Too many words about one kickball game.
Man, what a kickball game last night!
It was a highly emotional game as we traveled to the school where S. and her entire family attended grade and middle school, OL.1 St. P’s was 0-3 and badly wanted to put a whole game together. They had tended to do well early then blow leads late.
Things started well. They were up 11-6 after two innings, and 16-13 after four. But things kind of fell apart in the fifth and they entered their last kicks down 22-18. They scraped across five runs to take the lead but they had given up at least three runs in every inning so far, so odds were against them.
The first three girls in the bottom of the sixth reached safely, one scoring to tie the game. St. P’s got a force out but there were still two runners in scoring position and OL’s best kicker coming to the plate. Each time this girl had kicked, she knocked the ball over the infield and deep into the outfield, getting two home runs and two doubles in the process. Surely the game was over.
She absolutely crushed the first pitch. However, unlike her first four attempts, she didn’t get under it, but rather sent a rocket directly at St. P’s shortstop, who caught it and raced to third to double-off the runner. Inning over, tie game, extra frames! The St. P’s girls couldn’t believe they hadn’t lost. The OL girls couldn’t believe they hadn’t won.
In the seventh St. P’s used small ball to get one run in, but wasted two outs in the process. M. came up with two outs and a runner on first. Like a lot of the girls her age who are skinny, she doesn’t get much power on the ball when she kicks it. This time the scuffed at the ball, knocking a little looper that went about 10 feet and then bounced back toward home. She ran to first, one of the infielders2 collected the ball, and the umpire ruled it had spun foul. Our coach protested that the infielder had touched the ball before it went foul. In a rather cool and very sportsmanlike move, the OL coach said, “Yeah, she should be on first.” The umpire, who had been under fire all night from both coaches, shrugged and pointed to first. M. shuffled back to the base.
Two on, two out, back to the top of the lineup.
First pitch is blasted deep into the outfield. Runner on second races home. M. races home. Kicker races home. Three run home run!
St. P’s added three more runs before the inning was over and were up 30-23, needing three outs for their first win.
They gave up one run but got out of the inning for the victory.
As you would expect, the girls were elated.
M. had a solid night. She got on base twice in four attempts. It was her fielding efforts that limited OL’s best kicker to doubles rather than two more home runs. She does a really good job getting in front of the ball, stopping it, and then getting it back to the infield. Trust me, that’s harder than it sounds. Just about every inning features one or two balls that either roll through the legs of the outfielders or bounce over their heads because they ran up on them too much.
I admit, it is really hard to watch these games calmly. Although it is CYO sanctioned event, and there is an underlying mood of “Let’s get along and have fun,” each game has several encounters between coaches and the umpire either asking for clarification on calls or flat out arguing them. When a few calls go against a team, there are often a few comments from the parents.
But it’s hard to watch M., mostly because, like baseball, there are lots of little details about how to play kickball that she doesn’t understand. I feel like I can help her with these elements of the game, but I don’t want to overwhelm her with.
Example: once she was on second, with a runner behind her on first, with two outs, and a kick went to the outfield. She stood on second and watched instead of taking off for third immediately. The runner from first nearly caught her and they had to settle for staying on third and second, rather than possibly both scoring. She’s trying to be careful and make sure the ball isn’t caught, but doesn’t yet get the idea of “Two outs, run on anything,” or that there is someone behind her hauling ass and she needs to haul ass, too, to avoid getting stacked up at a base.
Because of her lack of leg muscle, we’ve advised her to always kick it towards third on the ground, as few third basemen can field it and make an accurate throw to first to get her. She smartly countered with, “What if there’s a runner on third? Can’t they just tag her, then?” Sometimes it’s hard to remember that all the baseball nuances I’ve picked up have come over 35 years or so of watching the game. When I was first playing t-ball at age seven, or even when I was nine and playing baseball, I’m sure I didn’t have all the situational strategies mastered.
Oh, and it’s hard to watch because the games are kind of sloppy, last forever (Nearly 90 minutes last night), you’re never sure of the score, and you want your daughter’s team to win.
But she, and the team, are getting better, and I think she’s having fun. After the game I told her that her kick in the seventh was the most important of the game because that kept the inning alive and they scored seven instead of just one run. And then we told her she did a great job fielding and limiting the other team. She kind of blew us off, as kids will do. But when her coach came over and told her she did the best of all the outfielders, she absolutely beamed. Those little moments are the ones that we sign the kids up for sports for.
They go for their second-straight win Thursday night.
Actually it wasn’t emotional at all. I’m trying to build drama here, though. ↩
Two infielders stand on either side of the pitcher. These girls have to be tough because they often get blasted by the girls who can put some muscle into the ball. ↩