Tuesday, October 25, 2016

MLB Playoffs 2016

By the time I’d posted my predictions, they were already wrong.  I foresaw that possibility, but felt I had to put it up, as is.  At least there was some unintentional comedy value to it.

The Flash season premier distracted me, but I got to hear some of the AL Wild Card game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays.  Given the high-powered teams involved, this was surprisingly a pitchers’ duel, so much so that it went into extras, tied at two.  In the 11th, Edwin Encarnacion hit a game-winning, walk-off three-run homer to give the Jays the win.  With that, my predictions already start off wrong.  On the one hand, I thought the game was going to be in Baltimore.  If I’d known that it was going to be Toronto, with their Lebatt’s bottle-throwing fans, I might have made a different prediction.  (And, I doubt Oriole players will be tossing any more balls into the stands there for a while.)  Worse, I was giving it to the O’s because I thought they had a better bullpen.  Alright, cue the circus music as we rematch the Jays and the Rangers.

Rangers versus Blue Jays Game 1.  Since this is the early game, I’m able to hear this game on the radio.  That’s the end of the good news.  The Rangers lose 10-1.  It wasn’t even that close.  I think Cole Hamels may have been injured for the last month and not said anything, because this loss is not shocking given his recent outings.  He was not helped by the defense which had a couple misplays and an error.  Jose Bautista received a standing boo for his first at bat.  In the 4th, he hit a three-run homer, sans any bat flip, though a fan did charge the field afterward anyway.  In the other game, Cleveland beats Boston 5-4.

In spite of the great NL Wild Card game match up between the San Francisco Giants and the New York Mets, I totally missed the game on the radio to go to Aggie Volleyball.  If I’d stayed home, I still would have missed part of the game to see the Arrow season premiere.  I saw a guy at the volleyball match watching the ballgame on an iPad.  He had the right idea.  During the intermission, I asked Ron for a game update and was shocked that it was still scoreless in the 7th.   I did hear the top of the first before leaving, and I remembered that I heard the commentators say that they thought this would be tight contest with Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner pitching.

I got the final box score later of 3-0 Giants.  Perusing the stats, I saw the unlikely hero being Conor Gillaspie with a three-run homer.  Far more familiar was the goat in the situation, Mets’ closer Jeurys Familia.  I seem to recall stuff like this happening last year for the Mets.  Bringing him in in a non-save situation likely didn’t help.  The stat of the game came before the game: Bumgarner was 4-0 pitching at Citifield, and he’s the best post-season pitcher ever (by ERA).  He pitched a complete game in the shutout.

I watched the local news and saw the winning home run on the sports (and the volleyball recap).  Afterward, the new female anchor (haven’t caught her name yet) commented on liking Syndergaard.  “They call him ‘Thor’ because of his long blonde hair.  I think he’s cute.”  There was awkward silence from the guys sitting on either side of her.  Apparently even women aren’t allowed to oogle the opposite sex in public, much less men.

5-3 Jays over Rangers.  I was listening to the game while at an NMSU soccer match.  After I heard Darvish give up three home runs in an inning, I suspected this series may be over.  If neither of the Rangers’ aces were in top form, I don’t have much hope for the rest of the rotation.  Two full houses for hot day games in Arlington were seriously unhappy.  The Indians beat David Price and the Red Sox 6-0 and take a 2-0 series lead, just like the Blue Jays.  And the worst of it for the Red Sox next year, no Pappi and Price is only going to get worse.  Glad I’m not in Boston listening to their sports talk media right now.  Dodgers beat the Nats.  The Cubs beat Johnny Cueto and the Giants 1-0 on a Javier Baez home run.  

The Cubs beat the Giants 5-2.  Giants’ pitcher Jeff Samardzija was knocked out after a couple of innings, though Cubs’ pitcher Kyle Hendricks got injured off of a line drive and was also taken out.  After the game during player interviews, the crowd at Wrigley was singing so loud that you could barely hear the players speak.

