Well, maybe my stressing about games played on diamonds isn’t completely over for this year. Despite the Royals season spiraling down the drain, I have one more game to get myself worked up about: M’s kickball team made the city championship game. They will play for the title next Wednesday. And I’m already a nervous wreck.
Her team had a fantastic regular season. They won their first game by nine runs over a very tough team. Their second game was supposed to be against another very tough team, but that was the day we had tornado warnings and we had to postpone it. They ran off three more wins by an average of 30 runs per game and had another postponement in there as well.
So Tuesday night they were making up the two rainouts. First they would play St. L’s, who were also undefeated. That game was the de facto division title game, as St. P’s opponent in the nightcap had not won a game all season.
The St. L. game was fantastic. St. P’s put nine runs on the board in the first inning, and left the bases loaded. They added 10 runs in the second, and left two on. After two innings, our girls were up 19–9. St. L’s was probably a better kicking team, as they have a group of girls who play soccer while St. P’s has none. But St. P’s is a terrific defensive team and can turn great kicks into outs, while St. L spent the first two innings booting the ball all around the infield on defense.
But St. L’s tightened up their defense and slowly clawed their way back into the game. In the fifth they had runners on first and second, no out, and their best three kickers coming up. The first launched a screamer to short right. Our right fielder was looking directly into the sun as she tried to track the ball. She got her hands on it at shoulder-level, then lost control of it. The St. L’s runners took off, thinking it was going to hit the ground. But our fielder recovered and caught the ball just above her shoe-tops, then quickly got the ball to first to double off that runner. The first baseman tossed the ball to our pitcher, but the St. L’s runner who left second was standing on third. All the coaches and St. P’s parents were screaming at our pitcher to throw back to second. In kickball, though, when the pitcher gets control of the ball inside the pitching circle, the play is dead. And our pitcher took the throw from first base inside the circle. So instead of tossing the ball to second to wrap up a triple play, the runner on third was given a free pass back to second. Our girls pulled off a triple play in practice a couple weeks back, and had been promised a trip to Dairy Queen if they did it in a game. I think they were more bummed about not getting ice cream than the inning continuing.
In the bottom of the sixth, the lead was down to six runs and St. L’s had two on with two outs. Their kicker sent a liner down the third base line that stayed just fair then spun toward the sideline. Our best player was in right-center and immediately took off after the ball. I didn’t see any way she would get the ball back in quick enough to hold the kicker to third, so began filling in three runs for St. L’s. I looked up to see the St. L’s kicker rounding third and our player 10 feet behind her, hauling ass. “What are you doing?” I thought. There was no way she could catch the runner. Our girl took two more steps then made a perfect, two-handed chest pass that zipped over the runner’s shoulder into the hands of our pitcher who was covering home. She tagged the runner to end the inning.
It might have been the single greatest defensive play in kickball history! This was kind of like Bo Jackson throwing out Harold Reynolds from the wall, only a girl ran over 100 feet – in two different directions – at full speed to make the play possible. It should have been a three-run game with St. L’s still kicking, but instead their rally was snuffed and their girls were deflated.
St. P’s added four runs in the 7th and were up 25–17 going into the last half inning. Even with that lead, I was nervous as hell. Yes, we had made great plays to kill rallies in three-straight innings. But they were all kind of lucky plays. Our offense had gone quiet since the first two innings and it sure felt like St. L’s had the momentum.
No need to stress: our girls had their cleanest inning of the night, giving up just one run and closed the game with an easy out at home that ended with them dog piling each other in celebration. St. L’s had kept our girls out of the city playoffs last spring, beating them twice by a total of four runs. Although that was a very different team (St. L’s was mostly sixth graders to our all fifth grade team), St. L’s best current sixth graders did play on that team. Our girls did not want to miss out on the postseason because of St. L’s again.
Up next was the nightcap. It would really suck to have worked so hard to beat St. L’s and then slip up against a team that had been run-ruled in every game they played. Fortunately, our girls took care of business. They dialed it back a little, mostly keeping the ball on the ground and only taking the extra base when they absolutely had to. They closed them out in the minimum number of innings.
Now, thanks to the playoff format, St. P’s gets a bye directly into the championship game. Last fall they reached the semifinal, and lost a game to a team they should have beaten. Odds are they’re going to play another one of their nemeses in the final, St. B’s. In fourth grade, our girls pounded everyone they played. Except St. B’s, who smoked them twice. They actually run-ruled our girls in the first game, I believe the only time that’s ever happened to this class. Afterward, all the St. P’s parents were looking at each other wondering what the hell had just happened. We were happy to lose by only 15 the second time they played. St. B’s is famous/infamous for having a great program that is filled with girls who play travel soccer. They kick the shit out of the ball.
But our girls are pretty damn good, too. I think they’re excited for the chance to play them. The coaches and I are already stressing about the game. Seriously, I’ve had a headache for about 36 hours because all I can think about is next Wednesday. I think my hands are going to be pretty shaky when I try to hold the scorebook.
- Then we would have to play St. L’s again, with the winner moving on. No tie-breaker for head-to-head competition. ↩