Monday, May 22, 2017

NM State Aggies vs CSU-Bakersfield Roadrunners Baseball 5-20-17

It was a beautiful spring day on Saturday.  It was warm and sunny with a cool breeze.  Ron’s granddaughters’ high school graduations would be held on Monday, so he’d be joining me.  Unfortunately, I was tired.  I’d spent a bad Friday night at work until nearly midnight.  The start time of the Saturday game was also moved up an hour, ensuring I’d be getting up early.  Ron happily chatted with his ticker-taker friend at the game when we got there.  I was just tired and then disappointed.  The concession trailer had no corn in the cup.  So much for a good breakfast.  I settled on a hot dog with a stale bun.

Ron was at the previous two games in the series.  Thursday’s game versus CSU-Bakersfield was a really tight and dramatic Aggie win.  Catcher Mason Fishback had a rough game with like five passed balls, but Ron put the blame on the pitchers for throwing wild.  The Aggies took care of Friday’s game without the drama.  Ron grabbed a bunch of player cards for me there.  I did not have the Andy Frakes and Dan Hetzel cards.  (Coach Brian Green’s card came out on Saturday, which Ron also picked up.)  I never got a Ruger Rodriguez card though.  Watch him end up being a major league star.

I saw broadcaster Adam Young floating around talking to the fans.  Ron reported that a foul ball hit the window of his press box during the Thursday game.  On that matter, Ron picked up three foul balls at that game.  He saw another adult fan pick up a couple more.  This happened because there weren’t any kids there.  Friday’s game, directly after a kids’ baseball clinic, was packed with them, and the stadium was nearly at capacity.  

I’m going to have to admit the Roadrunners were looking sharp.  Their practice tops were a blue and yellow camo pattern.  Their road gray game uniforms had blue pinstripes with some yellow trim.  These were very good-looking uniforms.  One of their bats was even bright yellow.  As I took my trash from “breakfast” to the garbage, a guy stopped me and asked about the “Aggie Empire” shirt that I was wearing.  Everybody loves this shirt.  Again, I directed him to Sports Accessories as the provider.    

The Aggies already had the conference tournament number one seed wrapped up.  Their opponent hadn’t been determined, and this game wouldn’t figure into that.  However, because of their eight-game winning streak, the Aggies had a chance to tie Grand Canyon for the regular season championship.  They definitely had something to play for and wanted to avenge last year’s final game loss that had dropped them in the tournament seeding.  The crowd for this game started off kind of small, maybe because of the time change, but it filled in to a decent size.  They at least started off the game very enthusiastic.     

Aggie starter, Jonathan Groff, didn’t have a good first inning and yielded three runs to Bakersfield.  They’d scored first in the previous two games, so this wasn’t alarming at the time.  They ended up running themselves out of the inning.  A runner on first got caught stealing, but it was a runner at third who made the out at home trying to advance on the throw.  Brent Sakurai started off the bottom of the inning with a double.  He’d set the school record for triples in this series.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t driven home.  0-3 Roadrunners.  This inning probably took about 45 minutes.     

Ron left to walk around during the first.  He returned with a ball.  I noticed it looked pretty clean compared to the ball I got.  I wonder if they’re using something different on them for grip, or if I had gotten a BP ball.  There were two very attractive blonde women in sections to either side of me.  One was a young woman that looked very elegant and sat in the reserved section.  Given that she stayed for the entire game and afterward, I think she might have one of the players’ girlfriends.  Nice catch for somebody if she was. 

The other was a pretty lady with her little boy, who of course brought a mitt.  I noticed her talking about baseball with him.  Another woman brought her early teen son and daughter to the game.  The boy kid was going after fouls.  His sister would go up to the top of the grandstand to spot for him.  He grabbed at least four balls during the game.  He generously gave one to the little boy.  Crap!  If I had gotten a ball or if Ron had given me one, I was going to give it to his mom for him to introduce myself.           

The second inning passed without any scoring.  The top of the third brought the Roadrunners five more runs.  It was the way they were scored that hurt.  Groff caught Mahlik Jones stealing, but unfortunately threw the ball away trying to get him at first.  I’m not sure where that ball went, but Jones scored from first before the Aggies came up with it.  Later, Junior Felix hit a three-run homer.  This wouldn’t be a big deal, except it was only the fourth home run of the season for the entire team. 

At 0-8, the Aggies came back to make a game of it in the bottom of the third.  Greg Popylisen led off by striking out and hitting the ump with his bat on the third strike.  Joey Ortiz fouled out.  Brent, LJ Hatch, and Austin Botello all singled (Austin driving in a run).  Dan Hetzel then blasted a three-run homer that finally gave the crowd something to cheer about.  4-8 Roadrunners.  After the home run, the kid ran off and came back with the ball a few minutes later.  I’m not sure how he got to that the area behind the fence, which isn’t open to the public.  During the inning, a father and his little league son sat in front of us.  They were talking technical baseball stuff during the game with the dad pointing out stuff.  Ron had left again and returned with another ball. 

On to the top of the fifth, a great dive and stop by Joey Ortiz was unfortunately lost by Tristen Carranza (and my apologies that that I’ve been getting your name wrong all season) at first that resulted in a runner on second.    A few hits later and three runs had scored for the Roadrunners.  The Aggies went to their third pitcher of the game.  I get a peek at the clock.  The game was two hours old and only half over.  However, the Aggies would again mount a comeback with Botello and Hetzel driving in two runs.  6-11 Roadrunners. 
By the sixth, after a couple more Roadrunner runs to make the score 6-13, Adam was talking about the run rule.  This was definitely a sign that the game was running long.  He was even wondering about making the 3:00 curfew.  Some guys sitting behind us were talking MLB extensively, making me jealous.  I am not sitting next to the right people at the stadium.  In the bottom, Roadrunner Sergio Robles made a great diving catch to end the Aggies’ inning.  I was starting to fall asleep by the seventh, but was quickly awakened by a foul ball that clanked off the pole in front of me and went through a hole in the netting and into the crowd.  No damage done. 

In the bottom of the eighth, I finally identified where that cowbell sound had been coming from that I’d been hearing.  It was in the Aggie dugout.  Brent and Joey managed to drive in a couple more runs.  8-13 Roadrunners.  Ruger Rodriguez, the Aggies’ fifth pitcher of the game, pitched two good innings to finish the game.  Hetzel momentarily got everyone excited with a home run in the ninth, and he rounded the bases.  (Yes, even down this far, this late, the crowd still wanted to cheer.)  However, it was just a long foul ball that the third base ump was too casual in calling.  That was kind of embarrassing for everybody.  Jaron Balman, the game’s only pinch hitter, rapped a triple right after to give the crowd a reason to cheer for the last time.  Our final: Roadrunners 13, Aggies 8.          

My stars of the game go to Junior Felix on Bakersfield, who went 3 for 4 with five RBI’s.  Even on a rough day, a couple of Aggies had great games.  Dan Hetzel drove in four runs, including a three-run homer.  Going 5 for 5 with three doubles, Brent Sakurai was clearly inspired today, and that performance was off two different pitchers.  Brent had six family members here for him on Senior Day.  Maybe that was it.  I am at least heartened that even if the pitching wasn’t there today, at least the hitting was.  

The Bakersfield coach went over to talk to Coach Green after the game.  Their team had to leave, since the game had run long, so they wouldn’t be staying for the senior ceremonies.  I noticed during the post-game handshakes, the Roadrunners all tossed their gloves in a pile on field, like a ritual.  While waiting for the ceremony, I added up my scorecard.  It actually finally matched the official totals on the first try for the first time this season (on the last home game of the year after a loss).   

