One Last Shot… A Real Life Baseball Story (Season 2, Vol. 7) – We Did It!
by Paul Semendinger, September 14, 2020
We did it. We finally did it. We won!
We won our first baseball game of the year! And, oh my did the team play well.
Playing on the field behind Somerville School for the first time this year, our new home for the remainder of the season, we found our way into the win column. On this day the team from Newark was no match for our squad from Ridgewood.
After I threw a scoreless first inning, getting out of a bases loaded situation, the Ridgewood bats came alive. Bam! Bang! Line drives, deep flies, and rockets abounded. After one inning, we led 4-0.
I never realized I had such a high leg kick when I pitch.
I then sailed through the second inning and the bats came through again (including a line drive single off the bat of none other than …me. I even scored a run.). After two innings, we led 8-0. Good times.
The only question in my mind by then was, could we hold on? Could I?
Flashback to the last game of August, our previous game, on August 30. We led after five innings, and then six, and then seven. As the game progressed, our lead went from five runs to one, to no runs and we lost a heart breaker on a walk-off single in the bottom the ninth. It was as close as we had ever been to tasting victory. I had gone five innings and left with the lead. I was thinking that that day just might be the day we all finally won. It just wasn’t to be. We couldn’t hold them off. Still, we were getting closer.
Because we were short players that day, I even had to bat – and I actually had two hits. I had an infield single and then a long double to right center. If you are reading this and are surprised that I actually hit the ball, think of how I felt. Those were my first two hits in a baseball game since 1985. (I wish I was exaggerating, but I’m not.)
Still, as I noted, we were getting closer.
As I have chronicled, we had come close to winning a few times this year. More often than not, the reason we lost rested on my 52-year-old arm. I wasn’t able to hold the leads we’d get.
Which brings us back to today.
After two innings, I had an eight run cushion to work with…
I gave up a run in the third.
I gave up a run in the fourth.
And we stopped scoring.
Heading into the fifth, we were up 8-2. (When I am your starting pitcher, that’s much too close for comfort.)
In the fifth inning, Newark failed to score. We then got a run. It was 9-2. (That felt a little better.)
In the sixth inning, I threw four total pitches… these resulted in a fly out, a ground out, and a line out. That was going to be my last inning, but it went so quickly, that Coach gave me the ball for the seventh.
The seventh didn’t go as well. With two outs, and a runner on, gave up two long loud doubles that led to two runs. Now it was 9-4 and I was thinking that I might blow it again.
Facing doom, I struck out the final batter I faced on a hard high fastball. (I might never have throw any pitches harder than the ones I was throwing to that batter.)
We then batted in the bottom of the frame. I knew my day was done. I wrapped my right arm in ice.
We scored a run, then two, and then three… Ethan came up and walked. He was on first with one out as the potential fourteenth run. If he’d score, we would have a ten run lead after seven innings which would give us the victory…
Ethan stole second.
Ethan then advanced to third on a run scoring out that put us within one run of a win.
And, a pitch or two later, a line drive single scored Ethan with the game winner. Our ten run lead after seven innings ended the game.
We won! WE WON!
Oh what a feeling!!!
I have to admit, I didn’t know if it was possible. A year and a half ago, the thought of playing baseball was the last thing on my mind. I had figured that my baseball days were long behind me. It had been 34 years since I last played hardball.
But I decided to give it a try. And it has been so much fun. My goodness, I’d pitch every day if someone would let me. Still, losing week in and week out isn’t always a joy.
And we have now tasted victory.
In my second season as a pitcher, I finally helped lead my team to victory. They did all the work – they made the plays, all of them, when the balls were hit to them. They had the big hits. I just stood and pitched and did my best.
And on this day it was enough.
Oh what a feeling!
by Paul Semendinger
September 14, 2020