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
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
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
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 (
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
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.
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
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?