The Rangers were eliminated today by the Blue Jays, 7-6 in 10 innings.  I actually got home in time from the softball game to have heard it, but the local affiliate wasn’t picking it up.  I kinda forgot about it, but tuned in later to another station after dark.  They were carrying the game, but it was a weak signal.  About half the time, all I could hear was Hilary Clinton screeching at the debate on a conflicting station.  I couldn’t turn it off quick enough.  While Roughned Odor did hit a two-run homer in the game, it was his error in the 10th that gave the Jays the win.  Much like last year, a defensive miscue by the Rangers decides the series.  I’m only grateful that this didn’t get dragged out a couple more game to make the heartache worse.
Washington beat the Dodgers.  Who cares?  Either team will lose to the Cubs.  The Red Sox survive another day, but only because a hurricane washed out their game today.  I might be a bit depressed.

The Indians eliminate the Red Sox.  Bring on the Blue Jays.  Washington beats LA.  For two teams not known for doing well, it was the best case scenario for them to meet here.  Somebody’s going to have to win this, so somebody’s guaranteed to move on.  I found the Cubs and Giants game on the radio.  Unfortunately, it was a weak signal and, ironically, crossed with a sports talk network, who were talking about the game.  So, the game fades out, and I’m listening to commentary about the game on the other network.  It’s still not the best way to listen to a game.  

Cubs pitcher, Jake Arrieta, hit a three-run home run in the game.  Even the pitchers can mash on the Cubs.  In the 8th, Connor Gillaspe again comes up big, driving in a couple of runs to tie the score.  The Giants manage to take the lead, but a Kris Bryant home run in the 9th ties it again.  By the 13th inning, I just couldn’t stay up, not with reception this bad.  In the morning, I flip on ESPN radio to get the result.  45 minutes later, I remember why I never listen to them.  The network managed to offend, irritate, and bore me the entire time.  I never even got the score, they just mentioned that there’d be another game that day in the series.  As I found out later, the Giants had won with Joe Panik playing the part of hero.

The Dodgers win.  I still don’t care about this Dodger/Nationals series.  I start watching the Giants versus the Cubs, but end up watching The Flash instead.  I may not be fully into this.  Giant pitcher, Matt Moore, actually drives in a couple of runs by the time I rejoin the game.  Who needs the DH?  In the 9th, Moore comes out as the Giants have a three-run lead.  Five relief pitchers later, the Cubs have scored four runs and end up winning the game.  I don’t even know what to say, other than the Giants need to upgrade their bullpen.  The Giants even being in the playoffs was a bit questionable, and the Cubs are a pretty awesome team this year.  You have to like the Cubs against anybody left in the playoffs.

It was a decisive Game 5 between the Dodgers and the Nationals.  Whoever choked the least would win .  . . the opportunity to be beaten by the Cubs in the next round.  With a one run lead, Kershaw came in for the Dodgers to face Daniel Murphy and close it out.  Sheer drama, except that it was a four and half hour nine inning game.  40 players were used.  Maybe we need some rules changes to make these spectacles more bearable for the viewers.

I finally saw the video of Vin Scully’s last game call.  I got choked up.  What great broadcaster and fellow.  The Indians and the Blue Jays started their ALCS series.  It was a full house in Cleveland, which was good to see given how poor their fan support has been over the last few years.  Francisco Lindor’s two-run homer was all the scoring in the game.  The Indians win in a very tidy two hours and 44 minutes.  Laz Diaz’s wide strikezone may have sped things up a bit.

10-15-16 to 10-22-16
Admittedly I haven’t been watching much of these playoff games.  The elimination of the Rangers and Giants dampened my enthusiasm, along with the extremely poor TV package of the MLB playoffs.  I don’t know if anybody is really watching given where the games are.

