For the third time in three seasons, M’s kickball team advanced to the City tournament. For the third time, they came up short.
A disastrous top of the 7th inning put them on the wrong end of a 19–8 score in yesterday’s championship game. It was their second-straight, second-place finish. Their run began with a semifinal loss in the fall of 2015.
While the result wasn’t as lopsided as their 26–1 loss last fall, this one was probably more crushing. As I had mentioned, we had heard the team they were playing, St. R, could kick the crap out of the ball but were not great fielders. That was not an entirely accurate scouting report. They were good kickers, if perhaps not as good as we had been led to believe. But they could really field. They probably weren’t as strong defensively as we are, but they were way better than we expected. With a few exceptions, we are a kick-and-run team. Put the ball in play and put pressure on the defense, then use our speed to take extra bases. St. R got outs on plays that had produced runners and runs all year. And that, really, was the difference.
Rosters are usually bigger in spring kickball, which leads to a problem. If you have a huge lineup, and have a decent number of weak kickers, it becomes really hard to turn your lineup over and get back to your best kickers. Although just 10 girls play in the field, everyone kicks. We had 16 girls playing yesterday. Add in a slow start offensively, and it wasn’t until the bottom of the 5th when our best kickers were coming up for the second time.
St. R scored three in the first, we answered with one. They added two more in the second and it remained 5–1 going into the bottom of the 5th. Our coach told the girls she needed five runs that inning, and that’s exactly what they gave her. Up 6–5. She should have asked for more!
But St. R answered right back, scoring three in the top of the 6th, two with two outs. We tacked on one in the bottom of the inning, and went to the final inning down 8–7.
St. R scored two while making two outs on the bases. 9–8, and we still had two more girls to get one out before their lineup turned over. That’s when our girls cracked a little. They dropped a ball, they threw to a wrong base once, they missed covering another base, we got a terrible bounce on a deflection. It was 11–7 and the top of the lineup was kicking. Eight runs later we finally, mercifully, got the third out. Making it worse was we had our bottom five coming up. We got two on, and one in, but our #16 kicker made the last out.
This game was way more frustrating than either of the other two City losses. Part of it was this felt like our girls’ year. It was spring, with the big rosters that are often filled with younger girls, and we had a team of all sixth graders. We added a really good athlete who hadn’t played before but had lots of potential. Most of our girls were in their 7th season and had always played on good teams, so they were battle tested. And unlike last fall, when that team was clearly better, St R felt like a team that we would split a 10-game series with. It was their day and not ours.
I don’t have access to old schedules and results, so it’s hard to know for sure how many games we’ve played each season. But based on a rough estimate, this class has gone 26–5 over the past four season. Three undefeated regular seasons with three losses in City. The other two losses came as fifth graders against a team of all sixth graders, by a total of five runs. They’ve had a great run. Losing at City sucks, but I’d rather be on a good team that lost at the end than on the teams that they blast every regular season and are lucky to win 1–2 games a year.
We’re not sure if this is it for this group. Most of our best players are juggling multiple sports during each season, and it gets harder and harder to keep kickball in the mix when it is softball, soccer, lacrosse, cross country, track, etc. that are club/travel and high school sports where kickball is “just for fun.” Our coaches are optimistic this group will stick together next fall, though. We get one of our top four players who didn’t play this spring back. So maybe one more shot to finally get over the hump and claim a City title. And if not then, maybe next spring. Or in the fall of their 8th grade year…