This was a well over three hour game, but it felt longer.  It definitely felt long for me.  Having gotten a bit hot earlier, I’d put down a bottle of water late in the game.  I needed to go well before the game ended.  Unfortunately, Ron left for his car immediately after, right before I could go to the bathroom.  I ended up sitting through 13 seniors being honored.  I’d love to write about all of the warm, heartfelt moments, but I was distracted.  Actually, these guys that were leaving the program were pretty impressive as their accomplishments were being read off.  The female PA finished her season with a quite a workout.  Brent did have the biggest group with him.  Presumably they came all the way from Hawaii too. 

After the ceremony, a different PA announced that the coach would be talking about the players, and he invited everyone to come down to the field and listen.  When no one in the crowd moved, he then encouraged everyone that it was okay to go on down to the field, really.  I was about to charge to the bathroom, but we ran into Adam Young.  He was lugging his broadcast equipment with him in a case.  “It was a tough one today,” he said.  I reminded him of last weekend’s softball tournament and asked if he’d called all nine games.  Indeed, he had.  I warned him to take care of his voice.  Adam stuck around to listen to the coach, along with much of the remaining crowd.

I joined the talk in progress and got to watch from the dugout.  Coach Green chatted about each of the seniors.  He made a point to mention that all of the recent improvements to the stadium came after they were recruited.  He’d had to sell them on what the program would be, rather than what it was.  I was struck most by his comments about two of the players.  Jaron Balman had spent much of the season on the bench.  The coach talked about how hard the senior worked in practice anyway.  He’d put Balman in in the ninth today, and he’d hit a triple.  That’s what preparation gets you.  Andy Frakes had come into Green’s office after the GCU series and said he wasn’t playing well enough and that he’d do better.  Given a weekday start versus the Lobos, he threw 8 1/3 on the way to a win.        

I came away feeling pretty good about the day.  The players seemed a bit down as they filed past.  Adam had made a point about how losing the last game last year had really hurt them in the tournament.  Thanks to an eight-game winning streak late this year, this game didn’t matter in so far as the seeding, but it still may have stung.  I was tempted to go talk the coach to run a couple of ideas past him.  Thankfully, I did not do that.  That was likely a good move.  We returned to Ron’s car.  When he opened up the trunk, he revealed about seven balls, which he could have gotten player autographs on, but declined to do so.  That was a bad move.  He also said “Goodbye” to his ticket taker friend on the way out, but had forgotten to get her name the entire time. 

Ron told me he was already going through withdrawal as we pulled away from the university.  It probably hit me today (Sunday).  Given my job situation, I seriously wonder if I’ll be at any more live Aggie events for a while.  In the meantime, hopefully I’ll be able to listen to the WAC baseball tournament.  If the guys can hit and pitch the way they’re capable, they should win it.  Getting this loss out of the way may motivate them.  Even if they come out flat, I still think they’ll have a good chance.  Next year, oh boy, they’re going to have some holes to fill.  They’ve leaned on the seniors heavily this year.  Doing well in the post-season would be their best recruiting tool though.  (A new scoreboard might also help.  It’s the only thing their facility is obviously missing.) 

Oh, what am I going to do with my summer now?            

Thursday, May 18, 2017

WAC Softball Tournament Game 9, 5-13-17

Continued from Part 2

There was a good long 45-minute break between games.  I had made a mistake in not eating a meal before the game, thinking I was just going for one game.  I made a worse mistake in suggesting getting a meal between games, since I was hungry.  On the way out of the stadium, I took a quick look at the championship trophy which was on display on the courtesy table.  Unfortunately, the graduation crowd was letting out at the same time, so it took some time to get out.  We ended up at Pic Quik, where Ron got a burrito at the Santa Fe Grill, and I got a 6” cold cut at Subway.  At PQ Treats, I snagged a frozen Tornado and a milkshake for Ron. 

The reason this was a mistake was when Ron reminded me that we wouldn’t be able to take the food back into the stadium.  Not that the meal was that bad, but we both ended up shoveling the food down way too quick.  Should have ate at the ballpark.  The good news was that we weren’t able to go to McDonalds because of the traffic, which was the other fast food option.  That would have been worse.  Unfortunately, after the game, we were both still full and didn’t have room for a better dinner.  I mention all this only because it was the only real disappointment of the day.  It would have been better with a good meal.

I re-entered the stadium just as the game started (Ron followed about 10 minutes later), but didn’t miss anything.  I didn’t even have any trouble filling out the lineups in-game thanks to the PA’s good announcing.  My notes for this game were extremely scanty as I was fighting the sun.  I finally popped my umbrella and put my rally towel under my hat and used it to shade my face.  I probably looked dumb, but there was guy in front of me doing the same thing with a paper towel that looked worst. 

The crowd was about the same size, but some of the people were different.  They were still very into it, though there were some fans behind us that were talking some serious hockey halfway through the game.  Ron’s unofficial niece came in.  A guy with an extremely cute little white, puffy dog was there.  More interestingly, some attractive women suddenly showed up.  I wonder how they knew about this game and why they weren’t around earlier.  Many of them looked pretty athletic, like maybe they were former players, though they weren’t together.  There was a striking blonde below us with her husband and two little boys.  She had tats going up both her arms that somehow didn’t make her look bad.

Sitting even closer was another pretty blonde woman of a very outgoing sort.  I slightly met her as she sprayed on her sun block, which the wind immediately carried into my face.  She offered me and everyone else around us usage of her spray.  I hadn’t seen her at the stadium before, but she was extremely into the game.  I certainly enjoyed this game more just watching and listening to her passionately cheering and going after the umps (whom she accused of calling “nipple” strikes).  There was plenty of boisterous crowd noise, but she seemed to be leading it.  She also teased and flirted with the little boys, who she made friends with, threatening kisses if the Aggies won.  So, we have this good-looking woman who gets excited by Aggie sports and is good with kids.  I probably should have proposed to her right after the game.  Maybe I’ll see her again.     

I think I did a bit better scoring this game, but mostly because one of the teams didn’t score.  The Aggies were now the visiting team, having moved into the other dugout and now wearing their black and gray “Sandman” outfits (Logan’s Run reference).  During this game, I had Ron check Twitter and Aggie Baseball won big again against Chicago State.  Twitter was the only way to keep up with the baseball team this weekend.      

Top of the first, the Aggies led off the inning hitting.  They had to do this earlier in the tournament, but it still must be weird being the visitor in your own stadium.  Kelsey Horton got plunked to start off the game.  Do you want to make her angry?  Fahren Glackin singled, and Victoria Castro reached on an error.  Caity Szczesny drove in Kelsey, and Rachel Rodriguez drove in the other two.  It was like the last inning of the last game never ended.  The Aggies just picked up where they left off.         

The top of the third ended on a great diving catch by Paige Bouska of Seattle U.  Other than that, there wasn’t much to report.  Pitching was finally coming into play for the championship.  The attendants were handing out WAC goodie bags between innings occasionally, but you had answer a question.  One time there was a “Name that Tune and Artist” contest.  A couple of other times, they asked trivia questions about Seattle U players.  “Oh, I knew that,” said an Aggie fan laughingly.  They didn’t ask any Aggie trivia.  Also entertaining between innings was the Aggies’ trainer going out to deliver water to the umps.  She was rather attractive in her tight little shorts.

For the bottom of the third, an error and a walk put two on for the Redhawks, and it was time for a pitching change.  Coach Rodolph pulled out her secret weapon, Fahren Glackin.  The coach had been saving her all season for just this moment (or neither Sam nor Kayla could go any further).  I had seen her pitch in relief effectively earlier in the season and had wondered why I hadn’t seen her since.  I mentally crossed my fingers and hoped that my wishes to see her in the circle were not about to backfire on me.  I seriously doubt Seattle was expecting to see Fahren pitching and succeeding at bats would prove that.  She committed a balk or illegal pitch right after she came in (the pretty blonde fan went crazy over this call), but Fahren didn’t allow them to advance any further.    