The Indians won their series 4 to 1.  All the games were pretty close.  Andrew Miller (MVP) and the bullpen carried the day for the Tribe.  The biggest news was some Canadian A-hole suing the Indians on behalf of “indigenous peoples” over their name and logo, until a judge said, “Take off a’.”  The games almost weren’t broadcast in Canada.  The team was actually named in honor of an actual “Indian” player (regardless of what Wikipedia says), but go ahead and rename the team get rid of Chief Wahoo.  Just replace the name with the Cleveland LeBron’s (until he moves on to another city) and use that capital “C” logo that at least three other professional teams use (that I can think of off the top of my head).

Meanwhile, the Cubs beat the Dodgers 4 to 2 in their series.  The Cubs went into a serious batting slump in the middle of this, but when they were hitting, they were mashing.  Clayton Kershaw did well in much of the playoffs, but in the sixth and decisive game, he was hittable.  On some level, he’s a victim of his own success.  Two different managers have leaned on him on short rest and too many innings.  The inevitable result is Kershaw blowing it in the playoffs (though in that game six, his defense let him down).  This time, it came later rather than sooner.  The Dodger bullpen still isn’t trustworthy enough to take the ball away from him.

Who wins the rings?  The Cubs should with their stats, but the Indians have all of the intangibles, including manager, Terry Francona, who’s won it all twice.  Both fan bases should really be into it.  So, the anointed ones versus the team of destiny.  I’m not calling it.  I do worry that if the Indians win, LeBron James might charge the field and take credit for it.  If the Cubs win, there will be blood in the streets of Chicago, so no difference from a typical weekend in the Windy City.

Monday, October 24, 2016

NMSU Aggies vs Georgia Southern Eagles Football 10-23-16

I didn’t expect to be attending this game.  However, there were free tickets handed out at work and my boss, Ron, came back from a week-long out-of-town conference wanting to go.  Were I in his place, I would not have wanted to have moved this weekend out of my easy chair.  So, let’s go.  We had an early dinner at McAlisters deli first.  I mention this only to push their new green sweet tea, which is excellent, and to mention that several other Aggie fans were there.  In fact, a rush of people came in right after we got our order.

Even with a leisurely meal (and you can’t imagine the spectacle of watching someone eat an entire muffeletta in front of you, the sandwich is as big as the plate), we ended up in the stadium a good half hour before the game.  There was plenty of parking on campus for this game, unlike the Lobo’s game.  Our tickets were next to the endzone seats on the north end.  Not great, but the cheerleaders were in front of us.  They were wearing pink t-shirts for the “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” promotion, except for one of the girls, who was just wearing her black sports bra.  (That was an engaging distraction until she put a shirt on).  The stadium was dotted with pink in the crowd with fans wearing old and new pink Aggie shirts.  Several fans in our section had nice portable stadium seats, since I thought odd, since these weren’t good seats.

The video board promoted an “Aggie Country Pass,” that got you into any sport, except football and men’s basketball for $100-something bucks.  I mentally ran the numbers and decided that it probably wouldn’t work for me until I’m retired and have time to go to all the games.  What’s frustrating about these offers they mention at the games is that I can’t find them on NMStateSports.com website to research them.  Meanwhile, I found out football and men’s basketball had raised their season ticket prices dramatically when a couple of co-workers mentioned it.  One of them grunted out a cuss word about it.  He is definitely not a person who uses that kind of language, so this is a passionate subject.              

Out on the field, the local Onate High School band performed and was followed by the “World’s Most Dangerous Band,” the Aggie Pride band.  The band had a separate edgy, dramatic PA, rather than the regular baritone PA, who did the game call and much of the rest of Aggie home sports.  The two bands finished and went up into the stands and would share a section together.  I wondered about this before I realized that Georgia Southern didn’t bring a band.  The visitor’s section looked fairly sparse, but they generated quite a bit noise when their team came out.  They did bring their eagle-suited mascot.

Ron nudged me and pointed out a trio of glamorous young women, who came out on to the Aggie sidelines from the entrance tunnel.  They stood behind the team for a while during the pre-game.  I had to wonder what their relationship was to the team.  The crowd filled in nicely, with an announced attendance of over 10,000.  Horse-riding Pistol Pete (as opposed to the two other Pete's) came in ahead of the team, wearing a pink shirt.  The horse even had pink highlights.

