The final HDL game of the 2013 Season had as much baseball drama and thrills as what we have all been watching on TV in the MLB World Series. I don’t know about you, but it seems in every game of this year’s World Series there are dramatic moments in almost every inning. A big hit, a clutch catch of a ground ball, a base running error, a pick-off out or run-down play, a caught stealing, a critical strikeout, an almost double-play. Managers or players huddling to discuss strategy, players exploding with emotion when situations don’t go their way, helmets cracked apart as they are smashed to the ground. Yes, baseball is full of drama. Drama that only passionate players can generate.
Well the HDL players are not that much different from Major League players. In last Sunday’s final championship game between Lomax Orange and Peterbilt Red, the players of both teams approached this game in similar ways. Serious and anxious to get to the final result. Those who recognized a baseball game is a “process” were best suited to focus on the pitch-by-pitch opportunities that had to be maximized.
First Three Innings:
Kevin High liked this pitch!
After conducting a coin toss to determine Home Team, Peterbilt Red had to bat first and immediately, lead-off hitter, Jose Ortiz, ripped a line-drive into left center on a pitch Andrew “Wacha”-dell layed in the heart of the strike zone. With Nick Harris at the plate, Jose needed to steal second base so Nick could drive him home. But Lomax catcher, Mike Morris was ready. As soon as Jose was seen running, Morris caught the pitch and fired a laser to second base where Lomax second baseman, Larry Rutledge, was quickly in position to apply the tag on the sliding Ortiz. One Out.
On the next pitch, Nick Harris’s hard hit ground ball on the shortstop side of 2nd was fielded by Orange Shortstop Kevin High who fired to Larry Hunsucker for out number two. Bo McMinn reached base on an error and was left stranded on base on Adam Wasson’s fly-out to Orange right fielder, Dave Dillard.
In bottom of the first, Larry Hunsucker extended his league lead in Base-on-balls to 26. With Hunsucker on first, Orange shortstop, Kevin High liked the first pitch he saw and sent in to the fence in left field scoring Hunsucker. Orange next batter, Andrew Waddell, was retired on a soft line drive to Patrick Belote at 3rd base. Cory Morgan struckout for out #2. Tony Lomax reached first on a misplayed ground ball that scored Waddell. And just like that, Lomax Orange team established what their offensive approach was going to be in this championship contest. The inning ended on David Dillard’s infield hit on a slow roller that was picked up by Bo McMinn. Bo immediately noticed Tony Lomax was wide on his turn past 2nd base. Bo’s throw behind Lomax to Ortiz got Tony in a pickle, 6-4-6.
The 2nd inning was more of the same excitement as displayed in the 1st inning. Peterbilt 3rd baseman, Patrick Belote led off the inning with a solid Double to the fence. Next batter, Paul Baioni battled hard and worked a Walk and then stole second base on the first Waddell pitch to J. Houghton. Waddell was pitching well and successively K’d: Houghton, Tollison and McPhail. Not to be outdone, Nick Harris in bottom of 2nd, struckout Morris, Kurt Adkison flied to Left field, and got Rutledge on a backward K.
Nick Harris on the Mound
This momentum carried forward to the top of the 3rd Inning as Jose Ortiz hit a good pitch but his fly ball to right field was caught by Dave Dillard, one out. Nick Harris batted next and showed everyone why he is one of the top 5 best hitters in the HDL this year. Nick launched a shot off Waddell that looked immediately like it had a chance to clear the fence. But Nick’s ball landed halfway up the fence for a stand-up double, This was an easy RBI for next batter, Bo McMinn. Bo’s hit went to right field. Throughout the game, Peterbilt batters steadily pushed the pitched baseball from Waddell toward right field. This was smart hitting by Peterbilt batters. Anyway, Bo scored on Adam Wasson’s RBI single. Now the score in game was 2-2.
In the bottom of the 3rd, Lomax Orange repeated their offense in the first inning: Hunsucker singled, Kevin High doubled, Andrew lined back to the pitcher but Nick’s pick-off throw to 2nd base was into center-field and 2 unearned runs scored, Cory popped up, Lomax walked and Dave Dillard
Dave Dillard had a great day going 4 for 5 at the plate.
smashed an RBI single into the outfield to make the score 5-2. Good inning for Orange.
Middle Three Innings:
In fourth inning, Peterbilt failed to get on base. But that was not the case with Orange Team. Even though Lomax Orange’s first batter (Kurt Adkison) was hit by pitch. The next batter, Rutledge, tried to move Kurt to second by bunting. However, the bunt had some “hang time” that caused Kurt Adkison to delay his dash toward second. Result: Double Play 5-6-3. But the Orange reloaded when Hunsucker walked, Kevin High singled for his 3rd hit of the game, Andrew Waddell was first pitch swinging (single) followed by Cory Morgan single that plated 2 more runs.
In top of the 5th inning, once again Peterbilt appeared to be real close to having a big inning and possibly turn the momentum. But not if Andrew Waddell had any say in the deal. With the bases loaded and 2 outs, Paul Baioni swung and missed at strike 3. Having dodged Peterbilts big chance to turn game momentum in their favor, the Lomax team immediately made every At-Bat count, as nine batters went to the plate in bottom of the 5th. The “Hit Parade” started with Dave Dillard’s lead-off double that ended up on Third when CF, Baioni, had trouble grabbing the ball against the fence. Dillard scored on Mike Morris fly to right field that was dropped. Next hitter, Kurt Adkison, drove a curve-ball back up the middle to move Morris to third. With runners on 1st/3rd, Peterbilt made a pitching change and brought in Bo McMinn to try to keep the game with-in reach. Rutledge hit a good pitch from Bo right at shortstop (Nick) who conceded the run to try to turn a DP. While Adkison was forced out at 2nd, the relay to first was off-line and Rutledge was safe.
