. We looked a little too confident. Kinda going through the motions. A let’s hurry up and get this over with attitude.
The press box is where the Dads that want to talk baseball or just get out of the weather watch the game. We were talking about how this team just might ruin our undefeated season if the boys didn’t turn it up. We were starting a pitcher that had been nothing short of dominant all year. He is a big kid that just pounds the strike zone with a good moving fastball and a knee buckling curve. The game starts and he starts getting behind batters. He got through the inning with no runs, but did walk 2 batters. I don’t remember him walking 2 all season. Not a great start. We are batting and our leadoff man who has been great all year at getting on base quickly fell behind 0-2. He battled back and hit a blooper over first for a single. Our number 2 hitter jumped on the first pitch and hit a 1-hopper off the left centerfield fence. One run scored, but perhaps taking the other team too lightly, we got thrown out at 3rd going for a triple. Next up was my son. Line drive foul down the third base line. “Wait back and drive it up the middle” I mumbled under my breath. Foul ball straight back. This seems like it happens almost every at bat. Next pitch he hits a sky high fly ball to left center. Routine out.
It took us all 7 innings to win the game. We were only up 2-1 through 4. It took a 6 run 5th inning where the other team fell apart on the mound and defensively for us to put the game out of reach. Sure we made some very good defensive plays and turned 2 double plays to get out of jams, but it was by far our worst game of the year. I know it seems bad to complain about qn 8-1 win, but with a tougher opponent, our undefeated season would certainly be a thing of the past. There is a lot of work left to be done.
On the way home, my son and I discussed how they played to their opponents level. “Dad, why don’t you find a baseball instructional video for that?”, he asked. “Son, I don’t think they make a baseball instructional video for that.” I said. You’ve just got to learn to play against the game. We’ll see if they learned anything.