A Game Hard To Top
I must admit I haven’t gone to as many spring sporting events this year as I have wanted to.
Work hours (my real job), family, or whatever, seemed to get in the way more often than not.
I was determined to check out the playoffs, and while I have had better luck, it still hasn’t always worked out. For example I was planning to go to the Petaluma-Concord softball game, and missed that.
Well the stars aligned and I was able to make Wednesday’s game at Casa Grande.
Talk about the stars aligning, you can make the case that the game made up for all the missed games.
It was one of those games that I think , how can I write about it and make sense of it all.
Actually that might be impossible.
The game I am talking about of course is the College Park-Casa Grande baseball game, Division 2 NCS Semi-Final. Just posting the score: Casa Grande 12 College Park 11 (13 innings), speaks volumes.
You had to see it to believe it.
I’m not sure if I believe it.
I’m sure fans that were at the game thought the same thing.
For Casa Grande, it was reliving a dream season that has had so many moments similar to this one. Not like this one, but similar.
All the great moments the Gauchos have had this year, all the one run wins, all the improbably comebacks, didn’t equal what this game had in it.
It’s a game Casa Grande appeared to lose more than a few times.
Heck it was a game College Park appeared to lose before they actually lost.
It also appeared for a while that neither would lose, at least not on this night.
The race was on between the sun going down and the game ending. The way things were going, it appeared the sun was going to win easily.
People were wondering when the game might have to be finished. Maybe go finish at the football field where they had lights.
It all started so calm. After five innings, it was your typical tense playoff game that for the most part was a well played 2-2 game. That was also about the time you could see a little league game was starting on the other side of the right center field fence.
Most of the early scoring came in the first inning and to tell you what kind of game both managers were expecting, they used the sacrifice bunt, to play for that precious run. It worked for both teams and led to runs.
The bunt worked better for Casa Grande.
After College Park scored one in the top of the first, Casa Grande scored two without a hit. A leadoff walk was followed by the bunt, which was a good one. It was made better when the College Park pitcher went for the ball and as he reached for it, he slipped and ended up throwing it from his knees. The ball ended up out of play behind first base and the runners ended up at second and third.
The first run scored on a ground out, the second on a suicide squeeze.
In most games a suicide squeeze would be a headline play. In this game it got lost in the shuffle.
After five innings the game was playing out the way the managers had expected. The two teams combined for four runs and eight hits. It appeared the next score would mean a trip to the championship game.
Little did we know.
How could we know?
The game turned crazy when, of all things, Casa Grande brought in Anthony Bender in to pitch for the sixth inning. Seemed like a safe enough move. Bender had given up two earned runs the whole season. By the time the inning ended that number would more than double. College Park sent ten men to the plate, scored five times (two of them unearned) and had a 7-2 lead.
The dream season looked over.
Looks can be deceiving.
In the bottom of the inning Casa Grande sent ten men to the plate and matched the five runs.
The rally started on a strike out. The catcher couldn’t handle strike three and although he had plenty of time, he made a bad throw.
Also in the inning, a Casa Grande runner was picked off first. The final run scored on a one hop chopper that went as high as some pop ups and didn’t reach the mound.
In the inning, the two teams combined for ten runs and eleven hits. All of that and the inning ended the way it began, a tie ball game.
Briefly things did get back to the way things were in the first five innings. There were a couple of threats, but no big hit to bring in a run.
Then in the bottom of the tenth, it appeared Casa Grande won the game. They loaded the bases with one out when Isiah Ayala hit a rope to center field that looked like the game winner. College Park’s Center field Daniel Bodishbaugh made the play of the game with an all out diving catch. Still the thought was it would still be a game winning sacrifice fly. But for whatever reason, Casa Grande runners didn’t tag. Maybe they were shocked by the catch.
I know I was.
After College Park got out of the inning, it turned crazy again. Once again it appeared College Park won the game with a three run tenth. The rally was started by a hit batsman. Three singles, two sacrifices (one a bunt, one a fly and yes they were still playing for one run) and a walk later it was 10-7 going to the bottom of the tenth.
Once again the dream season seemed moments away from ending and once again we were wrong.
The bottom of the tenth started off like it would come to an end. A leadoff single got away from the left fielder. The batter went for second; the left fielder scrambled for the ball and threw him out.
Nothing can be normal in this game.
Two singles, a walk and an out later, Casa Grande had runners at second and third, two outs trailing 10-8. Zack Shimek was the last hope. When the count went to 2-2 they were down to the last strike. Actually they were down to the last strike on three pitches. Shimek fouled off the first two and then drilled a base hit to right center. One run scored and the race was on between the tying run and the ball coming in from right field. They arrived at home plate at the same time. There was a collision and a delay. The plate umpire, who along with his crew added to the suspense of the game on more than a few calls (enough of that), seemed to be checking to see if the catcher had held on. An out call would end things right there. The catcher appeared to hold on, but the safe call was made and by the hair of your chiny chin chin, we were tied again.
So on we went. The 11th and 12th were calm comparatively speaking and by the way the little league game had ended.
College Park scored an unearned run in the 13th without a hit. An error started the inning on a ground ball to short. The throw was lost in the sun by the first baseman. Yes it was getting that low in the sky. Next came a walk and after a failed sacrifice, and a hit batsmen that loaded the bases, a sacrifice fly made it 11-10.
Casa Grande had them right where they wanted them.
The ending came swift, but not before weirdness again. A leadoff ground ball to first looked like a routine out. The first baseman was calling that he had this play by himself as the pitcher was coming over to cover the bag. He headed to first and was going to get there in plenty of time for the out.
One problem, he forgot the ball.
That brought up Francis Christy, and by now you know what he did, finally putting the long game to an end. Even before this moment, Christy has reached legendary status at Casa Grande. He is hitting .411, which is his worst average in his three years as a starter.
Each time he came to bat, I was reminded of Barry Bonds. Giant’s fans expected him to do something big every time he came up. I got the idea Casa fans thought the same thing about Christy. It almost seemed like some fans thought he was having a bad game even though before the home run, he was three of five with two walks and scored twice.
I guess the bad game thought was because his hits were singles.
Christy has set a standard that is hard to live up to, but he did it.
There are so many players of both teams to mentioned in this game. I will pick one more. That is Casa pitcher Dominic Gariham. The junior came into pitch in the seventh with runners at first and second and two outs and got a strike out. He pitched the rest of the way, going 6 1/3, allowing three earned runs. When Christy’s ball landed over the right center field fence, his record moved to 7-0.
You could mention so many other things. Thirteen players had at least two hits, nine players drove in two runs and 17 different players scored.
The two teams combined for 23 runs, 34 hits, 8 errors, 27 left on base, 23 strikeouts, 11 walks, 3 hit batsmen and partridge in a pear tree.
One other note: Casa Grande had 19 hits. Christy’s homer was the only one that went for extra bases. The other 18, all singles.
The dream of a season continues for Casa Grande. They are now 27-2 on the season and now the count is 16-0 in one run games.
One left to finish off the dream. That will be Saturday afternoon at SRJC against the three time defending champion Campolindo.
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