Larry Hunsucker scored 4 runs in the game.
Larry Hunsucker followed with his best hit of the day, a 2-bagger in the right center gap. With runners on 2nd/3rd again, Kevin High Walked to load bases. Two more runs scored on Andrew Waddell’s 2nd base-hit in 2 innings. Score was now 11-2 and situation looked grim for Peterbilt. Unknown at the time, but these were the last runs the Orange team would score for the remainder of the game. In top of 6th, Peterbilt rallied for one run when Houghton and McPhail had base-hits and Houghton scored on Ortiz ground out. Score: 11-3, Hope was alive!
Final Three Innings:
In Top of 7th, Peterbilt continued to make every at bat count. Bo McMinn shot a hard ground ball to left of Cory Morgan at 3rd, hoping he could get on base. But Cory Morgan showed why he is considered one of the best third baseman in the HDL. Cory picked-up the short hop off the ground and made a strong throw to first, Out 1. Adam Wasson was up next and Adam quickly tripled off the center-field fence and eventually score on Patrick Belotes RBI single. With only one out, Paul Baioni hit a hard grounder that Kevin High gathered into his glove and threw out Baioni. When Houghton walked to put runners at 1st/3rd, Orange team knew Andrew needed some defensive help. This is when Cory Morgan ended the rally with another clutch play when pinch-hitter, Drew Russell, hit the ball hard but Cory Morgan speared the sharp ground ball and made a perfect throw to first-base for out number 3. Game Score: 11-4. (Still a lot of game left)
The 8th inning was great example of HDL Play-off intensity and “never-say-die” baseball. The inning started off with John McPhail striking out. Jose Ortiz then had a good at bat and worked a Base-on-Balls, runner on first; 1 Out. Nick Harris came to the plate ready to “unleash Hell” if he got a pitch he liked. Nick’s double to the fence in left-center put runners at 2nd/3rd. Bo McMinn followed with another well placed solid hit through the hole between 1st/2nd. Two runs scored when Dave Dillard misplayed the ball. Adam Wasson did the same thing as Bo and put runners at 1st/3rd. Adam stole second and after Patrick Belote chased a high pitch for strike 3, Belote ran for Wasson with 2 outs. Paul Baioni ended the scoring with a well placed ground ball up the middle. Paul’s stolen base was wasted when Johnny Houghton struck-out to end the biggest rally of the game. Game score: 11-8 (Now – Anybody’s game!)
It Ain’t Over – Till it’s Over!
In top of the 9th, the Lomax Orange team knew defense and anything left in Andrew Waddell’s left arm was going to decide if they held the 3 run lead and avoid needing to bat in the bottom of the 9th.
But Peterbilt Red team, having just scored 4 runs, came to the ninth inning feeling positive they could change the final outcome. Leading off the inning, Drew Russell looked relaxed and confident at the plate. Drew completely blocked out the fact that he led the HDL in strikeouts all year long. When Drew got a pitch he could handle he put the bat on the ball and knocked it hard right back to Andrew Waddell’s left. Andrew stretched out his glove and tapped the ball toward Larry Rutledge, playing second base. Rutledge fielded the ball cleanly and fired a bullet to Hunsucker for the first out of inning. The Orange team, who were holding their breath on the play, could take a big breath and play a little more relaxed knowing the first out was “in-the-book.”
Next batter, veteran John McPhail, had a good AB when he resisted chasing any Waddell pitches that were off-the-plate. McPhail Walked. Next batter Jose Ortiz swung and missed a good pitch and popped-up to Kevin High (F-6; 2 Outs!). But Waddell was overly cautious facing Nick Harris and walked him to put 2 men on. This brought Bo McMinn to the plate. Just last week, Bo had hit a 3-run Homer off Waddell in the 9th inning. But this time, Bo took what Waddell gave him and settled for another base hit to load the bases. John McPhail probably could have scored on Bo’s hit but his run would mean nothing, especially with hot-hitting Adam Wasson coming to bat.
The stage was set. Two outs. Bases Loaded, Down by 3 runs. HDL Championship on the line. and one of the best hitters in the league at bat. It doesn’t get any better than this!
Andrew Waddell was throwing everything at Adam but the Kitchen Sink. Adam Wasson kept staying alive fouling off close pitches. Taking off-the-plate pitches to work the count to 3 and 2, full count. Two times the runners were set in motion on full count pitches only to have Adam foul off the pitch. Finally on the 3rd full-count pitch, Waddell’s pitch was gassed and up in the strike zone. Adam swung hard but the ball landed in Catcher Mike Morris’s glove to end this epic game.
The winners screamed relief, the losers moaned regrets. But both teams lined up, as they always do in the HDL, and congratulated each other for a well played baseball game. We dream of these games and will cherish them for years to come. I am blessed to say I was there and I played in this game.
“Great Season HDL. Let’s do it again next year!”
2013 HDL Champions
Lomax Insulation Orange