M’s kickball career has gone like this over the past three years:

Fifth grade, advanced to the City semifinals and lost by 5 or 6 runs. They would not have beaten the team that was waiting in the City finals but it was still disappointing.

Fall of sixth grade, went undefeated in the regular season and lost in the City championship game 26–1 in four innings. Blech.

Spring of sixth grade, went undefeated in the regular season and lost in the City championship game by 9 runs after having a one-run lead going into the 7th. This one hurt; they were the better team and had one bad inning in the field and plate at the worst time.

One of the dads in our class dubbed the team “the best team to never win a City championship.” They were the Buffalo Bills of Indianapolis kickball, I guess.

Time to retire that nickname, our girls are finally City Champions!

Well, co-champions.

It was a weird season with an appropriately weird ending.

The season began with the absolutely most bonkers game I’ve ever been a part of. I could literally write 5000 words about what happened that day but I’ll boil it down to bullet points:
* Playing a team of all 8th graders we had a lead the entire game but went into our last kicks tied and couldn’t score. The first extra inning game I’d ever been a part of.
* Neither team scored in the 8th.
* In the 9th it looked like we had won the game. But the umpire called our runner, who had appeared to have scored the winning run, out for interfering with a defensive player when they ran into each other at home. Never mind that our girl A) tried to avoid the defender, B) the defender ran into the baseline and our runner’s way, and C) our girl touched home before there was contact. There was some arguing about the call but we played on. One of the opposing players called our runner involved in that play a “bitch” loud enough for everyone on the field to hear. Nice.
* We entered the bottom of the 10th down five runs. We scored two and had two on, two outs and kicked a ball to the shortstop who tried to get a force out at second. The umpire called our runner safe, but then ruled her out for coming off the bag. Game over. I started arguing that the second baseman never tagged our runner. Umpire said it was a force out. I said, rather forcefully, no it wasn’t; once the ump called her safe our runner had the right to go to third, so the defender needed to tag our runner. Our coach banished me to the sidelines, because my tone was not helping. She proceeded to argue the call for nearly 10 minutes. Finally the opposing coach came over and said, “I think she’s right, that wasn’t a force out.” The umpire insisted she made the right call, but since the opposing coach was fine with it, she reversed her call and brought the teams back out. There was much protesting from the opposing team’s parents. But, still, we were down three with two outs. We got two in and then our best kicker won the game with a three-run homer, M was officially the winning run as she broke the tie when she crossed home. Parents from both sides were yelling at the umpire and each other, the opposing girls were yelling at our girls and each other, their coach and his daughter were screaming at each other. It was really the craziest thing ever.

Whew. We got through the rest of the regular season without a loss until our final game, when we had a rematch with that team. This time we lost by three in a game that was relatively drama-free. They had a game rained out against a pretty good team and were not going to play it. Our coach insisted they play it before we play a one-game tiebreaker. They made up the game, won by three, but then our rematch was delayed a week because their 8th graders were on their DC trip.

Monday we were supposed to play the tie-breaker and immediately after the winner would play the other division champ for the City title. Naturally the only rain we’ve gotten all month was a severe thunderstorm right before the game. We postponed to Tuesday, but now the other division champ had graduation that night and class trip the next night. Whoever won on Tuesday would have to try to find a date for the championship game.

Tuesday our girls, for the third time, got an early lead. They were up 16–6 after five but I was nervous because they had blown leads in the first two games. Our girls played fantastic defense the last two innings which helped us weather two poor kicking innings, and earned a 16–10 win. The girls were all pumped up. I think many of them expected to lose. We have a player who is a great athlete but was new to kickball last year, and has always struggled to kick. She took a ball home last week, watched videos online, and kicked two home runs on Tuesday. She was so excited. That was extra cool. She made a huge difference as we were missing one of our best players because of a back injury.[1]

Now to schedule the championship game. We tried a number of options, but nothing was going to work. We had graduation Thursday, and although our team is all 7th graders, one coach and three players had to be at the ceremony. Today and all of next week both teams would be missing several players. After much discussion the coaches decided to share the championship rather than force one/both teams to play without their entire rosters. This was a good move for us, because we would not have beaten that team.

We decided all of this on Wednesday, the day of M’s class retreat. The coaches and I were both helping transport the kids at the end of the day, so we made plans to bring the girls together after they returned to the school building to update them.

The coach gathered them all in the lobby and explained how there was no good way to play the championship game. “So, we’re not going to play it. You’re City champs!” They looked at each other for a moment, then it hit and they all started screaming and jumping on each other. Later we heard that students down both halls of the building could hear them and wondered what was going on.

We got the girls ice cream and they were able to hang out in the lobby and celebrate together for the last half hour of the school day.

Sure, there’s an asterisk next to this championship. But I think they absolutely earned their share by beating a team full of huge 8th graders two out of three times. I think several of the girls went into the playoff game thinking they didn’t have a chance, or wanting to lose so they could avoid their nemesis St. B’s in the title game. But that was their best, most complete game of the year. Unlike other times when they’ve played in City and they make a mistake or two in the field and then crumble, the girls steadied themselves and kept misplays from turning into five-run rallies.

And now comes the fun part: ordering City champs shirts for the girls and updating our kickball banner in the gym to reflect another title.

  1. Our opponents were missing two girls, which really hurt their defense. But it’s worth noting the night they beat us, we were missing two of our best players. Spring sports schedules are a bitch.  ↩