Saturday morning. The time goes by so fast here in Florida. I could tell from the minute the Sun came up and hit our window, that this was going to be the best day, weather-wise, we've had. No early morning Fog, not a cloud in the sky. After a quick breakfast and rehashing some Borat-isms with the Crew (Cheerios?..you like?...how much?... Thunder, it's sooo nice to see you this morning...pause...), we were off to the Complex for the last full day of baseball. Driving down Tuttle, we noted the scene of Duse's near arrest at the hands of Barney Fife, and tried to do justice to Duse's side splitting version of the events. Then a left on 10th and past the Reds Baseball Head ... a right on N Euclid and past the cool mini diamond where the high-end Reds players work on infield grounders..and finally a right into the Clubhouse parking lot where the managers can park. It was warm, short sleeve weather already. It was going to be a hot Sarasota day with a blue cloudless sky. A perfect baseball day.
The Smithereens are a nice bunch of guys who are regulars at the Tournament. They are an OK, but not great, team. Being from the 'All Star' Division, they were divisional contenders, and eventually earned the right to be squashed like Bugs by the Mighty Thunder in the Finals.
But seriously, being on a 3 game skid, we could use a well played game and a Win. The Stadium was BEAUtiful! We warmed up in right field, played some pepper and just soaked it in. Weeks later, when you are back in cold, dark New England, it seems like a dream. At this moment, there was no doubt how lucky I was to be here, at this place, with these guys; how lucky we ALL were.
MonCapitan had managed to score the 1st base dugout, a first for us in 4 tries, so we could expect a little shade. To Floridians this is the dead of Winter, to us the heat and sunshine is still a shock. This morning, MonCapitan, Hammer and 2-Tee will have the mound duties. So with NO further adoo...PLAY BALL!!
MonCapitan looked real good from my perch in right field. He was working quickly and has a little 'pop' on his fastball. He is pretty reliable out there and calmly pitched around a single and an error to retire the Smithereens in the top of the first. With no clouds in the sky and a brilliant sun, the Stadium, and especially the outfield, looked like Montana.
Hammer worked a walk to open the Nor'easter first, and with 1 out, Duse reached on catcher's interference. "Mike" worked another walk, and then the Nor'easter squall hit.
2-Tee, Supe, Ski and Ice stroked base hits, throw in a Smithereen's error, and we had a Niiiiiiice 6-0 lead. It had been 2 days between leads for the Nor'easter 9!
MonCapitan was breezing. He was pounding the strike zone and retired 5 Smithereens on K's through 3 2/3rd innings. We were breezing along with a 6-0 lead and were already thinking about the bottom of the 4th.
Not so fast....
MonC's right arm gas tank was reading 'E' but we didn't notice in time. And before 'AAA' showed up with Hammer, and we got back on the road, we were down 8-6 and were having Deja-Vu, all over again.
I realized that I was on deck and hustled down to the Dugout in time to see Ice walk. I walked on 5 pitches. Joltin' and Nails walked as well, for a run. With 2 outs and 2 runs in (1 scored on an error), the score was tied when Duse got a huge 2-out base hit driving in a run and giving us back the lead 9-8. We stretched the lead in the 5th, 13-8, with ribbi's by Fluff, Joltin' and Nails.
Hammer was cruising.
Hammer was touched for 2 runs in the 6th on 3 singles. I am reminded of this inning every day. Borgmeyer lined a ball off my chest at 2nd base and I still have a lump there. That kind of hurt, to be honest.
Son of a Gun, if the Smithereens didn't take the Frackin' lead again in the 7th! A 7th inning uprising produced 5 more runs and a 15-13 lead. So, in the bottom of the 8th, we had 6 outs left to save ourselves from loss #4, heading into the Brewers Game.