Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Pitching to Towering Redheads


This story is true, I swear it's true, especially the parts I made up.

My daughters' fast pitch team played a tournament in middle Michigan last weekend.

In the first game of the tournament, they faced their toughest challenge in a team wearing red jerseys. These girls were at the older end of the age bracket with fourteen and fifteen year old girls. Our team was a year or two younger.

Our team, the Wildcats, were wearing their most intimidating black uniforms – with Wildcats scripted in bright red across the front.

Our starting pitcher Chantel is a very good pitcher. She throws fast and accurate. She is very effective. On this day though Chantel did very well to hold the opposition to only four runs in three innings.

In the fourth inning, my eldest daughter Alannah came in to pitch. She was throwing very well too, but runners were still getting on base. With bases loaded, a young lady stepped to the plate who towered above all the other players. She was as strong as she was tall. She had curly red hair and freckles that almost covered a sneer of confidence that would make Elvis look insecure.

Alannah threw her best pitches at her, but the third pitch caught too much of the plate and this young lady smashed it as hard and as long and as far as I have ever seen a ball hit in this division. The outfield fence sat 300 feet away from home plate, and this young lady hit the ball to that fence on one bounce.

She crossed home plate before our talented outfielders could even get the ball back into the infield. She crossed the plate to the salute of high fives from the three others that crossed before her.

Even though Alannah was pitching so well, she had just given up her first grand slam.

Our second game was rained out. We were drenched in the downpour racing for our cars.

Driving home, as Ashley-Rae slept in the backseat, Alannah and I discussed the event of the Grand Slam and the towering powerful young lady who hit it.

"I threw her my best stuff, Dad"

"Yes, and I never saw a softball fly so far", I replied. "Was the ball still round when they finally threw it back to you?"

"Shut up Dad"

Alannah sat quiet for a minute.

"Sometimes, Alannah, you can't strike everybody out", I finally said breaking the silence. "She hit Chantel pretty hard too".

"So what do you do then? The next time I face her. What do I do? Do I walk her?"

"I wouldn't waste the energy of throwing her four pitches", I replied. "I'd hit her".

"Dad, you're not supposed to say that", replied Alannah, a glare of slight shock that I would even suggest such a thing"

"Yup, maybe so. But I would hit her. I might say 'I'm sorry after. And if she came up again, I would say 'you know the drill', and I would hit her again.

Alannah kept looking at me.

"Does she respect you right now?" I asked.

"No"

"She will after you peg her in the butt a few times with a fastball"

That was all that was said.

The next day when we arrived at the park to play the game rained out the night before, Alannah joked with a couple of her team mates about what we talked about. She told Chantel, the starting pitcher, she told Maddie the third baseman, and she told Lilly who catches. And I guess they discussed it, and in the end it sounds like they all agreed.

But what were the odds they would even play that team again?

Well, those odds were much better than any of us suspected. 

Our Wildcat girls in black uniforms went on to win their next three games. And the Gold Medal game was now set for 8:30 PM under the lights of the main diamond. Their opponent of course was the same red uniformed team that had beaten them the night before. And of course the towering redheaded left-handed batter.

Chantel had pitched a lot that day, and she had pitched very well. But that was enough for one day, so Coach Sue gave Alannah the mound to start the game.

I must say, this was the most motivated that I had ever seen Alannah pitch. She threw her whole body through the pitch, and let out a grunt as she released the ball that was louder than any grunt ever grunted by Monica Seles. Her accuracy was dead on, and her velocity was as fast as I had ever seen her. Her eyes were focused and concentrated. And with each pitch she gained a little bit more of a confident sneer that would make Elvis look insecure.

She held her own with that red uniformed team. She held them off. And the second inning, who led off, but the towering redhead. Alannah's eyes met the sneering redhead's. And Alannah sneered right back at her.

Lilly who was catching behind the plate, winked at Alannah through her mask and yelled to the fielders, "Here we go!".

And then, with all her might she fired her first pitch at the powerful left-handed batter.

"Strike!" yelled the umpire as he pointed a strike call with his finger. The pitch came in hard and fast and made the redhead back off the plate, but it caught just the black edge of the plate for a strike.

The ball hit Lilly's mitt with a loud snap.

The redhead looked at Alannah, who simply sneered larger.

The next pitch came in even harder and even more inside forcing the redhead to back away to dodge the ball, but she swung the bat in self-defence.

"Strike TWO" yelled the umpire.

Alannah sneered even harder at the redhead. The redhead didn't sneer back.

"Let's get her Alannah!" shouted Lilly.

The next pitch came in even faster, this time at the redhead's helmet-protected noggin. The redhead fell to the dirt to avoid the pitch.

"BALL" screamed the Ump. "One ball two strikes ladies".

Lilly punched her mitt as Alannah stared in. Her sneer glaring even more confidently now.

Now, Alannah had two strikes on her. And in my mind as I watched from the stands, I thought to myself "Oh my goodness, she's going to strike her out".

This time when Alannah uncoiled with her pitch, she wasn't looking at Lilly's glove. She was looking at the redhead. And as the pitch came in with all the strength that Alannah could muster, all the redhead could do was turn away. And that's when Alannah's fastball caught the redhead dead square in the right buttocks.

The redhead dropped her bat and lumbered to first, rubbing her butt as she did.

"Sorry!" Alannah said to the redhead – her sneer still sneering.

After the game, as Alannah was showing me her silver medal, I asked her about the redhead.

"You almost struck her out" I said. "You had two strikes on her?"

"I did?"

"Yes, I was sure you were going to get her"

"I did, Dad. But she wouldn't stand still. I had to chase her all over the batter's box to do it!"


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