Game 16: Green Blueberries 9, 78 Lieber 3

Last night, we faced off again with 78 Lieber, or at least mostly 78 Lieber — they required a last-second infusion of a couple of friends and family members to field a nine-player lineup. But all was good by 6 pm, and reports of possible thunderstorms had faded away, leaving the Green Blueberries to attempt a win in their regular-season finale and final tuneup for the postseason tournament that starts this Saturday.

Lieber starter Oliver caught Jeremy looking at a third strike to lead off the first inning … and that would be Lieber’s high point in the first inning. Ben M delivered a perfectly placed bouncer that snuck between short and third, then Nathan hit a grounder that the shortstop made a wild throw on, putting runners on the corners. Luke was plunked by a pitch to load the bases, and Isaac reached on a muffed grounder by the Lieber shortstop to put the Green Blueberries on the board. Nathan was thrown out on an ill-advised steal of home for the second out, but our two-out magic worked its wonders again, as Dylan beat out a ball that the Lieber third baseman misplayed, Roan delivered a ringing two-run double to the left-center gap, Jordan N worked a walk, Zach was hit by a pitch, Jeremy worked a walk, Ben M lined a single to right, Nathan lined a single to right, and Luke was plunked by another pitch (almost catching this one behind his back). By the time it was all over, the Green Blueberries were sitting on a 9-0 lead, with Lieber’s squad yet to bat.
That, incredibly, was all the scoring our side would do — Oliver and reliever Jason would combine for four scoreless, hitless innings from there on out. Our pitching, though, was nearly as flawless, as we rolled out five separate pitchers in a “bullpen game” to tune everyone up for the tournament with short mound stints:
• Isaac pitched the 1st inning, yielding a hit and a walk but garnering a soft line drive to Roan at first and two groundouts that Luke and Ben M easily fielded for unassisted forceouts for a scoreless frame (19 pitches)
• Ben M came on for the 2nd, giving up a pair of walks but otherwise keeping the Lieber hitters in the infield with a popup and two groundouts to the right side (22 pitches)
• Yates looked set to repeat the feat in the 3rd, getting two quick outs following a leadoff single and a walk, but a mammoth clout to right-center off the bat of Max English went for a two-run triple to break up the combined shutout, and another run scored on an infield error before Yates induced a groundout to end the inning (15 pitches)
• Luke entered in the 4th, and merely struck out the side, sending three straight batters down swinging (14 pitches)
• Dylan came in to close things out in the 5th, sending the first two batters down looking, then walked the next two on full counts before delivering a perfect 3-2 pitch that batter James swung through for the third K of the inning, and the final out of the game (28 pitches) 78 deMause 9, 78 Lieber 3
Needless to say, if we pitch (and field — we only made one error on the day) like this on Saturday, we have a great chance of defeating SFX Mezzo-Lui and advancing in the winner’s bracket to face HN Meehan on Sunday morning. (If not, we get bumped to the elimination bracket, and play our next game on Wednesday.) Right now it looks like everyone (except Zach and Ganden) will be present both Saturday at 6 pm and (if we win) Sunday at 11 am; please let me know if anyone won’t be showing up or will be late, so I can plan lineups accordingly.
It was an up-and-down regular season, but I can truly say that right now this team is playing as well as any that I’ve coached. Let’s keep it going on Saturday — see you then.