NL Tournament
Pirates vs. Braves
May 23, 2001

L 14-13

Here I am again, Captain "Long Gone" Homer, ready to report on the final game of the 2001 PeeWee Pirates' season. This is gonna be a tough game report, 'cause the game itself was tough. However, I will not hang my head low. I will keep it held high as I relate the final dramatic chapter of the Pirates.

The Pirates won the coin toss and elected to be the home team. The leadoff Braves batter grounded directly to Ryan at shortstop on the first pitch of the game. Ryan came up chunking and easily tossed out the runner. The next batter grounded to Matthew at third base. Matthew duplicated Ryan's feat, as he tossed across the diamond to Anna for the second out. The always-tough third batter singled to center field and alertly took second base on the slow pickup by the Pirates' outfielders. After a single which scored a run, the next batter grounded to Ryan again. And once again, Ryan made a picture-perfect pickup and throw to nip the runner. Braves get one.

In the bottom of the first, Ryan led things off. And he ripped a line drive to right center field that scooted between the outfielders! Coach Rodney is sending him all the way. Holy Toledo, it's a home run!!! Now, THAT'S the way to start a ballgame! Andrew followed with a single to left field. Blake slapped a grounder to first base. They tossed on to second for the putout on Andrew. Anna then stroked a double to right field. And Blake scored from first as Coach Rodney had the green light on! Brian grounded out to their shortstop for the second out, and Anna moved up to third. Finally, Michael grounded out to the pitcher for the third out. Pirates get 2 and lead 2-1 after one full inning.

In the top of the second, the first batter got a hit into the hole at shortstop. A dribbler to third base (and then a Pirates' throwing error) put runners at second and third with nobody out. The next batter grounded to Ryan, who threw to Anna for the out. We gave up the run. The next batter squibbed a grounder to the pitcher, but we had no play. Then he stole second. Another batter grounded to shortstop -- and once again, Ryan made a perfect throw to Anna. A run did score. OK, that's two outs! And would you believe it? The next batter grounded to Ryan at shortstop. Ryan made the play. That's 5 assists for Ryan in the first 6 outs!!

In the bottom of the second, B.J. started things off by swatting the ball to left field for a single. Matthew followed with a popup to the first baseman -- B.J. stayed put as the first baseman made the out. Max stepped in as Coach Rodney was calling for him to get a good line drive. After working himself into an 0-2 hole, Max turned on one. It was a rifle shot down the right field line... and it almost took B.J.'s head off at first base! Coach Rodney had the green light going the whole way. B.J. scored from first. And I guess Max remembered Coach Rodney's crack at the team party about Max's lack of speed -- Max legged out an inside-the-park homer!! Take that, Coach Rodney!!! Coach Rodney says "I'll take it!" Wow, the crowd goes wild! Then Hayden, who may be the best bunter on the team, laid down a perfect bunt and barely beat the throw to first. Christopher followed with a dribbler to the mound. The pitcher made a bad throw and Hayden hustled to third. No red lights here! Coach Rodney waves Hayden home! After a strikeout by Josh B., Josh M. put in his own nomination for best team bunter with a bunt down the third base line. This bunt was a little harder than normal and the third baseman had a play.... but he missed! Ryan followed with a single to left center to plate a run. Then Andrew stepped in with the bases juiced. He smacked a triple to drive in the fifth run for the Pirates! Pirates lead 7-3 after two innings.

In the top of the third, the first Braves batter struck out. The next batter hit a dribbler down the third base line that Andrew made a nice play on. The batter was safe, however. The top of the Braves lineup was now up. And the batter smacked a line drive to left center field! Hey, Ryan's out there! And he drifted back slightly to make the play. Are you kidding me? Ryan is having a whale of a game! Three more Braves hits scored three runs. Finally, the batter lined the ball directly to second base, where Blake speared it for the third out.

In the bottom of the third, Blake slapped a single to center field to start things off. Anna followed with a strikeout (yikes!). Brian got a single off the third baseman. Michael popped up to the shortstop for the second out. B.J. got another hit to left field to score Blake. Finally, Matthew grounded into a fielder's choice. The third baseman scooped the ball and forced Brian at third. Pirates only get one and still lead 8-6 after three. Man, this score is tight!!

