We’ve reached the manic, two-week period of spring in which all the high school sports cram their playoffs into the final days of the school year. Which means many chances for me to work. In theory.
This week I grabbed the plum assignment, the 4A softball sectional in which four of our teams were playing. Wednesday I was to cover both semifinals, including the #2 ranked team in the state (CG, one of our schools) and then the championship game on Thursday. The plan was for me to write a lengthy story for Friday’s paper not about just the final, but also CG’s quest for another state championship.
And then they went out and got beat Wednesday. Whoops. In the other semifinal, the team I was covering, FCHS, had a two-run lead going into the 7th and promptly gave up seven runs to lose. So I went from writing the feature story for the Friday sports page to losing my assignment for tonight since we had no teams in the final.
That disappointment aside, it was an entertaining night at the park on Wednesday. CG is a wonderfully balanced team that has great pitching, perhaps the best defense in the state, and a terrific offensive attack that features lots of speed and gap hitters. They were limited to a single run on five hits Wednesday, by far their lows for the season. The starting pitcher, who was 18-0 coming in, had a rough night, but still gave up just three runs. Most nights that’s enough for CG to win. CG was the host team, so there was a nervousness in the air as the innings passed and they were unable to score.
It’s not like they lost to a bad team. The winner is ranked #20 in the state, but CG had beat them 18-6 earlier this season. A big upset no matter how you look at it.
In the nightcap FCHS took on the #15 team in the state, NP. NP scored two runs in the first and left the bases loaded. It was looking like a quick game that would be run-ruled after 5. But FCHS pushed a run across in their half of the first, held NP through the next two, then took the lead in the bottom of the third. The teams went back-and-forth through the sixth, when NP scored two in the top of the inning and FCHS three in the bottom to take a 7-5 lead into the final frame. Which is when the roof caved in.
The top of the seventh began around 9:00. My deadline for writing about two games was at 10:15. That half inning took 25 minutes. Fortunately FCHS went quickly in the bottom of the inning and I ran out to my car without doing any interviews to crank out the story. I submitted at 10:14. It’s been a long time since I’ve cut it that close.
Adding insult to injury, the two non-4A schools we cover both lost Wednesday as well. So we went from having a state title contender in 4A and a top 10 team in 1A to nobody left playing in about four hours.
Baseball sectionals began last night, too, and there’s a chance I’ll cover a game on Memorial Day. But the way things have gone this week, I’m not going to count on it.