Sunday, August 22, 2010

Gotham City: Hounds Survive the Crucible

After another solid regular season, it was time for the Hounds to get back on the field and pursue the ultimate goal. Following a bye week, the playoffs were upon us and we knew we had to say goodbye to the blowout victories. All the teams remaining looked pretty solid, and the double elimination format provided for much suspense. The weather was perfect and the fields were pristine, and we showed up focused. Our plan was to sweep our first two games which would take us directly to the World Series the following weekend. After lineups were exchanged, it was time to play ball.

For Game 1, we were facing a team called America's Most Wanted. The name was fitting because a couple of their guys definitely looked like they had a conviction or two. But all in all, they were a classy and scrappy team that conducted themselves well throughout. They were away team and up to bat first. Our starting pitcher was our ace, Margaret, so we knew we would have a chance to win the game. In the top of the first, AMW put 1 run on the board assisted by a couple of Hounds errors. The inning could have been a lot worse though, so at least we contained the damage. In the bottom of the first, the top of the order got us on the board with three quick runs– Iain, Dave, and Karim with the RBIs. From there, we shut out AMW, with Margaret working out of a couple of jams. 3 runs is all we would need but we continued to pour it on offensively. Iain was again the horse, going 3 for 3 with 3 RBIs. Entering the bottom of the 5th, we were up 9-1 and were feeling very good about our chances. Jason T. and Iain singled then Dave stepped up to the plate and hit a 3-run bomb that would end the game on mercy rule. AMW looked a little shell shocked. Final Score: Hounds 12, AMW 1. 

That victory took us to Game 2 which was a showdown with the other team in the winner's bracket, Grass Stains. They were a team that we didn't get to face this season, but they beat us fair and square once last season, so we knew they must have a pretty good team. Again we were the home team, and the manager saw no need to change much from the previous game. Margaret again got the ball and in the first, Grass Stains were able to string together some hits and score some runs. Let's give them credit, they made some solid contact, nothing more to it. We entered the bottom of the first down 0-4. In the bottom of the inning, we countered with 2 runs, Schimmy and Dave driving them in. We could have scored more in the inning, but Grass Stains made some nifty defensive plays on some well-hit balls. Unfortunately, our bats went silent in this game after the 1st and we were blanked in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, & 5th. Meanwhile, Margaret and the defense kept us in the game, making this one a very tense affair. We would tack on a run in the 6th, and we entered our last licks down 3-7. The first two hitters of the inning flew out but then Iain singled and Dave walked. We had something going, and Alan then stepped up and stroked a clutch single. Unfortunately, the Big Fella took a gamble that didn't pay off, and was called out trying to go 1st to 3rd on a single. Despite the protests from some quarters, it was the correct call and our rally and the game were both over. Now we were the ones shell-shocked and we knew next game was do-or-die. Final Score: Hounds 4, Grass Stains 7.

That loss took us to a re-match in Game 3 with AMW that will go down as a classic game in Hounds history. One game in which the winner advances to the championship, and the loser goes home. Both teams were feeling the effects of being out all day in the sun. We felt good coming in having mercied AMW just hours earlier. However, they were full of fighting spirit and would give us everything we could handle. Margaret again took the ball, and continued her consistent form. AMW scored 2 in the 1st off a long home run. We were quiet in the 1st and 2nd, and mustered a scoring threat that was squelched in the 3rd. Again we went out quietly in the bottom of the 4th, and in the top of the 5th, AMW would add on two runs. Now we were down 0-4, and showing no signs of life. Things began to look a little bleak. But we never got too down on ourselves and we knew all we needed was for a thing or two to go our way and we could be right back in this thing. Our fans and bench were providing raucous support, and that pulled us from of the depths of despair. In the bottom of the 5th, MikePa drove in Pat to finally put us on the board, and we could sense some momentum building. We closed out AMW 1-2-3 in the top of the 6th, and we knew we were running out of chances. Iain led off the frame with a single, and Dave followed with a walk. Jason T. then stroked a single but Iain was thrown out at the plate. Now, we had runners on 2nd and 3rd with only one out. Schimmy then followed with a single to score Dave. Pat followed up with an RBI single, and all of a sudden we were in very good shape. Then the key play might have been a walk that Wink drew which allowed Margaret to also walk and drove in 2 runs. AMW's pitcher lost his composure a bit and Mike and Cindy also got on through BBs. At the end of the inning, we were up 7-4 and had a chance to close them out in the next inning. AMW would score a meaningless run in the 7th to make it close, but a fly ball to left ended the game. We were all happy but we were also mentally and physically drained after the roller coaster ride of emotions. Final Score: Hounds 7, AMW 5.

Let's give credit to our team, we showed tons of heart in pulling this one out. Our players put egos aside and drew the important walks that gave us the grip on this ballgame. We are very much alive after being on life support for a very brief period. We have a tall order next week, but I am confident we will give it our all and I like our chances.