Dateline: Smithsburg Field Day 2 4:00 PM
The Reston All stars, having won their bracket moments before took the field again against the feared Predators. The specialist travel team looked like they were straight out of central casting. Warmups were precise. Orange, rubber balls were used in practice to loft towering fly balls. Predator fans wore dark black tee shirts. Predator coaches were all business. We were fortunate to hear one conversation with Coach Grossman and the Predator head coach. “How are you guys today?” said our fearless schmoozing coach. Their coach, “Fine. Are you guys ready to start the game?” Coach Grossman, paused, looked the coach in the eye and slowly said, “We are.” Thus ended a fateful pre-game conversation.
And so, the tournament director clearly swayed by Predator fear let the aforementioned Predator coach call the coin toss (despite the tradition that the team who travels the farthest gets to call it). The coach called HEADS and it was HEADS. Four coin tosses, four defeats for Reston all stars. Clearly, Reston had an absolute coin toss failure at this tournament and in this reporter’s mind a fact finding commission might need to be appointed to get to the bottom of the whole “coin-toss conspiracy.”
The Reston all stars went down in order in the top of the first. Conor strolled to the mound and quickly struck out the first two Predators. A hit batter and two walks, loaded the bases to generate some excitement, but Conor settled down and blasted three strikes by the next batter to end the inning. After one, it was a scoreless tie.
In the top of the second, the Reston bats came alive as they had done all tournament. Conor singled to left. Sal singled to right. Jake singled to score Conor. Owen walked to load the bases. Brendan picked up a big RBI as he grounded out to short for a fielders choice at second and Jake scored. Graham walked to score Jake. Matt grounded out to first who threw home to cut down Owen at the plate. Kent hit a huge single to left to score Brendan. Pete walked to score Graham. Conor smashed a long fly to right, Matt tagged and tried to score but the throw was perfect and got him by a step for a double play. Conor came back to the mound. The first batter singled to center. A strikeout and a popup caught by Pete at short resulted in out two. Conor blasted three strikes by the leadoff batter to strike him out for the second time on the day and after two, Reston fans cheered with a 5-0 lead.
In the top of the third the Reston all stars threatened to put up more runs. Sal hit a long fly out to right. Jordan hit a sharp grounder to second where the Predators made a nice play for out two. Justin singled. Coach Grossman signaled for a fake steal. Justin did such a good fake that he ended up halfway between first and second. The Predators were confused, messed up the rundown and Justin ended up at second. Brendan smashed what looked like a single to right, but the Predators right fielder made a great play as he picked it up and fired to first to get Brendan by a step. In the bottom of the third, the Predators rallied. The leadoff batter singled. The next batter lined out to short where Pete made a nice grab for out one. A strikeout made this look like it might be an easy inning. It was not to be. Two more walks loaded the bases. The next batter singled to right and a very rare misplay in the outfield sent the ball to the wall and two runs scored.
A couple of wild pitches and walks scored another run. Coach Grossman called to the bullpen and brought in Pete. This reporter notes that its nice to be able to go to the bullpen and bring in a pitcher like Pete. Conor had thrown 78 pitches, 34 of which had been in the third inning. Conor left the game with six strikeouts in 2 and 2/3 innings and only three hits. He had clearly held the Predators and enabled Reston to jump to an early lead. Pete came in and struck out the hapless leadoff man for his third strikeout of the day. After three, Reston fans were on the edge of their seats with the score Reston All Stars 5 Predators 3.
The all stars picked up some key insurance runs. Graham drilled a long shot to right that was a clear double. Graham flew around second and Coach Grossman told him to try for third. This reporter has no idea why Coach Grossman was willing to take such a risk and he thinks Coach Grossman might need to spend some time in T-ball to learn a little more about this sort of thing. A good throw would have nailed Graham and probably forced the Reston All Star ownership to really think hard about why Coach Grossman is on the payroll. Luckily for Coach Grossman, the throw was off line and Graham slid in safely. This reporter noticed Coach Grossman looking a little pale and his heart appeared to be racing. Kent came through again with an infield single to score Graham.