Things quieted down until the sixth.  The Aggies loaded the bases on a walk and two hits.  Pinch hitter, Kennedy Johnson drew a walk to drive one in.  Kelsey then came up, and they actually had to pitch to her with no one out.  She hit a popup to the outfield, but owing to the power of her swing, the outfield was playing deep.  The wind knocked it down, and the ball dropped right in for another run.   Three more runs would score on a single, sacrifice, and a double.  Even a pitching change didn’t help the Redhawks.  An excellent play on a liner at second by Kaylee Ree almost ended the inning with a double play, but it continued.  Jeanelle Medina would drive in two more before a liner to the pitcher finally brought the frame to a close.  It was 10-0 Aggies.

Seattle U’s coach seemed to be conceding in the sixth with a pair of pinch hitters.  The players were not.  A pair of singles and a walk loaded the bases with one out.  Coach Rodolph stayed with Fahren.  There was a popup to Rachel Rodriguez at short for the second out.  A drive to center died with the wind still blowing in, and fell into Victoria Castro’s mitt for the third out.     

Never being able to figure out the run-rule, I was surprised with the final out of the sixth as the Aggies charged out of the dugout.  The Aggies won the championship!  Its good thing the players know the rules.  For the rest of the celebration, they were no longer serious young women, but happy, carefree girls.  As hard as this tournament must have been for them, it was a wonderful to see that release.     

The PA asked for a round of applause for Seattle.  A few of the girls were wiping away tears, but trying not to show it.  They were up three runs and three outs away from the championship.  I don’t think the less of them.  (I’m listening to an interview with Derek Jeter right now, since his number was being retired on Sunday.  As Jeter tells it, when he first started playing professional ball, there were days he felt like crying on field.)  The Redhawks lined up on the third base line for the award ceremony.  A couple of their players received All-Tournament honors.   

The Aggies All-Tournament team players were Misty Hoohuli (nice send-off for the senior), Victoria Castro, and Samaria Diaz.  Sam accepted her plaque limping.  She had seemed okay coming out of the game.  (For that matter, I wonder if Kayla is okay.  Ron had reported one of the Aggie pitchers was clearly hurting in an earlier game.)  The Tournament MVP was Rachel Rodriguez.  She seemed genuinely surprised and delighted by the award.   (Her and Fahren get my stars for this game for what it’s worth.)  Rachel got taken aside for an interview.  Coach Rodolph was as well, but her interview finished with a bucket of water getting dumped on her head by her players. 

Family members crowded around the netting, waiting to congratulate the team.  Ron and I left and found the student association tent unguarded.  Ron had found the tent earlier in the game and brought back some much needed cold water.  We filled up on water and grabbed a couple of protein bars.  I mused that those WAC tournament shirts might be discounted at this point, but declined to check.  Ron said goodbye to the ticket taker, whom he’d befriended this week and asked if she’d be working the baseball games next weekend.  Outside, members of the Redhawks were leaving, carrying their equipment.  They were going in one’s and two’s and since there wasn’t a bus, I wonder where they were going. 

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a celebration dinner for us either, because of our stuffed down late lunch.  We were both exhausted, Ron probably more so given two days’ of cumulative fatigue.  He dropped me right off at home.  Since he’ll be attending his granddaughters’ high school graduation next Saturday, we probably won’t be at the last baseball game together.  This was a good way to go out for the season.  Getting to see your team win a championship is always great and memorable. 

I’m not sure how to put a bow on this season, especially since it isn’t over yet with the girls going on to the NCAA tournament.  Hopefully, I’ll get to see some of their re-match against Arizona, whom they played earlier this season.  (The Aggies were nearly completely blanked in a double header at home, except for Kelsey breaking up a no-hitter in the seventh with a home run.)  I’ve seen this team really overpower other teams and really get overpowered.  Quality pitching will stop Kelsey and the offense, but anything less than that will get pounded.  Walking Kelsey all the time is not a winning strategy.  Ask Seattle.    

The pitching is a puzzle.  I’ve seen Kayla pitch really well, but not so much this season.  She’s too prone to giving up home runs.  I don’t know if it’s mechanical (I think I’ve seen her use three different wind ups over two seasons), or due to injury, or if it’s mental.  I know she’s got ace stuff; she just needs to put the pieces together.  Sam pitched way more than a freshman probably should, but she handled it extremely well, even smiling often out in the circle.  Right now, she misses solid contact for weak grounders and flyouts.  Maybe next year, she can get some swing-and-miss stuff to go with it.  Coach Rodolph I know you love her bat, but please use Fahren more in relief to take some innings off the other two.   With so many good players coming back, this team should still be contending for a conference win next year.         

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

WAC Softball Tournament Game 8, 5-13-17

Continued from Part 1
[Various aspects of real life and exhaustion delayed this post, not to mention, there was a lot to write about.]

Since the Aggies were playing for the championship, I was at least looking forward to the game, whereas I might have been unhappy to be out in the hot sun today to see two other WAC teams playing.  I was more than slightly confused by the schedule though.  “Game 9 if necessary?”  I couldn’t quite figure that out, but I had a bad suspicion.  It wasn’t until late in the game, that I finally read the program which had an explanation.  This was a double elimination tournament, meaning every team, except the winner is going have to take two losses to be eliminated.  NMSU’s opponent today had not lost.  This meant the Aggies were going to have to win to force a Game 9.    

NM State would be playing against Seattle U for the championship.  I admit I was disappointed Utah Valley didn’t make it in.  I wanted to see their hot catcher, Basia Query, again.  It’s not often you put “hot” and “catcher” in the same sentence, unless maybe you’re a girl talking about Buster Posey (my favorite player, but strictly platonic of course).  Looking back on my notes from last year against Seattle, the Aggies were 13-0 against them overall and had outscored them 19 to 0 in the series here.  This year the Aggies went 2-1 against them in Seattle, and the Aggies had lost to them on Friday.   
Saturday was NMSU graduation day.  The Pan Am parking lot was full and the road virtually blocked with police directing traffic.  Ron and I had to take an alternate route to get to the park.  This day was hot and sunny with a stiff breeze.  It wasn’t that bad, unless you were going to be sitting on a shiny aluminum bench for the afternoon. 

Graduation and the weather did not dissuade anyone from the coming.  It was a good crowd, with fans for both teams, and very enthusiastic.  There weren’t any students though, nor other players from other teams (presumably they’d left town).  There was a WAC souvenir table, but $25 was way too much for a tournament shirt.  There were Las Cruces Visitors’ Guides on courtesy table for out-of-towners.   You could tell this was a big game, since the booming, deep-voice of the basketball PA was doing the game.  (I gotta get this guy’s name.)  Both teams performed a big, fierce cheer circle before the game started, and with that we were underway.

I really screwed these up.  Since it was for the championship, I went back to the official score and corrected them as best I could.  The game moves really fast when you’ve got two teams scoring this much along with some assorted weirdness.  Then there was the sun and the breeze making it hard to focus and keep a hold of my papers.  Okay, that’s a lot of excuses.  I was there.  I saw everything.  I should have done better.

Okay, here we go.  Things started well for the Aggies.  Samaria Diaz set the Redhawks down in order to start the game.  Kelsey Horton was finally back playing first where she belongs, and strangely, leading off in the bottom of the inning.  I guess Coach Rodolph wanted her to get the maximum number of at bats, even though she was going to get walked.  She looked good, not gimpy like the last time I saw her.  Fahren Glackin and Victoria Castro got on via a walk and a hustle bunt single respectively.  Nikki Butler then came up and whacked a grand slam home run to center 220’ away.  They were making this look easy.  I think the Aggie girls were even busting out some new cheering songs from the dugout.  WAC shirts were thrown out to the crowd on every home run for the tournament, so the more homers the better. 

