This is it. The championship game. We don’t need to save anything for later, because there is no “later.”
We’re up against the Maplewood Express, the other 13-1 team in our league. We saw them in Game 4 and beat them 4-2. We’ve been keeping an eye on them all year, and going into the tournament, we figured we’d be facing either them or the Twins, who are the only team to beat us all year.
The Express and the Twins faced each other yesterday, after we beat the Cubs to make it to the championship game. The Express won that one 8-4, so we got the rematch they wanted. I wanted this one too; while it would have been nice to face the Twins and play our game, the long-standing rivalry with the Express is just too good to pass up.
It rained overnight and into the morning, pushing back game start times by 2 hours, so our original 2:30 start time turned into a 4:30 start time. All that rain made the field was a lot softer than yesterday, which is a good thing — it was really hard and dusty yesterday.
We won the coin toss, and elected to be the home team. We’re feeling good about this — we’re good in the field, and being the home team gives us “last ups” (we’ll have the last opportunity to score runs, in the bottom of the 7th inning).
We take the field, and Alex starts. He gives up a run, but we get out without too much damage, and put three on the board in the bottom of the 1st to take the lead.
Alex pitches a scoreless 2nd and 3rd, and we add another run to make it 4-1. The Express are starting to let doubt seep in, and their coach is telling them to keep their heads up and stay in the game.
They do, and we start making errors in the field. A ball to right field drops in front of Joey, who grabs it and starts to run it in instead of throwing, and the Express score two to make it 4-3.
They get another two on a ball to left that pops out of Justin’s glove, taking the lead 5-4. Then they add three more in the 6th inning on a walk, two hits and another ball to right that Joey can’t catch up to. We’re down 8-4 — the same score that the Express beat the Twins by yesterday — and go down scoreless in the bottom of the inning.
Top of the 7th; Luke pitches like a closer, mowing down the Express to put a zero on the board. We’re still down by 4, but we’re not done — we get the last at-bat. If we can score 4, we force another inning. If we score 5, we’re the champions. We have the middle of our order coming up.
Anthony strikes out to start the inning, but Sam hustles out a single, then steals second. Elijah walks, and we put on the double steal to put runners at second and third. Steven hits a ringing double to left, scoring two and putting the tying run at the plate in the form of Justin.
The Express coach runs onto the field and gathers his infielders to talk. Their 4-run lead is down to two, and they only have one out. The game is most definitely on the line.
Justin takes a ball, with Steven stealing third, then a called strike, then swings and misses one. 1-2. He hangs tough, fouling off two more pitches, before finally missing one to give the Express their second out.
We send Sean to the plate. Sean’s the smallest guy on our team, but he swings hard and he hustles. He rarely strikes out, but since he doesn’t hit for much power, we have him near the bottom of the lineup. In this case, though, we don’t need power – we need to get Steven in from third base, and we need another baserunner.
Sean fouls one off, then swings through a second pitch. He makes good contact with the third pitch, hitting a sharp line drive up the middle. Unfortunately for us, the Express pitcher makes a nice play, gloving the ball for the third out and the end of the game.
We line up and congratulate the Express on a game well played. We didn’t win, but we played well, and we made them work right up to the last out.
Final score: 8-6, Express win.
Tournament record: 2-1, 2nd place.
We took home two trophies: one for 2nd place in the tournament, and one for winning the regular season.
Thanks, Ironpigs, for letting me coach. It was an honor to be along for the ride. See you next year.