After a weekend of scrambling to find enough players who could make it to Monday night’s game, the rain that started during our Sunday doubleheader took care of that problem, helping wash out four different sports (baseball, softball, soccer, and tennis) that otherwise might have kept players from making it to the field for first pitch. As for that field, Prospect Park 3, while the weather hotline had promised it was in playable condition, this turned out to be a charitable view: There were a couple of puddles of standing water in the infield, and a large muddy patch at the back of the dirt between second base and first that the umps declared to be unsafe for fielders. Their verdict: Any ball hit into that “dead zone” would be ruled dead, with the batter getting a single and all runners advancing one base. This was likely to make for some weird baseball — and oh, did it ever — but if the choice was between that and not playing, weird baseball it would be.
After our marathon on Sunday, it was left to Yates to take the mound against Camp Friendship Berger, after only one prior inning of work all year. It didn’t start auspiciously, as he hit the first batter (who was standing, for the record, maybe a half an inch off the plate). The next batter walked, then the following two lined singles to the left side, driving in a pair of runs. Yates sent the next two batters down swinging, but the one after that bounced a grounder to the right of Shiloh, who, having had to play in to stay out of the dead zone, came up a few inches short of gloving it, as the ball bounced into right for a two-run single and a 4-0 Camp Friendship lead.
The Weed came right back in the bottom of the inning: Jordan N led off with a hard shot up the middle that deflected off the Camp Friendship pitcher to the second baseman, who rushed his throw to first and sent it wild, sending Jordan N to second. Ben M followed with a grounder to the right side that ended up in the mud: Dead ball, runners on the corners. Sam then cracked a no-doubt single to left, scoring our first run. After a pair of strikeouts and a walk that loaded the bases with two out, Max delivered a hard shot to right-center, but the Camp Friendship center fielder was able to race over to make the grab and snuff out our rally.
The top of the 2nd saw three more runs score, on a massive double to right-center that Jordan N came inches away from catching (this was a very game-of-inches day) and a bases-loaded hit by pitch, putting the Weed down 7-1 with the bases still loaded and only one out. But Yates was able to work out of the jam, inducing a grounder just in front of the plate that catcher Max grabbed to make the tag on the runner heading home, and an inning-ending grounder to Roan at first.
In the bottom of the 2nd, Taylor led off with a line single to right field, and one out later, Shiloh followed with a hit to roughly the same spot. Jordan N drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases, bringing up Ben M — who crushed a ball that just evaded the reach of the backpedaling Camp Friendship center fielder (#gameofinches) and headed toward Field 5, as Ben M circled the bases for a grand slam that brought us to within 7-5.
Sam took over on the mound for the top of the 3rd, and immediately ran into some of the same control problems that had bedeviled Yates, walking the first batter, then hitting the next one (the same player who had crowded the plate vs. Yates in the 1st). After a balk (something to do with not coming to a full stop, I didn’t catch the ruling) and a strikeout, he got the next hitter to hit a grounder in front of the plate, which Max alertly grabbed and threw to first for the second out, as a run scored. The next batter lined a single to right-center, then stole second and third — then scored as Max’s throw was seemingly interfered with by the batter and went wild. (The ruling was that the throw hadn’t hit the batter, even if the batter did seemingly get tangled with Max; it looked like interference to me, but it wasn’t my call.) And now the Legal Weed were down 10-5.
In the bottom of the 3rd, Max worked a leadoff walk to start things off, stole second, then went to third on another balk. Taylor then blooped a popup to the right side — smack dab in the middle of the dead zone, so ruled an automatic single, scoring Max. Yates followed with another bloop “single” to the exact same spot, putting two runners on. After the CF starter threw two straight balls to Shiloh, his manager yanked him and brought in a reliever, a wild fireballer who finished off the walk to load the bases.
Following a strikeout, Ben M came to the plate with a chance at a second grand slam, but was instead walked to force in another run and cut our deficit to 3. Sam hit a grounder up the middle that the CF shortstop flagged down and tossed to second for the second out, as another run scored. That brought up Roan, who pulled a ball to right-center that the right fielder raced back and over for but couldn’t quite reach (#gameofinchesredux), driving in Shiloh and Sam and knotting the score at two. Walks to Dylan and Ben C followed, loading the bases for Max, who worked a 3-2 count and then looked at a ball at his ankles — which was called a strike (#gameofinchesthisisgettingridiculous), ending the inning and sending us to the 4th all knotted at 10.
With darkness fast descending, we sent Dylan to the mound to try to hold the tie and give us a shot at a win, and he delivered, following up a leadoff walk with a grounder to Roan that advanced the runner and striking out the next batter looking, before Max made a terrific throw down to Ben M at third to easily cut down the runner as he tried to steal third. (With two outs and the top of your order coming up, really?) And it was on to the bottom of the inning, in a deepening gloom. (Nighttime, I mean. The Legal Weed were in a fine fettle.)
Taylor led off with a grounder to short, and the throw pulled the first baseman off the bag — safe! But the base ump called her out? I shouted, “Oh, his foot was off the bag!” from the first-base coaching box, and our entire dugout shouted other things, and the umps conferred and reversed the call: safe. A strikeout, a walk to Shiloh, and another strikeout (this one to Jordan N, on another pitch that looked suspiciously low) brought up Ben M yet again in a position for heroics, with a walkoff win 180 feet away in the form of Taylor. Several pitches into his at-bat, Ben M sliced a ball to the opposite field that hooked toward the right field line, easily deep enough and far enough from the right fielder to score the winning run if it fell fair, which it … did not, by about two feet. (#youknowthehashtagbynow) One high fastball later, Ben M went down swinging, and that was the ballgame. Legal Weed 10, Camp Friendship Berger 10
All the almost-maybe-not-quites were frustrating, to be sure, but still this was a great comeback, clambering back from 7-1 down to secure a 10-10 tie. Yates and Sam gutted through struggles with the wreck of a Field 3 mound (there is talk of a shipment of fresh dirt arriving tomorrow, fingers crossed), Dylan threw a great inning of shutdown relief after pitching in two games the day before, we piled on a bunch of hits and walks, and of course there was Ben M’s grand slam. And aside from Max’s interfered-with throw, our team made zero errors! Something to build on for Saturday’s 8:45 am doubleheader rematch with 78 Miller.