Caity Szczesny (I’m going to miss typing out that name in the off-season) got the crowd on their feet again with a triple.  Oops, there was an appeal at second.  She missed the bag, and she’s out.  For some reason this felt like a much bigger play than it should have been at the time, like an ill harbinger.  Ah, but the Aggies were still up 4-0 after one.  Looking good.

Okay, what just happened?  It’s now 4-6 Seattle.  The Redhawks batted around plus two in the top of the second.  I know I saw this, because it’s on my scorecard, but I had entered into a state of shock from which I didn’t really recover.  The Redhawk fans made themselves known in the crowd.  Kayla Green had to come in to finish out the inning for Sam.   

The hits kept coming in the bottom of the second.  A series of singles and a walk pushed across three more for the Aggies, 7-6.  Kelsey nearly killed a bird on foul ball.  The pitcher literally rolled the final ball to the plate to walk her and load the bases.  The inning ended as Victoria Castro tripped on the shortstop for an interference call.  Just when I’d caught my breath, the third led off with a Redhawk homer to tie the score at 7.  The crowd got really angry over a phantom hit batter call next, but the ump did a makeup call in the bottom of the inning and made the Seattle fans angry.                  

We’re not done with the third.  With two on to start the inning, pinch hitter, Kennedy Johnson, singled in Hayley Nakamura, and Rachel Rodriguez scored when the ball was mishandled in the outfield.  After yet another walk to Kelsey, Fahren Glackin hammered a three-run homer.  There was another anxious moment as an appeal was made at second, but this time the ump confirmed Fahren had touched them all.  Nikki took one for team for the third hit batter of the third, and even the official photographer was hit by foul ball.  He ended up with an ice pack on his leg.  11-7 Aggies.  We’re good now, right?

Not even close.  The Redhawks made the most of a couple of infield bobbles and a walk and drove in four runs on four hits.  I looked at the scoreboard in disbelief.  It was 11-11 after three and half innings.  However, the play of the game may have turned out to be the game-saving play for the Aggies.  As a single drove in the runner at third, Victoria in center threw a strike to home, where Nikki slapped the trail runner on the back for the final out.  In retrospect, if that run had crossed the plate and the inning continued, I doubt the Aggies would have won.               

I should mention that fans on both sides were complaining about the home plate umpire’s strike zone.  It was way more than the usual, somewhat good-natured, ribbing that occurs in the regular season.  This was serious.  Give fans a championship on the line, and the game takes on a whole different dimension.  Also, Amy Bergeson entered the game at some point defensively in left field, but never took an at bat.  I’d been concerned that she was injured, since I didn’t see her in the last series.  Fahren took all the at bats for that position.  I really don’t understand softball substitution rules.  I thought I saw Fahren warming up in bullpen mid-game, but she did not come into this game to pitch.

In the bottom of the fourth, Kelsey was walked to load the bases with two out.  We’re getting close to Barry Bonds territory here.  I’m waiting see her get walked with the base already loaded.  The Aggies did not score.  Shockingly, the entire fifth inning did not produce any runs either.  The sixth featured a WAC sunglasses giveaway to the crowd. 

Unfortunately, the sixth was also the inning that Kayla finally lost it.  She gave up a single and hit a batter.  On the next batter, Kayla got over one of her best offspeed pitches of the game and got a strikeout.  But right after that, she gave up a three-run homer to left center.  Even in the stands, you could hear her curse as soon as the bat hit the ball.  She knew it was a mistake immediately.  There was another walk and another hit batter, before Sam had to come back into the game to finish the inning.  11-14 Redhawks.         

At this point, I lost heart.  After giving the program another look, I’d finally looked at the fine print and realized that, even if the Aggies won, they’d have to play another game.  It was hot and unpleasant, and I was somewhat exhausted before the game even started.  Now I was completely beat and just wanted it over.  Thankfully for the team, I wasn’t playing. 

The Aggies went down in order in the sixth.  In the top of the seventh, I could see Kayla in the dugout, brooding.  I would have liked to have given her a pep talk, but I needed one too.  The Redhawks went in order in the seventh too, but that was thanks to a tremendous play by Misty Hoohuli on the first batter.  She came up with a ball and shot it to Kelsey at first and actually threw out the runner.  Perhaps this completely unexpected play sparked the team for the bottom of the inning. 

The Aggies were now three outs from elimination and down three runs.  Kelsey started off the inning with being walked, yet again.  Kathy Rodoph’s strategy of batting her first paid off right there.  It’s not like the next three batters were easy outs, especially with runners on.  In spite of a couple of easy innings, Alyssa Reuble, was gassed and perhaps the pressure of the impending championship and another go around with this Aggie line up weighed on her.  Fahren walked.  Victoria hit a shallow single, and Kelsey was held at third to load the bases. 

At this point, I still wasn’t believing.  It either seemed too cruel or too unreal, even after all of the scoring I’d seen for the previous six and half innings.  Nikki came up and hit another shallow single.  Kelsey scored.  Fahren was held.  The bases were still loaded.  Now with a two-run lead, the Redhawks brought in Andie Larkins, the game’s starting pitcher.  I’m sure their coach didn’t want to do this, since Larkins didn’t do well when she was fresh. 

Caity was next in the hit parade, as she singled in Fahren.  Again, Nikki was held and the bases were still loaded.  One run lead.  At this point, the crowd was going crazy.  One, they couldn’t believe this comeback, and two, they couldn’t believe that the Aggie assistant coach wasn’t sending any of these runners.  She was right in doing so every time.  The hits weren’t deep enough.  The girls must have been choking up on their bats, just trying to make contact.  Hayley worked a walk, and the tying run scored.  What happened next, as improbable as it would have been before this inning, seemed all but inevitable.  Rachel stroked another single to score Nikki and win the game.  Aggies 15, Redhawks 14. 

That was seven straight batters reaching base without an out.  That was clutch defined.  As high-powered as the Aggie offense is, it seemed unreasonable that Seattle was going to hold them down for four straight innings, especially after they’d scored 12 in the first three.  If they’d had one fresh pitcher, it would have made the difference.  I know this because of what would happen in the next game.

The Aggie girls of course celebrated on field.  They knew they hadn’t won it all yet, but this was a moment they had to enjoy.  The PA announced the next game for the championship would be played in 45-minutes.  Ron was confused.  I had somewhat dreaded this moment.  After nearly three hours in the sun today, I had to tell him that there was another game, and we had to be there.  He took it about as well as I did.  I almost think the girls won just to spite us.  That’s okay.  We forgive them.                   
For the final game, the Aggies would be the visiting team (I don’t know how this is determined).  The girls even exchanged dugouts and had carry their gear across the infield.  As the Aggie girls walked past in front of the grandstand, they got extra applause from fans by the netting.  They tried not to notice, since they still had another big game to play, but Rachel, all smiles, did acknowledge the crowd.  You hit the winner in a game like this, it’s hard to be humble.   

Maddy Kristjanson and Kayla Gonzales get my game stars for the Redhawks.  Maddy went 3 for 5 with a home run and three RBI’s.  Kayla’s only appearance was a pinch hit at bat, where she hit the go-ahead, three-run homer in the sixth.  That was clutch.  For the Aggies, Fahren Glackin and Nikki Butler drove in a total of 11 of the team’s 15 runs, mostly via two big home runs.  Yeah Seattle, maybe should have walked you those guys too.  Speaking of walks, Kesley Horton had an 0-1 game with four walks, and scored four runs anyway.

Reapply that sunblock.  We’re not done yet.

