Tournament Game 2: SFX Anderson 10, Legal Weed 3

As we prepared for our game today against SFX Anderson, we had one hope in our back pocket: Jonathan Lai, their ace who shut us out back in April, had according to the PSAL website thrown a seven-inning one-hitter for Beacon on Friday. He threw an inning in Anderson’s Saturday win over Miller as well, so we didn’t expect to see him in our game. So it was with some surprise, on a bright sunny morning on Field 3, that we saw him take the mound for the first inning.

Jonathan set the top of the Legal Weed lineup down in order in the 1st, though Sam did manage a long flyout to center. That sent us to the home half of the inning, as Sam took the mound for the Weed, following Ben M’s 108-pitch effort yesterday. (Dylan was present, but threw 95 pitches in a tournament game yesterday, so was unavailable to pitch.) Sam had last pitched back on May 16, and showed a little rust early, walking the Anderson leadoff hitter, Haskell. A couple of pitches later, Haskell took off for second, and Jordan G’s throw trickled into the outfield. Center fielder Jordan N hustled in, grabbed the ball, and threw it well over the head of third baseman Max, allowing the first run to score.

Jonathan was up next, and lined a single to left. Sam hit the next batter, catcher Dash, and they moved up on a wild pitch. Sam struck out his Anderson namesake for the first out, then got a line drive to center that Jordan N raced in on to make a last-second leaping catch. The next batter, Isaac, hit another liner to center, which Jordan N played on a hop — or was about to play on a hop, until the hop went five feet to his left, the ball rolling until a passerby in the outfield (we have way too many passersby in the outfield this year) stopped it with her foot. Jordan N signaled the ump that the ball should be dead, but the batter was already almost to third with a triple, and the ump (John Ottavino, dad of the Red Sox’ Adam) ruled that he should stay there. The next batter flied out, yet again to Jordan N in center, but the Weed were now facing a 3-0 deficit.

Roan led off the top of the 2nd with a line single to left, but was stranded there as the next three Weed hitters went down in order. (Taylor managed a liner to left, but right at the left fielder.) In the bottom of the 2nd, Sam settled in, striking out two in a scoreless inning.

In the top of the 3rd with one out, we finally got something going on offense. Dylan started it off with a looping fly ball down the right field line that dropped in, inches fair, for a single. Ben C worked a walk, then Jonathan plunked Jordan N between the shoulder blades to load the bases with one out. Jordan G then smacked a grounder down the first-base line, which the Anderson first baseman fielded, thought about throwing home, and then retreated to first base with for the sure out as Dylan scored the Weed’s first run of the game. The next hitter grounded back to the mound, and that was that.

In the bottom of the 3rd, hoping to give the top of the Anderson order a different look, I called on Ben M to pitch in relief, on a strict pitch count after yesterday’s marathon. Unfortunately, though probably understandably, he wasn’t quite as sharp as yesterday, giving up an infield hit, a walk, a single to shallow center, two more walks (the home plate ump, our old reliable Phil who worked many of our games this year, wasn’t giving him anything at the corners), a grounder back to the mound that Ben M threw home with to Jordan G for one out but the relay to first was just too late for the double play, an RBI groundout, and a grounder to second that Taylor couldn’t field cleanly. The final damage: five more runs, and an 8-1 Anderson lead.

Undeterred, with one out in the top of the 4th, the Weed bats lit up again. Max dropped a nearly identical duck snort down the right-field line to Dylan’s the inning before, for a single, then stole second. Taylor followed by beating out a grounder to third for an infield hit, moving up to second as Max scored when the throw went wild. Yates then hit another ball to the same fielder, whose throw again pulled the first baseman off the bag, and we had runners on the corners. Ben M followed with a long fly to center that was deep enough to score Max, but that was all the scoring we would muster in the inning, leaving our deficit now 8-3.

My plan had been to turn to Ryan to pitch to the bottom of the Anderson order, but thanks to that endless 3rd inning, we were back to the top again, so Ben M stayed in for one final inning. It didn’t go a ton better, thanks in part to some iffy fielding: Jonathan beat out a grounder to the right side and stole second; Sam delivered a two-out single that snuck through the left side to score him and went to second when the ball skipped past left fielder Yates, stole third, and scored on a grounder to third that Dylan threw wildly to first, allowing the batter to go to second. Jordan G made a tremendous pickoff throw down to shortstop Leon to get the third out, but we were once again down by seven runs, 10-3.

And that’s where it stayed. Ryan came in and did a terrific job out of the bullpen, setting down Anderson 1-2-3 in the 5th and keeping them off the board in the 6th as well, despite three straight singles by the top of the order. In the top halves of the innings, against the diminutive but dominant Jonathan, who ended up pitching a complete game, we managed only a single by Jordan G (the Anderson shortstop made an incredible diving stop to keep it from getting through to the outfield, but had no play) in the 5th and a two-out walk by Leon in the 7th. Leon stole second — barely — and then tried for third and was not even close, and that was the ballgame. SFX Anderson 10, Legal Weed 3

It was a disappointing result, but really not surprising at all: Facing Jonathan — “a buzzsaw,” as Roan’s dad texted me later in the day — and forced to rely on tired and/or untested pitchers, our team put up a valiant effort, but had a nearly impossible mountain to climb: We had to be perfect to win this one, and while we played decently and with heart, “decent with heart” wasn’t going to do it against this opponent and this pitcher.

The loss now sends us to the dreaded “elimination bracket,” which is exactly what it sounds like: One more loss, and our season is over. We’ll try to get back in the win column on Wednesday at 6 pm (on Prospect Park Field 3 yet again) vs the winner of Tuesday night’s game between 78 Horowitz (who beat 78 Nachsin today, I think 5-2) and 78 France (who were trounced by 78 Shiffman yesterday, something like 14-0). Thanks to various graduations and other commitments, we’ll only have nine players for this one — Sam, Max, Roan, Ben M, Yates, Dylan, Shiloh, Ellis, and Taylor — so let’s be there on time and ready to earn the right to play again on Friday evening.