College play on the baseball and softball diamonds is a riot when the season gets under way, when pitchers get their throws under control, batters rediscover the thrill of a solidly-hit ball, fielders reach for and snag a line drive and a person on base slaps the perfect tag… or something like that.
All that grace is being discovered, so there’s a lot of amusement as the rust is shaken off.
Here’s a couple of examples taken from action in my town a day ago.
Watching my college softball team face the opposing pitcher and listening to the old farts leaning on a the top row of a cold set of bleachers complaining about a couple of the women’s “hitting slumps,” I have to make a comment: “What’s so hard about hitting this pitcher?”
Turning to leave, I miss the swing and the contact, turn to see what happened and watch the softball head for the tree just past the center field line. Sure enough, that old tree, which is known for collecting hard-hit balls, collects yet another, and my team collects two runs on the play, winning that game with not that home run, but one in the sixth inning, in a doubleheader that featured seven dingers.
To be fair, the wind was fairly whistling out of the softball park, so any ball hit with any solidity and high enough had a great chance of clearing the park.
Then, just across the way, where the wind raced toward the left pole marking the base line, another home game is under way, this one a baseball game between county rivals, one of them my college team. In the second game, in the fifth inning, the starting pitcher finds himself in a jam with one out and runners on every base. The batter finds a pitch and whistles a hit, right back at the pitcher.
Pitcher becomes backstop. The ball ricochets off of him. “That’ll leave a mark,” yells a teammate. Pitcher goes down. On hands and knees he scrambles for the ball. Grabs it an pitches it to the catcher for a force out at home plate. The catcher pops up and fires the ball to second base, where the shortstop gloves it and surprises a runner off base to retire the side.
Earlier in that game, the home team put down four bunts between the mound and the left-field base line, all four batters reaching base. Darndest thing I ever saw… all four bunts in exactly the same place.
The team erupts in both instances. Pitcher wiggles out a bad spot, batters collect six runs on four bunt singles, a double, two errors (one a dropped fly ball in left field), a couple of base hits, a wild pitch — and the home team goes on to win the game. 8-1.
It’s a short, intense college season up here where the snow flies in March. There will be many more plays like these before mid-May.