Part 3     

Monday, May 15, 2017

WAC Softball Tournament 5-11-17 and 5-12-17

I’m just going to lead with the spoiler: the New Mexico State Aggies won the WAC Softball Championship!  I’m removing the suspense here for two reasons.  One, the real story isn’t the destination, but rather the journey.  Two, and more practically, my notes and scorekeeping on Championship Saturday were terrible.  Weather conditions were not conducive to writing on loose papers, and I had trouble processing the events I was witnessing.    

But, let’s start with the first days of the tournament.  I was not able to attend, owing to work obligations.  (Keep in mind, I’d already taken off two days last month for baseball games [4-4 and 4-19].)  Ron bought a full tournament pass.  I’d meant to get such a pass last year when the volleyball tournament was here.  Instead, Ron made me stay at work to do an upgrade that week on a computer system that he then out-sourced this year.  But I’m not bitter.  Given that he lost his job right after that, it’s hard to get too angry.  At least he’s gotten to spend more time with his granddaughters and has been able to attend events like this.     

The WAC digital network was supposed to be broadcasting this over the Internet.  Perhaps they were for other people, but not for me.  I never got any video off their website.  I followed along on Statcast, which, much like Gameday, is really nerve-wracking to watch.  In their first game versus CSU-Bakersfield, the Aggies went down 1-2 early.  In the sixth, NMSU managed to tie it and take the lead.  With the bases loaded, Kelsey Horton came to bat.  She’d been 0-3 for that day and, no doubt, came up to bat angry.  Of course, what happened next was a grand slam home run.  I wondered if she’d see another strike for the rest of the tournament.  Aggies won 7-2.

On the team Twitter feed I noticed pictures from the pre-tournament dinner.  The girls clean up nice in evening wear.  I think they were in the club area at Aggie Memorial Stadium.  Kelsey won the Player of the Year award.  Freshman Nikki Butler won Rookie of the Year.  Earlier in the week, pitcher Kayla Green won Pitcher of the Week honors for her clutch save at the Florida-Atlantic game the week before.      

The Aggies lost in their afternoon game 4-6, against Seattle U.  This was bad.  The day before, I had communicated with Ron.  He’d planned on going to the championship game on Saturday, regardless of who was playing.  I agreed to go as well.  Now with this loss, I was on the hook for a $12 ticket to a game that I possibly couldn’t care less about.  I spent the rest of the afternoon enmeshed in inner turmoil.  

Bringing up the Aggie game later, I caught the end of the UMKC Roo’s versus the Bakersfield Roadrunners.  I did a double take on the score.  The Roo’s won 20-10.  Ron later told me that it was run-ruled in the fifth after an endless inning.  The Aggies faced the Roo’s immediately afterward.  The final score was 15-3 Aggies, but more importantly, the Aggies would be in the championship.  Kelsey hit a two-run homer in the game.  This girl is unstoppable!

When I saw Ron on Saturday, I noticed a bright, yellow softball in the back seat of his car.  “Where’d that come from?” I asked.  Ron told me he’d gotten the other day, but sort of had to pay for it.  It was a practice ball that got fouled into the parking lot.  It bounced and hit his car, putting a dent in it.  Since it wasn’t a game ball, Ron went ahead and kept it.  He confirmed that the WAC gave out little wooden bats to kids on the first day (unfortunately they weren’t selling them).  Ron’s nemesis, the old man, had been there for the games with a big sign.  Sometimes he accidently held it upside down to Ron’s amusement.  Ron was sore and tired from being out at the ballpark for last two days, but still eager to see the Aggie girls playing for the championship.

We’ve set the stage and told you how it’s going to end, but you’re not prepared for what’s about to happen.

Part 3

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Baseball Journal May 2017 Part 1

It’s a baseball/softball double header with the Aggies visiting the Lobos in Albuquerque.  I was able to watch the games thanks to the Mountain West digital network.  The softball game featured a rather perky, chipper student announcer.  Aggie Softball won 7-6.  A two-run homer in the seventh made it close, but Fahren Glackin closed it out.  Kelsey Horton didn’t play the field and didn’t have a hit, but still had three RBI’s. 

The softball game slightly overlapped with the baseball game.  The wind picked up considerably as night fell.  Paul Weir, new Lobo basketball coach, was in attendance.  I’m sure the Aggie players and fans (of whom there were plenty) went out of their way to say “Hello,” to him.  After four bad losses in a row, Coach Green gave four guys the night off.  That worked out well.  Tristan Carranza figured out how to use that strong wind to the tune of two fourth-inning home runs, including a grand slam.  Meanwhile, bullpen guy, Andy Frakes, pitched eight and a third of the game.  12-5 as the Aggies win big.  As was quoted in the Aggie radio broadcast (as I lost the video halfway through the game), “You never lose.  You either win or you learn.”

I got to hear a bit of the Rangers versus the Astros before going to work in the afternoon.  When I got to work, I ended up bringing up the Rockies versus Padres game as the MLB free game.  Unfortunately, like just about every game west of the Mississippi, the TV broadcast was blacked out.  I still got the Padres’ radio call.  I didn’t catch the main guy’s name, but he was really entertaining.  His co-host put in a plug for the stations’ points rewards for listeners.  “It’s just what I always feared.  The station is having to pay people to listen to me.”  “Its points, not money.”  “It’s the principal!”  They also had a talk about Nolan AR-enado’s name, instead of AIR-enado.  They agreed with the change in pronunciation.  

I turned off the game to do work elsewhere.  I was shocked that it was still going when I got back.  Owing to a minor work crisis (defined as a problem that I wasn’t directly responsible for), I missed the ending, but it turned out to be 3-2 Rockies win.  I eventually got an update on the Rangers and Astros.  After losing every which way for the first three games of the series in Houston, the Rangers managed a 10-4 win behind staff ace, AJ Griffin.  Don’t laugh.  He’s undefeated so far.     

In the evening, Aggie Softball won its final regular season game against Florida Atlantic.  As part of their “May the Fourth be with You,” promotion, the first hundred fans got an Aggie Star Wars t-shirt.  Ron went to the game, but got the time wrong and missed out.  He got to see a really good game though.  Victoria Castro hit a big two-run homer.  Kayla Green came in for the last inning with two on and a one run lead, and got all three outs.  I’m encouraged by that performance.

Aggie baseball continued their hit parade on Friday at Utah Valley to the tune of a 24-1 run-rule win.  They were up 9-0 by the second.  As Adam said, “The crazy thing is, this is only their third-highest scoring game this season.”  Meanwhile the Giants were the MLB free game.  In Cincinnati, on a rainy evening, in front of a “friends and family”-sized crowd, they lost 13-3.  Jon Miller wasn’t calling the game.  Given these two blowouts, it wasn’t surprising that I chose to get caught up on Reign instead. 

I got back home and the Rangers/Mariners game was still going on the radio.  And on.  And on.  By the eleventh, Matt Hicks and Eric Nadel were getting giddy and punchy, after the second injury delay of the inning.  (Joey Gallo ended up seeing three pitchers in the same at bat.)  Jared Sandler, who had long run out of updates on other games, asked them to name all the events in a decathlon.  Baseball just gets weird when it goes past midnight.  Eric was about to do a game recap later: “In case you’re just joining us . . . (laugh) . . . at 1:50 (CST) in the morning.”  In the thirteenth, Ruggie hit a two-run homer to give the Rangers the lead, just as the guys were breaking down a small college’s post-season baseball schedule.  3-1 Rangers win.  I’m up till nearly 1:30 am (MST).  That’s okay.  They won.    

“If you had an hour to live, who would you call?” asked one host to his two, eager to answer, co-hosts.  “What the f*** kind of sports talk radio is this?” I sputtered.  I know they fired a lot of people at ESPN, but clearly they didn’t clean house.  You could easily replace everyone one ESPN Radio with a tape that alternates between saying, “LeBron James is the greatest,” and “Let’s talk about the NFL,” on an endless loop.  I was just listening to hear when the Kentucky Derby started, so I could go from the kitchen back to the TV in the bedroom.  So much for that.  Never mind, back to baseball.