I must now collect myself before I continue. The top of the fourth inning was one of those experiences that every ballplayer and coach goes through. It's the almost-helpless feeling that everything is going right for the other team. I cannot discuss the gory details. Let me say this. The Braves made good hits when they needed to. And the bottom of their lineup got some lucky dink hits in front of the plate that were unplayable by the Pirates. Plus, the Pirates *really* hurt themselves with sloppy outfield play and stolen bases. It all came together in a frightful experience I like to call "A REALLY BAD INNING" (ok, it's not a catchy phrase, but it sums it up pretty good). The Braves get seven runs (gasp!!). For the record, Ryan caught a line drive at shortstop to end the inning. The Pirates head to the bottom of the fourth trailing 13-8.

It's "gut-check" time! Here's the question. When you give up the big inning, do you hang your head and give up? Or do you step up and do what you know you can do? It's time to see what the Pirates are made of. Max led off with a groundout to the first baseman. Hayden followed with a line drive to left field that barely cleared the infielders. Christopher smacked a single to right field. Then Coach Rodney does the unexpected. He calls for Josh B. to put down a bunt. And Josh B. puts down an AWESOME bunt to load the bases. Josh M. got an infield single, with the shortstop just barely missing the tag on Christopher. Ryan got a groundout to the pitcher, but the second run scored. With runners at second and third, the sound of ducks quacking was overwhelming. "Ducks on the pond, baby!", yelled Coach Rodney. And Andrew delivers yet again, a single to right center to score 2. Blake hit into an out to end the scoring. Pirates get four to make the score 13-12, with the Braves in the lead.

We head to the fifth inning. Time is running out, so the Pirates have to do everything quickly. The toughest Braves hitter is up. He creams a line drive towards left center field. This has home run written all over it. But... OH MY GOSH!!... Ryan leaps into the air from shortstop and snags the bullet! Words escape me (although I know you find that hard to believe). After a couple hits, Brian fields a grounder on the mound and fires to Michael at first for the second out. Another hit scored a run. And then the final batter grounded to Ryan at shortstop, who tossed to Michael for the third out.

One more chance!!! And the drop-dead time is fast approaching -- which may mean we revert back to the end of the previous inning. Anna leads off with a single to center field. Brian wasted no time doing the same thing, singling to center field. Michael grounded to the shortstop, who forced Brian at second and fired on to first for the double play. Thank goodness the throw was high. Anna scored on the play. It's a one-run ballgame!! Michael is at first and B.J. is at the plate. We need to get Michael to second so B.J. can score him. Coach Rodney calls for the steal. Michael breaks as the ball crosses the plate. But he senses danger -- and doesn't think he can make it safely to second. Michael gets in a rundown, and gets tagged out as he slides back to first. B.J. then grounded out to third. That's the ballgame.

The Pirates gave it a desperate shot, but fell one run short. The tears definitely came as the Pirates realized the season was over. Clearly, it was a heartbreaking loss. Coach Rodney tried to offer some words of encouragement, but there's no denying that the players hurt. The entire Pirates' coaching staff and all the player's parents were gonna be hurting a little too after the game. Coach Rodney told me he had a tough time coming to grips not only with the loss, but also with the fact that we were done playing together as a team. I will say that it was amazing to watch the group of guys come together this year. I was really impressed with the improvement by the players. And I was very excited to watch players step forward and assume leadership -- players like Ryan, Andrew, and Brian.

Coach Rodney had no problems at all choosing the player of the game. Although Matthew and Blake made some nice defensive plays, and Max stroked a 2-run dinger, the team rode the shoulders of Ryan tonight. Ryan turned NINE outs (out of 12 non-strikeouts). He hit a homer and had two RBIs. Every single time the team needed him, Ryan stepped up ("raised the barr" if you will). A career game for Ryan! Congratulations to Ryan as he is this season's final Pirate Pick!

That's it for me. I enjoyed writing about your season. Don't forget to say "Hi" to Coach Rodney when you see him around the ol' ballfield!

Captain "Long Gone" Homer