Every Coach’s Dream, A True Story about Dixie Youth Baseball in Three Small Towns, by Harold A Brown
Chapter 17: Game Two In The Tournament – College Grove
The more you learn the more you realize how little you know.
The finals of the tournament would be Saturday night at College Grove.
Nolensville Red had won the Jamboree at the beginning of the season and wanted to win the tournament. They tied College Grove in the regular season, but The Grove had beaten Nolensville Red more times in the head-to-head during the regular season. Because of that they were going to be rewarded with the first place trophy.
The all-stars had been chosen, but would not be announced until after the game. The stands were full of fans from all four teams.
Rocket would get the start in their final game. Keith Bennett would lead off the top of the first with a walk. Not a good start for Rocket. Toby Pace would line out to the pitcher and Mike House hit a grounder to Lajuane at short. Lajuane threw to first for the out and Keith moved to second on the play. Rocket was told not to throw anything close for Lakeith.
If College Grove was going to win, they were going to have to do it with some of their other players. Rocket didn’t like it but he gave Lakeith a free base. While J.D. Martin was batting, Keith thought he would steal home. What was he thinking? When he made his move to home, Rocket threw a shot to Owen to record the last out.
Lajuane struck out to start the inning and Owen walked and stole second. Marty was hit by the second pitch he saw. Rocket couldn’t get the bat on the ball and was sent back to the dugout with out number two. That left Jimmy to bring Owen in. He got under the ball for an easy pop fly for Lakeith at second. Two base runners were stranded.
J.D. Martin came back to the plate and grounded to second for a force out at first. That was a big out. Martin had been hitting the ball all season. Rocket got Williams on four pitches but walked Holt. His control was not what Coach had hoped for. Lewis grounded to second and Marty threw to Lajuane who was covering second for the third out. Thank goodness for good defense.
The Red team sent four batters to the plate in the bottom of the second. Darrell struck out but Teddy reached first on a fielding error but was thrown out at second trying to squeeze that extra base. Derek walked and Frank flied out to first. Derrick was left on base.
Derek Pack: Derek loved playing sports. He was an excellent player and eventually went into coaching. Whatever he did, he was a winner. He was trying to fit in but born to stand out.
Nathan Scales was the ninth hitter for College Grove and led off the top of the third. Rocket got him on three straight pitches. Nathan was a big kid that had trouble meeting the ball. Heaven help any pitcher that hit his bat. They would still be looking for the ball. Rocket took great delight in striking out Keith Bennett. I don’t know why but there seemed to be some upmanship between the two.
Toby Pace had been moved back up in the line up and it was going to pay off for Coach Bennett. He hit a single in the gap between center and right field. Mike doubled putting runners on second and third. Sticking to the plan, Rocket gave Lakeith a free base to load the bags. J.D. Martin doubled, driving in all three runners. So much for strategy.
Things often go unseen in life and Coach wasn’t sure if the umpire had seen what he saw. At his direction, an appeal was made at third. Lakeith had not touched the bag as he rounded it for home. It was a successful appeal and Lakeith was called out erasing one of the runs and recording the third out. It would be a critical error for College Grove.
The Red team was back to the top of their order. Lajuane got his base on balls. Owen got a fielder’s choice that forced Lajuane out at second. Marty came to play and doubled to score Owen. Rocket hit the ball so hard that he forced and infield error that scored Marty. The game was tied. Jimmy liked what he saw Rocket do and he did the same.
Runners were now on second and third. Mike struck Darrell out and got a pop up from Teddy for the final out of the third. The bottom four batters in Coach Bennett’s line up were weak hitters. Rocket knew that but knowing and being able to do something about it wasn’t always easy. He struck out Williams on three pitches. Holt hit the second pitch back to the mound for a throw out at first base. Harris did the same and got the same results. Derek would lead off the bottom of the fourth with a shot back to the mound and was thrown out at first. Frank doubled and stole third. Lajuane struck out and Owen grounded to second for a force at first. Frank was left stranded at third.
Hazlewood had taken Nathan’s place but repeated the same results. Out number one. Keith struck out for the second time in a row. Toby walked and Mike doubled him home putting them ahead by one.
Rocket pleaded with Coach to let him pitch to Lakeith. Coach should have stuck with the plan but he wanted to show that he had confidence in his pitcher. It was certainly a chance to build character. Rocket was way ahead in the count when Lakeith got his single, driving in Mike at second. Two runs ahead. J.D. Martin singled in Lakeith. Three runs ahead. Williams struck out on three pitch and the bleeding was stopped.
Mike came back to the mound to start the bottom of the fifth. He had to be tired but he was the best they had even though tonight wasn’t one of his better games. With three runs down the Red team had a chance to prove something or fold. Marty led off with a double. He would finish the season with a team high batting average of .667 and an on base percentage of .773. I don’t think he cared about that one bit, he wanted to win this last game against College Grove.
Coach Bennett made what he thought was the best move possible to preserve the lead. Lakeith Vaughn moved to the mound and Mike took over second. With Lakeith you just had to be patient at the plate. He threw hard but his control was still suspect. In fairness, most batters were glad to take three swings and go sit down rather than take a chance on being hit. That was not the case with Coach’s boys. Rocket was patient and drew a walk. Jimmy hit a high fowl ball on the first base side and J.D. Martin made the catch for the first out.
Darrell was as smart as Rocket and made Lakeith throw strikes but he could not throw enough of them so Darrell got a free base. They were loaded with Teddy coming to the plate. He had been hitting the ball all night but not for base hits. With Lakeith ahead in the count one and two, Teddy tripled to the fence and cleaned all three off the bases. The game was tied once again. Derek took enough time at the plate for Teddy to do what he did to Rockvale. To make it sweeter he stole the base on Keith. The Red team was ahead by one. Derek struck out as did Frank. Five innings were in the book.
Because Rocket had pitched one inning at Rockvale he was not eligible to pitch in the sixth. Darrell moved to the mound and Jimmy took first. Rocket parked it at third after giving his best on the mound. Darrell would be facing their seven, eight and nine batters. He had a good defense behind him. All he had to do was throw strikes. Nothing for free. He struck out Holt and caught a pop fly off of Lewis who had reentered the game.
Big Nathan Scales had re-entered hoping to make some sort of contact. An act of desperation. Darrell recognized the danger and pitched very carefully to the big guy. The tying run was on base even though he was very slow and had only a slim chance of stealing on Owen. Keith was back up. He hit a ground ball down the first base line at Jimmy. Time seemed to stand still as Jimmy prepared himself to scoop up the ground ball. After what felt like an eternity he fielded that ball and stepped on first for the final out and the win. Darryl dropped on the mound as if he had been shot. Coach could see what that game meant to him and the others.
The more you learn the more you realize how little you know.
College Grove 5, Nolensville Red 6