Game 1: Miller 11, Red Scare 2

You couldn’t have asked for better weather this morning — bright and sunny and just a little cool, but warming up as the game went on — for the opening game of the 2020 season for the … oh, hey, right, we need a team name. We could be The Red And The Black, after the Blue Öyster Cult song, or the RedBlacks, after the Canadian football team; or our team could come up with something better, which I’m sure they will eventually.

We lost the coin toss and so were designated the visiting team, with our opponents Miller the home side. Ben M started off the top of the first by smacking a line single to right-center, then stole second, but Miller hurler Samuel got three strikeouts to hold us scoreless, even if on two of them Emmett, the Miller catcher, needed to chase down wild pitches and throw the batter out at first. (One quirk of Parade Grounds Field 3, where we’ll be playing all of our games this year: huge foul territory, so expect to see even more advancing on wild pitches than usual.) Ben M was not only our leadoff hitter but also our starting pitcher, and he walked the first batter in the bottom of the frame but quickly settled down from there, though a stolen base, a wild pitch (of course), and a single to right put the game’s first run on the board.

We evened the score in the top of the 2nd after Taylor worked a leadoff walk, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and went to third on a groundout by Sam. The pitcher Samuel then tried to pick her off third, and when his throw went wild, Taylor dashed home with the tying run. Ben C and Max both worked walks as well, and Ben M turned on a pitch and grounded it down the third base line, but Miller’s third baseman charged it and threw home to peg out Ben C for the third out.

Ben M worked himself into trouble again in the bottom of the 2nd with a pair of leadoff walks, and a steal, a wild pitch, and an ill-timed balk brought home a second Miller run. Ben M struck out the next two batters, though, then induced a grounder to second that Jordan N was just able to corral and throw to Roan at first in time to get the third out.

Jordan G had been set for the second spot in the order, but arrived late (we started a little early, to make sure we’d have two hours before the next game needed to take the field), so his first at-bat was leading off the 2nd inning. And he made the most of it, pounding a double over the head of the Miller right fielder, then stealing third and scoring on yet another wild pitch to knot the score at 2.

Dylan, who’d thrown “about 40 pitches” (in his estimation) in a travel game the day before, entered in the bottom of the 3rd, and immediately gave up a long fly to center that bounced off Jordan N’s glove for an error. It hardly mattered, though, as he whiffed the next three batters — the heart of the Miller order — to keep the game tied.

In the top of the 4th, Jordan N worked a full-count walk to lead off, then — and I’m still not quite sure how or why this happened — took off for second while Samuel stood on the mound with the ball, then was safe when the throw went wild. A wild pitch sent him to third, but the next two hitters struck out; Dylan worked a walk to put runners on the corners, but another strikeout by Samuel — his 9th in four innings of mound work — snuffed out the nascent RedBlacks rally.

As Dylan had only needed 18 pitches to get through the 3rd, he headed back out to pitch the bottom of the 4th, and picked up where he left off by striking out the leadoff hitter. Unfortunately, his third strike got away from Jordan G behind the plate, who bounced the throw to Roan at first, who dropped it, putting the batter on base. Dylan went right back at it after that, though, striking out the next three hitters, making for the seldom-seen line of 2 IP, 7 K.

In the top of the 5th, with one out Ben drilled another single, making it around to third base on two more of those ubiquitous wild pitches. He was joined on base by Jordan G, who walked. Yates then hit a hard grounder to third — too hard, it turned out, as the third baseman was able to gun down Ben M at the plate. With two out, Roan drove a grounder to the left side, but the deep infield grass slowed it up just enough for the shortstop to make the play but not enough for Roan to beat the throw, and that sent us to the bottom of the 5th.

…let’s not talk much about the bottom of the 5th. Suffice to say that there were six walks, six errors, and eventually nine runs that crossed the plate. Yates and Jordan N both pitched gamely, but the game was soon out of hand, and we eventually ran into our time limit before we could attempt a miracle comeback in the 6th. Miller 11, deMause 2

Excepting that final half-inning, it was an encouraging debut performance: Our batters worked the count well, we got some timely hits and baserunning, and our pitching was solid. (More than solid in the case of Dylan.) If we’d been able to bunch a few more baserunners rather than scattering them evenly across five innings, we certainly would have ended up with more than two runs. We struck out too much and our fielding wasn’t as sharp as one might like, but those are both par for the course for the first game of any season, let alone one after an unprecedented 15-month layoff. We can try to improve on our performance a week from Tuesday, when we face off against Lieber/Marunas; with the long layoff until then, we’ll hold a practice this Thursday from 5-7 on Parade Grounds Field 2, to work on finetuning some things. Hope most of you can make it then.