Pete drove a long single to right to score Kent and he tried to stretch it to a double and he was thrown out at second by a step. Of course on the next pitch, Conor blasted a long triple to right but he ended up not scoring as the Predators pitcher settled down and ended the inning. In the bottom of the fourth the first batter singled. The next batter popped out to the mound where Pete made a nice catch for out one. The next batter dribbled one in front of the plate that Matt picked up but had no play. Pete struck out the next batter. Two walks led to a run. Pete settled down and got the next batter to ground out to Conor at short who flipped to Sal at second for out three.
Pete said his arm was sore so the coaching staff quickly sent Kent to the bullpen. This closed the book on Pete who went 1 and 1/3 key innings, struck out two and gave up only one run. He threw 42 pitches on the day. After four it was still a nail-biter at Reston All Stars 7 Predators 4.
After one out, Owen led off with a walk. Brendan laid down a beautiful sacrifice bunt and Owen move to second as Coach Grossman really wanted to scratch across another run. He knew Graham had just tripled and figured Graham was good for another one. It was not to be and the side was retired, but it was fun to try. Kent came to the mound for his first appearance of the tournament and after one hit batter to start things off, he looked sharp. The next batter grounded into a fielders choice. A couple of wild pitches moved him to third. The next batter hit a long fly that Owen tracked down and caught for out two, but a run did score. The next batter blasted a line drive to Owen in left who came in and made a great catch for out three. Only one run had scored and Reston was now three outs from the championship. After five it was Reston All Stars 7 Predators 5. Those Predators just wouldn’t go away and now the whole stadium was excited.
In the top of the sixth, Matt lined a single to center. A passed ball put him on second. Kent faked a bunt and Matt stole third to put him on third with no outs. Unfortunately, the exhausted 2-3-4 hitters had hit so much all tournament the law of averages caught up with them and Matt was left on third.
And so it came down to the bottom of the sixth. The first batter lined a shot to right center. The next two batters walked to load the bases. That’s right gentle reader, bases loaded, no outs, winning run on first. Coach Grossman started mumbling about how he just is not paid enough for this sort of thing and his heart certainly is not getting younger.
He went to the mound and brought in…..Conor. That’s right, under Cal Ripken rules, a pitcher can return the mound if he is not removed from the game. Conor glared at the number seven hitter and threw heat. STRIKE ONE. The next pitch, more of the same: STRIKE TWO. Another one and a high popup that Kent camped under and caught for out one. The infield stayed back, playing for an out. Conor ran the number eight batter to a 3-2 count. The pitch was a nice fastball and it was a SWING AND A MISS for STRIKE THREE. Reston fans cheered happily. Two outs, bases loaded, championship game. The stuff of novels, oh the drama. Conor got the sign and fired. STRIKE ONE. After a couple of balls, the count went to two balls and two strikes. Conor reared and fired, POP the ball hit the mitt. It looked like strike three and the ump called TIME!!! Time? asked the Reston dugout. We didn’t ask for time. Well, a Reston player had alertly noticed that his shoes were untied and requested sufficient time to properly tie them. Coach Grossman was thinking about requiring all players to wear Velcro cleats in the future. Conor checked the runners, got the sign and fired and POP in the MITT again for STRIKE THREE!!!!! Reston fans rejoiced. Final Score: Reston All Stars 7 Predators 5.
Coach Grossman said, “I just don’t think I’ve coached a tougher to coach game. I am as tired as I have ever been from coaching a game. This was a fantastic team to coach and we overcame a number of injuries and kept battling and ended up winning a game against an outstanding team. Those Predators were very solid and its a tribute to our guys for staying tough and not giving up a hard-earned lead. “
Coach Galloway by phone said he was “thrilled” and was “so very proud” of this team.
This reporter wishes everyone a great summer and just wants to thank all the players for a weekend he will never forget.