An exuberant Nick Swisher has joined Alex Rodriguez on the Fox Sports MLB pre-game.  The only reason Fox was broadcasting baseball tonight was because it was the Yankees versus the Cubs.  It’s cold and windy like its early April at Wrigley.  People are bundled up, even the Marlins Man.  The ticker is now being used to promote Fox’s own s***** sports talk network (populated by a bunch of ex-ESPN Radio guys, coincidence?) and upcoming German and MLS soccer matches on the network.  That’s great.

I found out that the Cubs’ had moved the bullpens off the field and under the outfield bleachers.  I found this out in the top of first, as the Yankees scored five runs, and the Cubs were forced to bring in a reliever.  I got sick of Joe Buck immediately and switched on the Chihuahuas on the radio for audio, leaving the game on TV.  I briefly considered turning over to the playoff hockey, but I didn’t like either team.  Unfortunately, I lost radio reception in the eighth, just as the dogs went down by three runs.  I assumed they lost.  The Cubs lost 11-6 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score would indicate and wasn’t that interesting either. 

Meanwhile in Orem Utah, Aggie baseball was losing 4-6 in the fifth.  Marcel Renteria did not have his good stuff.  That’s too bad, since apparently a bunch of scouts were there to see him.  The Aggies tied it in the sixth.  Thereafter, they poured it on.  16-6 was the final.  Giving Joey Ortiz a couple of games off worked well as he went four for four.  Aggie pitching gave up one walk in the game.  I missed the Rockies game, which was okay, since I couldn’t get the station in.  The Rangers/Mariners game was still going.  It was 1-1 until the seventh, but was functionally over by the time I started listening (8-2 final).  More bullpen troubles.

Aggie baseball was on at noon on the radio.  During the game, Adam Young started reading off some Aggie hitting records, since several players are doing so well this season.  He couldn’t believe that they’re not even close to the top 10 in several records.  Adam marveled over one kid having over 100 RBI’s in 50 games.  It’s pretty easy to explain: past players weren’t using the Bbcorr bats.  I can still remember the “ping” of those old aluminum bats and how much more powerful they were.  It’s a 6-0 Aggie win over Utah Valley with Jonathan Groff pitching a complete game shutout.

The Chihuahuas lost 3-7 to Nashville yesterday, as I found out in today’s pre-game.  In other news, the team released Jamie Romak.  He got a better deal to play ball in South Korea, and as a veteran, they had to let him go.  Maybe he comes back as Eric Thames.  Tim Hagerty, on the play-by-play, also talked about how many players now get to the ballpark using Uber.  It was more interesting when he told it.  Tim mentioned also they put on an interesting mascot race in Nashville.  They feature big-headed country music mascots of Johnny Cash, George Strait, and Reba McEntire. 

A former Aggie pitcher came into the game late for Nashville.  His name sounded familiar, but too long and complicated to write out.  I was watching the hockey playoff game that was on at the same time, featuring the Nashville Predators versus the St. Louis Blues.  The baseball crowd started cheering as the Predators went ahead in the third period.  They let out a bigger one when they won and a PA announcement was made between innings. 

Okay, not baseball related, but after the hockey and before the baseball ended, I got to see the end of the NASCAR Talladega race.  Ricky Stenhouse Jr won.  Several years ago, I made a prediction to some race fans at work that he’d win before his girlfriend, Dancia Patrick, did.  This was considered to be quite a foolish position at the time.  Oh, how sweet Monday will be.  For her part, Danica was happy for him in Victory Lane and didn’t try to steal the spotlight.  Minutes later, the Chihuahuas won 3-2, stranding the tying run on third.

I picked up the Rangers/Mariners game in the seventh.  (All three of these games started an hour after each other.)  Jose LeClerc had just thrown an extremely wild pitch.  Matt Hicks: “Jean Segura can’t be comfortable standing in that box after seeing that.”  Eric Nadel: “I’m not comfortable up here after seeing that.”  The Rangers’ bullpen loses it again, 4-3 Mariners.       

I almost got to listen to all of the Yankees versus Cubs game tonight.  I wasn’t paying much attention since I was writing that stupid boxing recap.  The signal weakened after sundown, but was still listenable.  In the bottom of the ninth, with the Yankees up 3-1 and one on, the signal completely dropped.  When it came back several minutes later, they were in commercial.  I guess the Yankees won.  I suspect their youngsters’ awesome numbers will tail off as the season goes along.  The Cubs are plenty good enough to beat bad teams, but they’re going to need a couple of good trades to actually improve.  

Monday, May 8, 2017

Boxing Report 5-6-17 Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vs Julio Cesar Chavez Jr

This fight was a big, freaking deal.  TV Azteca and Televisa were both broadcasting it, since it involved two Mexican boxers on Cinco de Mayo weekend.  This holiday is really celebrated more on this side of the border for some reason.  Speaking of the border, Mexican commercials for this bout reportedly showed Canelo and Chavez Jr kicking down a border wall to come to Vegas to have this fight.  I didn’t see it.  This came from the newspaper, so I can’t say whether it’s true, or just some agenda item they wished were true.  

My co-worker, Mike, and his little boxing fan girlfriend, Laiza, went to the fight.  She “knows people” and had a good, free ticket.  Mike declined to purchase one for himself (for several hundred dollars) and would be watching her son at the hotel instead.  Regrettably, he didn’t send me any pictures of the weigh-in and other Vegas locations.  I was worried I wouldn’t be able to see this fight, since Avalanche Sharks was showing on the Comet network.  Yes, it was sharks attacking a ski resort . . . in the snow . . . as the sharks “swim” in the snow . . . attacking skiers on slopes and girls in hot tubs.  Your imagination is not doing the reality of this film justice.  It’s more dumber than can be imagined by anyone not involved in the production.  Hey, speaking of dumber, was that Jessica Simpson in the movie? 

Luckily, this cinematic masterpiece ended right before the fight.  Unfortunately, I think I would have been better off if Avalanche Sharks 2: Blood Blizzard had aired that night, and I could have watched that instead.  (Not a real movie, just kidding.)  I wouldn’t have wanted to have wasted my ten minutes of research on this fight though.  George Foreman was on an El Paso sports talk show for an interview about the fight.  Apparently, I missed a good heavy weight bout last weekend (I was busy).  Usually, I get a heads-up from Mike about good fights.  Oh, well.

The undercard fights took place at the MGM.  The main event was at the new T-Mobile Arena.  (I hope the fans at the MGM at least got a video feed of the big fight.)  I’m pretty sure Laiza wasn’t able to go to both, as there was no time between events.  I chose the TV Azteca coverage, since I like their announcers better.  I found out later that the Televisa coverage was running a round ahead, so I couldn’t go between them.  The TV Azteca guys sang along with the Mexican national anthem.  (The producer really should have cut their mics.)  The American anthem was sung afterward and amazingly, not boo’ed.

Canelo looked heavier, since he moved up in weight class.  (Ooops, that’s all my research.)  He was also sporting a beard.  Chavez Jr was taller with a longer reach.  (Canelo was usually punching up, while Chavez was punching down.)  Canelo is now built like an offensive lineman and way bulkier than Chavez.  Canelo’s gloves also seemed bigger than Chavez’s.  Chavez was rather fair skinned, while Canelo was downright pink.  Neither had a bunch of tats on them. 

The crowd was heavily for Canelo.  The TV coverage was also slanted (they showed Canelo’s walkout, not Chavez’s), but not as much as usual for his fights, since he was fighting a countryman.  Michael Buffer: “For the thousands in attendance, and the millions watching around the world who wished they here: Let’s get ready to rumble!”

