Game 6: 78 Steckel 9, Green Blueberries 6

For most of yesterday, it wasn’t clear whether we’d play last night’s game vs 78 Steckel or not: At mid-afternoon, the Prospect Park fields were still covered in puddles, and the park groundskeeper just shook his head and said “I dunno” when I asked if he thought they’d be playable by evening. (The much-ballyhooed renovation of the Prospect Park fields to make them drain better, apparently, hasn’t worked out too well in practice.) Our field did dry out sufficiently, it turned out, but by then we had another crisis on our hands: Steckel’s team only had seven players who could make the game, which wouldn’t be enough to play. Ultimately, by lending them our supersub Emmett (and his Grasshopper teammate Zane, who was commandeered last minute), we managed to field two nine-player teams by the 6 pm start time. (Mostly, anyway: Jordan N was still tying his shoes on the bench when the game started, but fortunately neither of the first couple of batters hit the ball to left field.)

Isaac took the mound to start the game, and whether it was the Steckel hitting, the aftereffects of a long outing four days earlier, or some lousy fielding luck — every groundball seemed to find a hole — he soon had a three-run deficit, as a hard-grounder double through the right side of the infield, a hit batter, two bloop singles and a pair of walks made it 3-0 Steckel, though Isaac did strike out two batters en route. The next batter, ringer-on-loan Zane, grounded an easy out to Nathan at short — but instead of making the short toss to force Emmett at second, Nathan threw to Ben M at first, and when the throw went wild, it was 5-0. Only a phenomenal play on the next batter by Ben M, who lunged to his right to grab a grounder, then raced back to the bag and dove head-first to tag it before the batter got there, kept the margin from getting even more lopsided.
The Green Sox (I’m still going with that name unless at least half the team can reach consensus on a different one, which wasn’t the case yesterday) roared back immediately in the bottom of the first, with Jeremy continuing his power stroke with a line drive down the left-field line that he legged out into a double by the barest of margins. (My bad for making it the barest of margins, as I was coaching first base, and if I’d thought about it probably should have told him to hold at first and then steal second for a safer way to get the same result. His slugging percentage will thank me, anyway.) Ben M then hit a hard grounder to the left side that the Steckel shortstop couldn’t come up with, and Jeremy stole third and Ben M second to put two runners in scoring position with none out. The next batter, Luke, struck out, but Steckel catcher Max Sorkin couldn’t catch the pitch; Luke raced for first and the throw went down to the first baseman, who caught it and immediately threw back to home to try to get out Jeremy there — but didn’t step on first before doing so, leaving everyone safe. Ben M and Luke then moved up on more steals, and Isaac delivered a flyout to left that plated Ben M. A walk and more steals left runners on second and third again, when Yates stepped to the plate with two outs. He went to an 0-2 count — and then Nathan intentionally wandered off second, drawing a throw and getting caught in a rundown, but managed not to get tagged until a split second after Luke crossed the plate with the Green Sox’ third run.
Steckel’s side got two runs back in the top of the 2nd, both unearned thanks to another Green Sox throwing error. Steckel starter Sam B struck out the side in the bottom of the 2nd, and when Steckel scored twice more in the top of the 3rd, aided this time by a catcher’s interference call and a throwing error by Isaac on an attempted pickoff at third, things looked bad for the home side.
Hope flickered to life in the bottom of the third, though, as the G-Sox got to Sam B for two runs, on singles by Jeremy, Ben M, Isaac, and Roan sandwiched around a walk to Luke, though Sam B struck out the final two batters to hold us there. Yates shifted from behind the plate to the mound in the top of the 4th, and worked out of a bases-loaded jam thanks to two smooth plays by Jeremy at shortstop, one a catch of a looping liner and the other a 6-3 toss to first to end the frame. In the bottom of the inning, Jordan N generated a run single-handedly in his signature style, walking, stealing second and third, and racing home easily on a wild pitch that hit the plate and skipped to the top of the backstop, leaving the score at 9-6 Steckel.
Yates worked a 1-2-3-4 5th — three outs plus a grounder to Jeremy that ended up a throwing error, though he made up for it with two fine throws on other outs in the inning. (One skipped in the dirt, but Ben M made his second highlight-reel play of the game by scooping it on one bounce for the putout.) With time running out and the skies darkening, that left us with one more chance to tie things up in the home half of the 5th.
Both Nathan and Roan made contact against Steckel reliever Solly, but ended up with nothing to show for it: Nathan’s hard-hit grounder was right at the glove of the shortstop, and Roan’s popup was easily caught by the second baseman. Yates and Zach drew walks, though, bringing up Jordan N, who seemed set for a perfect matchup against a pitcher having a hard time finding the strike zone. He worked the count to 2-0, took a pair of strikes that could be generously described as borderline, then went down swinging at a high fastball, and that was the ballgame. 78 Steckel 9, 78 deMause 6
It was a frustrating game, not because we played that badly — we hit well, stole at will (14 stolen bases total), made several excellent defensive plays, and enjoyed two innings of shutout relief from Yates — but because the few fielding errors in particular stood out for costing us runs in a game we could easily have won if we’d been more consistent with our defensive decision-making. (Weeknight games are always hard to keep focus during, but too many players having their phones out didn’t help; we’ll be trying a no-phones policy in future games to see if that makes a difference.) We’ll have plenty of opportunities to improve matters, with two doubleheaders coming up this weekend (Saturday at 10:45 am and 12:45 pm, and Sunday at 2:45 pm and 4:45 pm, the first three vs. 78 Lieber and the finale against 78 Shiffman) followed by single games on Monday and Wednesday before we finally get a bit of a breather for Memorial Day weekend. Rest up and hydrate, because it’s a baseball marathon a-coming! See you there.