Dateline: Browns Chapel
After a brief rain, the sun came out about an hour before gametime tonight at Browns Chapel as the Cards closed out their opening day homestand with a match against the Tigers. Conor took the mound and quickly picked up where he left off with another brilliant outing. He struck out the first batter, gave up two walks to make it interesting, and then settled down and struck out the next two. Conor led off the bottom of the inning by beating out an infield single to third. He stole second and on the overthrow went to third. The throw went past the third baseman and Coach Grossman, smelling a quick score, sent him home. Alas he was out by a step at the plate. Cards fans groaned and this reporter heard some fans start to wonder whether or not Coach Grossman was signed to a long-term agreement. At any rate, after one it was scoreless at 0-0.
In the top of the second, Conor gave up an infield single followed by a couple of wild pitches to move the runner to third. Conor struck out two more, but another infield hit scored the run. So without getting the ball out of the infield, the Tigers held on to a tenuous 1-0 lead. This reporter notes that this was the first time all year that Conor had even been touched for a run and the first time that the Cards have trailed. In the bottom of the second, Jack smashed a two out single to center, but other that the Cards bats were silent. After two it was 1-0 Tigers.
Jack came on in the third and walked the first batter, but got the next batter to ground out to Austin for out one. A long double to left scored a run. A few more infield hits (most of them relatively weak as Jack looked on the mound) resulted in three more for the Tigers. Cards bats were quiet in the bottom of the third so after three it was 5-0 Tigers.
Robbie struck out the first batter, but an infield hit, a weak single to shallow left and a walk resulted in another Tiger run. Robbie settled down and struck out two of the top batters in the Tigers lineup. In the fourth, Conor led off with a hard smash to left for his second hit on the day. He stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch. With two outs, Ian hit a smash to third, and the Tigers greedily went to home to try to protect their shutout. SAFE! yelled the umpire and the Cards were on the board as Ian got a big two out RBI. After four it was 5-1 Tigers and the Cards were very much in the game.
Ian game on in the fifth and was dominant. He struck out three batters on only a few pitches as he was throwing blistering heat. In the bottom of the fifth Austin walked and moved to second on a wild pitch. Unfortunately, Cards bats were silent and Austin was left at second. After five it was still 5-1 Tigers.
The Tigers picked up a couple of insurance runs in the sixth on five walks. A long fly to right was caught nicely by Peter for his first big catch of the season. It was a huge catch for out two. Ian fed off of that momentum and struck out the Tigers cleanup hitter. In the bottom of the sixth, Conor drilled a line shot to left where the leftfielder made a nice catch. Keegan grounded out to first and with two outs, Daron drilled a shot right at the Tigers second baseman to end the game: Tigers 7 Cards 1.
Coach Goldstein in his postgame press conference said,”Our bats just never got going tonight. Their pitching was solid. I think we’ll build off of this in practice on Friday and we’ll be ready for Saturday’s game.” Coach Grossman was available briefly. Despite his obvious need to immediately work on game preparations for Saturday, he spent some time with this reporter reflecting on how well the team is progressing and what a great group of young players he has this year. He said, “I’m confident we’ll use this as a way to make our team stronger. I really appreciate how our players never gave up and our fans kept supporting us throughout the whole game. We were in it the whole time. If anyone thinks six runs is a lot — they sure haven’t seen much little league. Hats off to the Tigers. Their pitchers all had great games today — they gave up only 2 walks on the day and their defense really didn’t make any mistakes. Our pitchers were great as well — we had 15 strikeouts on the day. We clearly need to tighten up our defense a little — there were sometimes when our guys got a little flustered in the field and we need to work to remain calm and under control. Its early yet, I’ll look forward to playing the Tigers later in the season.” This reporter asked Coach Grossman what on Earth he was thinking when he sent Conor home in the first inning. “Well, I have been doing this a while and its not a play I see teams make regularly on defense. Looking back on it, it wasn’t a good risk at all since we had zero outs. I really wish you reporters would try coaching sometime.”