Round 1: I’m looking for Laiza in the crowd.  She’s sat next to famous fighters at ringside before.  I don’t see her, but I’m sure I’m hearing her screaming.  Canelo and Chavez feel each other out.  I give the round to Canelo.

Round 2: There’s a new Stalone Tecate commercial between rounds.  There’s also an epic commercial for microwave popcorn.  I had no idea the product was so heroic.  The crowd howled as Chavez drove Canelo into the ropes briefly.  Chavez Sr was in attendance at ringside.  He’s usually part of the TV Azteca crew, but must have excused himself for this fight.  For his aggression, I give this one to Chavez.

Round 3: Canelo got in a good gut shot.  Chavez was bloodied on the cheek, probably from a hit that would later swell up his eye.  Canelo.

Round 4: I lost TV signal for a moment and panicked.  Thankfully, it came right back.  I flipped over to Televisa and saw a Trojan condom commercial.  It involved an attractive woman with her lower half seemingly covered in translucent rubber.  Canelo took some big swings.  He knocked Chavez into the ropes, causing the crowd to roar.  Canelo.

Round 5: There’s another Stalone commercial.  He’s in bed and awakened, sensing a guy in a nearby restaurant who’s ordering some pansy meal.  Stalone rolls out of bed and is instantly in a tux and goes off to confront the guy.  Televisa seems to be showing less commercials (and not overlaying onscreen ads during the fight), but the commercials are pretty entertaining.  Canelo landed a massive right to Chavez’s head.  He’s really starting to hurt him, and Chavez is not able to do the same.  Canelo.

Round 6: The guys start leaning on each other, head to head.  The ref has to break them up several times.  Fatigue seems to be a factor for both fighters.  Chavez put Canelo on the ropes again, though not really hurting him.  I give it to Chavez, since Canelo was too passive.

Round 7: I was missing 10 Up.  Thankfully, it was a rerun.  Flipping over, I did see a commercial for one of those hot chat lines.  Chavez put Canelo into the ropes, but Canelo came out swinging and drove him right back.  Chavez’s left eye was swelling up.  Canelo.

Round 8: Canelo again goes into the ropes and goes turtle.  Both guys are tired.  I give the round the Chavez, since he messed up Canelo’s hair.

Round 9: Chavez’s eye looks better.  Canelo gets in a low blow.  Canelo was back into the ropes and was fighting defensively.  The guys actually wrestled for a moment.  The crowd started chanting, but I couldn’t tell what.  Chavez.     

Round 10: The trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming comes on.  It’s translated as “Regresso a hogar?”  I guess they don’t have high school homecomings in Mexico.  Canelo came out much more aggressive.  The crowd seemed to be boo’ing.  Maybe they (and myself) wanted him to finish it.  Canelo.

Round 11: There’s a mattress company commercial featuring live bears, obviously well trained.  The guys danced and hit in the middle of the ring.  The crowd was all over the place in reactions: chanting “Canelo,” boo’ing, screaming, whistling.  Canelo got in a good shot to Chavez’s head, but unfortunately followed it with another low blow.  There was a stoppage, but no warning was issued.  Canelo.

Round 12: The last memorable commercial.  A guy with a flat bike tire used the right deodorant and got picked up by a bus full of beach volleyball girls.  Canelo again came out aggressive and put Chavez into the ropes.  He would leave his feet taking big swings.  The crowd was roaring and boo’ing.  Tellingly, they weren’t standing and cheering.  Canelo.

I may have been generous in giving any rounds to Chavez Jr.  The TV guy didn’t give any to him.  Foreman was afraid there’d be 12 round fight with a controversial decision.  Mike thought Canelo would finish him in the middle rounds.  The judges’ decision, which was the only one that mattered, unanimously gave it to Canelo, all with the same score. 

Chavez Sr entered the ring right after the fight, but I didn’t see what happened afterward.  Canelo did separate interviews with both TV networks.  It went by too fast for me to have any chance of figuring out what he was saying, but he wasn’t very animated, or even winded.  Canelo’s next fight is in September against Golovkin.  I hope that’s that “Triple G” guy everybody is excited to see him fight.  I’m willing to sit through one more bad big fight before I stop watching for good, so let’s hope it’s a good one. 

It was too late to call Mike after the fight, and Laiza probably wouldn’t be really interested in talking about this fight anyway.  Another wasted evening watching a boxing match.  I should have a press hard card by now for covering all this boxing.  It’s the only reason I’m doing it.  It’s a prerequisite right?  I haven’t been wasting my time, have I?

Friday, May 5, 2017

Baseball Journal April 2017

Owing to an impending, violent change to my life schedule, I wasn’t sure about bothering with a journal this year.  However, as long as there’s baseball that I can watch or listen to, let’s enjoy what we can.  Mostly, I’ve been listening over the radio (and Internet) and catching the MLB Free game.  As usual, this is highly biased towards the teams that I like and that I get to watch or listen to, namely the NM State Aggies, the El Paso Chihuahuas, the Texas Rangers, and the Colorado Rockies. 

So far, I haven’t bothered much with baseball on TV.  A big “Thank you” to Fox Sports for not bothering to show any baseball this month and instead focusing on European soccer matches.  That’s just great.  I guess the Yankees and Red Sox haven’t been playing on any of the weekends yet.  I missed all of spring training and did not see any of the World Baseball Classic, though I did follow along with the championship game.  I have commentary on that: USAUSA!    


Opening Day!  It was a bad day at work.  I didn’t get to see or hear more than a couple of minutes of baseball (or the NCAA Basketball Championship).  I did catch some of the Rangers come from ahead loss to the Cleveland Indians on the MLB free game.  Rougned Odor did hit two homers in the game.  Sam Dyson took the loss in what seemed like ominous foreboding for the Rangers’ bullpen.


Opening Day for the Chihuahuas!  It was a sellout and then some with over 9,000 in attendance.  The late head groundskeeper, Nate Jones, was remembered.  He died at 24 in a car wreck in the offseason.  His field won a PCL award for the grass.  Those outfield suite seats aren’t that great a place to see the game, but I was able to get a good look at that grass.  It was so perfect, it looked like it should be vacuumed instead of mowed.  The Chihuahuas won.  There were a couple of homers and an inside the park home run (technically a single and three-base error).  Coach Rod Barajas later admitted that the huge crowd did kind of goad him into sending the runner home.  



[This was my actual first entry and the first game I got to really listen to.  Yeah, I started this over a week late.  I was still upset about Opening Day going badly for me.]  Up 5-0 over the Angels, the Rangers proceeded to squander the lead until the ninth when Sam Dyson came in finished the job for his second blown save of the year.  Of course, it was my least favorite player, Al Pujols driving in Mike Trout for the tying run.  In the tenth, Trout then robbed Jonathan Lucroy of the go ahead home run.  The Rangers lose in the bottom on a squeeze play.  6-5 Angels.  Adrian Beltre is still out and Joey Gallo is in.  He’s still striking out, but did a tremendous upper deck home run last week.

Rockies vs. Giants.  The Rockies new closer, Greg Holland, loaded the bases in the ninth up 3-1, but got a double play to end it.  Where was Buster?  Was he still out on concussion protocols?  Trevor Story was back in a short.  That was good to hear.  David Dahl is out with injury however.  Mark Reynolds is doing very well, filling in for the injured Ian Desmond.  If they could just get the whole team together .  . .

At the end of this game, I got the final score of the Mets and Marlins game I was watching earlier.  It was 9-8 Mets in extras.  Yoenis Cespedes hit two monster home runs while I was watching.  Meanwhile, the Aggies beat Sacramento State 8-4.  LJ Hatch went crazy in the game with a home run, two singles, and three stolen bases. 

