I had hoped to wrap up the kickball regular season today. But Irma’s remnants turned yesterday into a drizzly mess, and our biggest game of the year was postponed. More on that in a bit.
M ended her season last week. Her team finished up 5–1 and claimed second place in their division. Just that opening game loss to their arch-rivals, who will no doubt crush someone in the City title game next week. M had a decent season. She kicked better at times. Sometimes she fielded well, sometimes she still got the hell out of the way of the ball when it whizzed by her. As always, though, she was excited to hang out with her classmates and be part of the team. Amazingly, late in the season, she was actually asking me to go out and practice with her. Maybe I get her to kick the ball through the infield by the spring season.
C’s season ended Monday in crushing fashion. They were out of the running for the division title, but were playing the team that was in first place. They played earlier in the season with C’s team losing by 7. Monday, C’s team controlled the game through the first six innings. They got the lead early, played great defense, and kept scoring enough to stay ahead. She had a three-run homer early in the game. Going into the 7th inning, they were up by 2 runs. Then came a total meltdown. They gave up 23 runs! It was brutal to watch, as they made mistake after mistake in the field. Bobbling the ball. Throwing to the wrong base. Turning their back on runners and letting the advance. Girls standing and watching while the ball rolled by them. Everything bad that could happen did. The other team didn’t kick a ball out of the infield and still managed to go through their order nearly three times. C’s team got two runs back in their half, but that wasn’t enough to even make it a respectable loss.
A week earlier C’s team played an amazing game against our big rivals St B’s. Both teams scored two runs in the first, and single runs the next two innings. And then it remained tied 4–4 all the way through to the seventh inning. Neither team kicked particularly well that day, but both teams were playing amazing defense. In the top of the seventh we got a runner on, moved her to second, and then got a ball through the infield to bring her around to take the lead. C made all three outs in the bottom of the inning and we had a 5–4 win. Normal games between good teams are still usually in the teens. You never see 5–4 games!
C was amazing in this game. She took three absolutely monster line drives off various parts of her body – she basically caught one with her lips – and the game had to be stopped so we could check on her. Once she shut off the tears, she made every damn play in the infield. She threw people out at first. She threw people out at third. She beat people running home. She caught at least four balls in the air. She didn’t do much at the plate, but her defense saved the day. After the game two of the girls from St B’s came over to check on her to make sure she was ok, which I thought was incredibly cool.
C made a big jump this year from good player to arguably the best player in her grade. She’s still a little inconsistent kicking, but when she connects she can blast the ball on a line that is almost impossible to catch. As I’ve shared, she’s generally an excellent fielder. Her area to work on is true to her personality: she just needs to take a deep breath and calm down sometimes. You can see her getting worked up, whether by a bad call, an injury, or just the game getting extra stressful. She starts running around a little too fast, looking nervously around, unsure of her play. But, as an older brother of a teammate said, for the most part “C is a beast!”
Now for L. Through a schedule quirk, her team played the two weaker teams in her division two times each before they were set to finish the season with two games against the other good team. In their final game against a weak team, our girls played their worst game of the year. If they were older, you would say they overlooked St L because they had beaten them by 30 runs the first time they played. I’m not sure if 3rd graders think that way, though. Anyway, we were behind the entire game until L kicked a three-run, walk-off homer in the bottom of the 6th to win it.
On to the final two games against St. S to see who goes to City. I watched the first two innings of the first game before I had to leave to get M to her game. While there L kicked her seventh homer of the year to tie it. Midway through M’s games I started getting texts that we had won by 12, but it was really controversial. All I heard that night was the other coach was kind of crazy and some of the St S parents were complaining about a specific call.
Then, the next day, I get a call from our head coach saying that the St S coach had pulled her team off the field at the end of the 5th inning thinking the game was over. The umpire asked her if she was sure, twice, and the coach insisted yes, she was done. I have no idea why she did this, and her story has changed a couple times since the game. Anyway, there was a call to the league office the next day from St S and we were instructed that we had to play the final inning of the game when we went to St S to end the season. Since a division championship is at stake, they want every game played to completion. Which I kind of understand. But, also, she pulled her damn team off the field! She gave up! Twice!
Yeah, the other coaches and I have had some interesting conversations about these events for several days now.
So last night was supposed to be the final night of the regular season for us. And then it rained. We’re still trying to lock in the makeup time, but it looks like Friday we’ll go out there, play an inning, take a quick break, and then play a full game. If either team wins both games, they go onto City. If there’s a split, we’ll have to play a tie-breaker game next week.
The good news is we lead by 12 in the “suspended” game, and we will kick first. Bad news is we’re near the bottom of our lineup. But if we can get some girls on and turn the lineup over, we have a great chance to really extend the lead. Good news is we played excellent defense last week and never let St S score more than 5 runs in an inning. The bad news is we had one 20-run inning and the rest of the game was kind of a struggle on offense. But I think we learned some stuff about St S’s defense that will help us.
The best part of all of this was how everyone was pissed off about it. At cross country on Sunday I was suddenly in the middle of a group of parents who were asking, basically, “What the hell happened?!?!” Most of these parents don’t even have kids playing kickball, they had just heard about it through the school grapevine. St S allegedly had a couple crazy parents at the game last week. Their coach is an odd duck. The other coaches and I keep reminding ourselves to take deep breaths before the game when we finally play. Last night L told me not to worry, “We’re going to beat them.” Oh boy…
Oh, cross country. C ran her first individual race of the year last week. She ran kind of slow – I don’t think she practiced at all the previous week because of kickball – but still managed to take 13th in the 5th–6th grade race. That got her a ribbon. St P’s is really strong in this age group. There’s a sixth grader who has never run before who won the race by nearly two minutes! We had five girls place, which means they have a great chance to win City next month.
And, finally, L’s soccer season began Sunday. She scored two goals and they won, although we almost pissed the game away late when we had a couple kids in goal and on defense who were literally running away from the ball rather than trying to, you know, defend it. I’m helping coach this team so more about that later.
The interesting thing, though, is that for the first time ever L is not clearly the best player on her team. There is another kid who is freaking amazing. And he’s just a little guy, barely bigger than her. He’s so good that he’s playing on an older age-group team, too, and had to leave our game at halftime to go play with them. When he was on the field, we almost never gave up possession and could have scored about 20 goals instead of the five we had at halftime. And he’s not just a scorer. He’s an amazing dribbler and passer. He would get the ball, cut it out wide, see L in the middle, and rifle a perfect pass through traffic right onto her foot so she could immediately control it. Both of her goals came off passes he made to set her up. I really hope this kid plays a full 50 minutes for us each week!