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The Championship Game

February 21, 2014

THE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

by Jerry Blackerby

Lakeland High meets Miller High for the district championship. Each team had excellent seasons and it all comes down to one game. The friendly competition between the rival schools is intense. Players from both teams compete in the same summer recreation leagues and have been teammates and competitors since early childhood. They are all friends, but very competitive.

Kevin, a sophomore, is the Lakeland High starting pitcher and Jeremy, a senior, is in center field. Both Kevin and Jeremy pitch. Jeremy is the starting centerfielder and Kevin replaces Jeremy in centerfield when Jeremy pitches.

Lakeland High is home team and Miller High is batting first. Kevin strikes out the first batter. The next two batters make outs. Kevin is pitching well.

James, the Miller High starting pitcher, is pitching well also. Miller High shuts down Lakeland High in the bottom of the first, three up and three down.

Lakeland High scores one run in the second and again in the fourth inning. Miller High gets one man on in each of three innings, but no score. Miller High leaves three stranded in the sixth inning. Jeremy strikes out to lead off the sixth inning. As he comes back into the dugout, disgusted, coach says, “Jeremy, warm up. You may be needed.”

Jeremy grabs a glove and ball and goes to the warm up mound. Lakeland High strands two men in the bottom of the sixth and takes the field for the seventh and last inning.Coach tells Jeremy, “Jeremy, take center, but be ready to come in. Kevin, see if you can close it out.”

Kevin showed some weakening in the sixth. No in the seventh, he walks the first batter with a 3-2 count. He walks the second batter after a 3-1 count. He walks the third batter with four straight balls. Kevin looks at coach in the dugout. Coach says, “Get the next one.”

The score is Lakeland High 2 and Miller High 0. Bases are loaded with no outs. Kevin throws three straight balls. None are even close to the strike zone. Coach comes out of the dugout and heads for the mound. He motions for Jeremy from center field. Kevin hands Jeremy the ball and the two exchange gloves. Kevin heads for center field. Jeremy throws eight warm-up pitches.

The batter is James, starting pitcher for Miller High, and a teammate with Jeremy for three years in the summer league. James steps into the batter’s box. Jeremy winds up and throws a fastball for a strike. The count is 3-1. Jeremy winds up and throws again. James fouls this one off. Jeremy throws six more pitches in the strike zone and James fouls each one. Jeremy and James each have a determined look, but are grinning at each other. Jeremy winds up and throws a curve for strike three—one down.

Michael comes to bat and Jeremy throws a fastball on the inside corner. Michael takes the pitch for strike one. Jeremy throws a curve that breaks across the plate for a called strike two. Michael pops the third pitch to deep left field for the second out. The runner on third tags and makes it home just ahead of the throw. The runners advance on the throw home. The score is now 2 to 1. Jeremy has thrown 12 straight pitches in the strike zone. Runners are on second and third.

Justin, the Miller High catcher, comes to bat with a grin on his face. Justin and Jeremy have been teammates for four years in summer leagues. Justin had called Jeremy earlier in the day and bragged that if he had a chance, he would hit a home run off Jeremy.

Jeremy winds up and throws a curve that breaks into the strike zone for called strike one. The next pitch is ball one. Jeremy winds up and throws his fastball down the middle. Justin swings and the ball heads down the left field line. It definitely is going over the fence, but curves just foul. A few inches different and it would have been a three run home run.

Jeremy knows Justin loves a fastball. He throws a change-up that drops out of the strike zone for ball two. He throws curve balls for the next three pitches and Justin fouls each one. Jeremy then misses with a curve ball for ball three. The count is 3-2.

Jeremy winds up and throws a low fastball. The runners are moving with the pitch. A hit anywhere out of the infield will tie the game, at least. Justin reaches down and hits a long, high fly ball to center field. Kevin turns and runs toward the warning track at the crack of the bat. He camps and waits. Kevin reaches up and catches the ball.

The game is over. Lakeland High wins 2 to 1.

Copyright © Jerry Blackerby 2014

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