Marcel Renteria went 9 innings and worked his way out of a bases loaded jam in the ninth.  He actually talked his way into staying into the game with three guys on.  Unfortunately it ended in a 2-1 loss to Sac State in the twelfth.  Sac State won the game with three hits and two errors.


8-7, Rangers lose to the Mariners.  Another Sam Dyson blown save.  There was an odd series of events in the inning, but ultimately he walked in the tying run.  There wasn’t even a batted ball that left the infield in the final inning.  The Rangers seem to have to find a new closer every year.  The Chihuahuas also lost, but there was an interesting scoring play for dogs in the game.  Jabari Blash tagged up on second on a deep fly ball by Collin Cowgill and scored.  The centerfielder fell down after making the catch, but that is still a heck of a sprint.

It was an afternoon matinee for the Chihuahuas and a blowout loss.  Catcher Rocky Gale made his pitching debut, throwing a 60mph fastball.  You could hear a heckler in the stands giving him the business, “Show us your fast ball!”  His line was one hit batter, one strikeout, a single (scoring two inherited runners), and a groundball out.

At least the Aggie baseball team put up a good fight against Texas Tech in Midland, losing 6-4.  They briefly had a lead.  In the fifth, in a four strikeout inning, the Aggies scored a, almost needless to say, unearned run.  They were playing under harsh conditions, namely every time the Red Raiders scored, a hockey horn blasted and then the Tech fight song played.

Meanwhile in Las Cruces, the Aggie softball team was getting clobbered by the Arizona Wildcats.  There apparently was no run rule.  In Game one, with over 500 in attendance, they lost 8-0.  In Game two, with over 800 in attendance (nearly a full house), they lost 11-1.  The Arizona pitcher in that game had 12 strikeouts.  Why am I smiling though?  She had a no-hitter going in the last inning until Kelsey Horton came up.  I don’t know if she just made a mistake or was trying to challenge Kelsey, but the result was a home run.  Having seen Kelsey bat, that must have been the angriest swing of the night.  Also, the team only had one error in the two games, so they didn’t beat themselves.

Back at home that night, I got to hear the end of the Rockies versus the Dodgers.  There was some drama in the bottom of the ninth, but Greg Holland got save, his eighth in a row.  4-3 Rockies.


I came into this game late, but better late than never in a scoreless 13 inning game.  Joey Gallo doubled and was driven in by Delino Deshields for the 1-0 Ranger win over the Royals.  Meanwhile, how do you get 17 strikeouts in a game and have a 5-0 lead and still lose in extras?  Ask the Chihuahuas, as I listened to this night’s game in slowly unfolding horror.  They should have stayed the Diablos.



Twins over the Rangers 3-2.  All of the Twins’ runs were walked on base.  I finally got a look at Jose Leclerc.  Whatever he’s throwing, he’s making the batters look silly trying to swing at it.  Meanwhile in Denver, down a run to the Nationals in the eighth, the Rockies got five straight hits to start the inning before the Nat’s reliever was taken out.  Rockies win 8-4.  The Chihuahuas lost at home 12-1.  Probably a good thing, I decided to watch the Rangers instead. 

The MLB free game was a good matchup between the Astros and the Indians.  Dallas Keuchel pitched a compete game for a 4-2 win for the Astros.  Josh Reddick made a highlight reel catch in centerfield to rob Jason Kipnis of a home run.  However, Houston may have actually been the loser in the game, as Jose Altuve and Teoscar Hernandez had hard collision on a popup.  Both had to come out of the game, though somehow, Teoscar, who might have nearly a foot in height and at least 50 pounds on Altuve, came away the worst for it, as he left on a cart.  The Astros are already a bit banged up.  This isn’t good.

Meanwhile in Tucson, the Aggie baseball team was crushed by Arizona, 11-2.  Six errors leading to six unearned runs didn’t help.  You can accept another team being better than your team, but it’s hard to accept your team beating themselves.  The other team being really good, doesn’t cause errors.  That’s on you guys.  Even Adam Young’s call of the game was flat, listless, and defeated.  I almost hope there was some reason other than the game for him sounding depressed. 

Chihuahuas lose to the Salt Lake City Bees 13-5.  Halfway through the game, it was tied.  By the end, the Chihuahuas put catcher, Christian Bethencourt, in to pitch.  Tim Hagerty said this was some kind of experiment by the Padres to develop a super utility player that could play any position.  Okay. 

This has to be my favorite Internet baseball story of the year, Ranking the Rockies Walk up Music.  At last, news I can use.  Before I even read it, I knew it was going to be Charlie Blackmon’s “Your Love” by the Outfield at number one.  Is there anything better in baseball on a weekly basis than hearing the Denver crowd finish the opening verse when he comes to bat?

I got the latest issue of Sports Illustrated in the mail today.  It sucking mess of player and coach puff pieces and typical media agenda items.  Thanks goodness I got this subscription for free.  But the last page commentary by Steve Rushin had me giggling for the rest of the day.  In a rambling piece about baseball, he mentioned the “butterscotch” voice of Giants broadcaster, Jon Miller.  “Miller’s is the voice you want to hear on your deathbed, narrating your life as it flashes before your eyes.”  Wow, Rushin totally nailed that.

It was a busy night at work with month end processing and a busy night in baseball.  The Aggie baseball team was playing GCU on TV.  The Aggie softball team was also playing GCU, which I could follow along on Statcast.  And the MLB free game featured the Rangers playing the Hated Angels.  (The Chihuahuas were rained out on the road thankfully.  Otherwise I might have been totally overloaded.)

The Aggie baseball game featured an overhead drone view of the stadium.  It was very impressive.  I’m sure MLB teams will likely start using them too in the near future.  I caught a glimpse of the son of a co-worker manning a camera in the opposing dugout.  (I told his mom later.  She was thrilled.)  There was a shot of the stands where Athletic Director Mario Moccia was sitting with the football coach, Doug Martin, and the new Men’s basketball coach, Chris Jans.  Jans went into the booth to chat in the fourth inning.  Is it a bad sign that GCU hit a home run to start that inning?

Just to add to the frenzy, I noticed on Youtube that someone had pirated the Red Sox/Cubs game and was broadcasting it live.  I checked in on it occasionally, but couldn’t stay and watch.  Meanwhile, after going down 8-nothing in the fourth and about to be run ruled in the fifth, Aggie Softball erupted for seven runs to make a game out of it. 

Wait, I see that 6’11” baseball player in the Aggie dugout.  He’s not a myth.  Inspired by the girls, the guys managed to tie the score 4-4 in the fourth.  Unfortunately, Aggie Softball pitching didn’t hold GCU and they lost 14-8.  In Arlington, the Rangers lost to the Hated Angels 6-3.  Eric Nadel made a suggestion for pick off throws: the pitcher gets two throws, then it’s a balk.  He’s gotten no support on this.   (My suggestion is that a throw to any base other than home is a ball.  Along with this, we get rid of the balk rule or have lines 10’ away from the bases that the runners can’t cross until the pitcher moves.)  

Aggie Baseball had a three run lead, but lost it on a home run in the eighth.  Ruger Rodriguez blew his first save of the year.  There’s a light rain where I am, but it doesn’t get to the stadium.  In the tenth, GCU scored the go ahead run on a passed ball strike out with the bases loaded.  Groan.  I’m physically hurt.  The Aggies lose 11-9.  What a disappointing night for baseball. 


I hear this from Tim Hagerty during Game 2 of a double header sweep by Chihuahuas.  The starting Salt Lake City pitcher for Game 1 was ejected before the game.  The incident was described as “a miscommunication.”  Tim said the umpire had told the pitcher to move his chair in the bullpen.  When the pitcher argued, he got tossed.  He came in in Game 2 as a reliever and gave up five runs.  He should have stayed in the dugout.