First Quarter
The Eagles moved downfield well.  Nearly right off the bat, we got a long official’s review of a play.  This was a poor way to start any game.  The Aggie defense held on a 3rd down and limited the drive to a field goal.  The cowbells were aplenty among the fans for that and every other 3rd down for the game.  0-3 Eagles.  The cheerleaders started throwing little footballs into the crowd to get them excited.  I found the good number of pretty girls in the crowd wearing shorts exciting.  The Aggie offense was not exciting and went three and out on their first possession.

A co-worker came by and sat next to us.  Her husband started watching the Cubs versus Dodgers playoff game on his phone.  Before the game, Ron asked if I’d rather stay home to watch baseball, but lacking cable and the three-digit station the game was on, I didn’t care.  (The MLB playoffs TV situation has got to be unacceptable to everybody.)  At best, I might have been able to get the game on a bad reception AM radio station.  In any case, the Cubs were up one early.  The husband got irritated and stopped watching.  I’d guess he was a Dodgers fan.

The Eagles got a big quarterback run off an option and got downfield quickly, but the Aggies intercepted one of Kevin Ellison’s passes in the endzone.  The Aggies only managed to get to midfield on the turnover and had to punt.  A new Georgia Southern quarterback came in for the next drive, perhaps because of the interception, though they alternated their QB’s throughout the game.  I couldn’t keep track, even with the radio commentary in my ear.  I was glad I’d gotten a program on the way in, otherwise I would have never believed that the opposing team had a player named L.A. Ramsby.  This guy had to have been born while the Rams were in St. Louis.  His parents were prophetic (and dumb for naming their kid something so stupid).

At the end of quarter, there was a sponsored contest for a fan to kick a field goal.  If he could kick the ball into the truck parked behind the goal, he’d get (something illegible, it was a large cash prize, I need to improve my handwriting).  Unfortunately, it was miss and only worth a free oil change.  I noticed one of the regular Pistol Pete's working the endzone crowd.  I wondered where he was.

Second Quarter
The Aggie defense got another 3rd down stop in the red zone.  After another Eagle field goal, it’s 0-6 Eagles.  The net behind the goal doesn’t stop the ball as usual.  The Aggies got the ball back and had a big 3rd down conversion, which I didn’t see as the people in front of me stood up to leave.  Another co-worker and her family arrived.  Her son was working one of the cameras on the field.  The radio call mentioned an Eagle defensive player that had me going for the program again, Ironhead Gallon.

The Aggies made it into the Eagles’ red zone.  There was a beautiful misdirect on a pass that left a receiver wide open for QB Tyler Rogers for a touchdown.  Arghhhh!  And once again, the kicker missed the PAT and hit the upright.  Why is this guy still the kicker?  This is the same guy who was missing these things last year.  Is there anybody else on the team who could just come in to kick the point afters?  It’s six all in any case.

More mini-footballs were thrown into the crowd to placate them.  A co-worker got one.  Ron had one bounce off his knee, but didn’t come up with it.  People were standing for the balls, and I couldn’t see the game.  My radio signal started going in and out.  I moved my little radio around, finally clipping it to my hat.  I almost managed to strangle myself on the wires in the process.  The next big play I saw was the Aggie defense getting a sack on a Georgia Southern 3rd down.  Update: the Cubs go up 3-0 in the 3rd.

The Aggie offense went into a hurry up and managed to quickly move the ball into the Eagle’s side of the field.  A time out by Eagles stalled the drive.  The Aggies settled for a 42 yard field goal.  9-6 Aggies.  The Eagles got the ball with Ellison back in as quarterback.  Another interception for the Aggies!  Unfortunately, the offensive drive stalled after a couple of false starts.  They probably got out of sync on their hurry up.  The other Eagle QB came in and went three and out.

Me and Ron both lost our radio signal for several minutes before the end of the half.  It was strangely, eerily quiet with the game call.  The Aggie offensive made a good drive downfield, but it again stalled.  On a 4th down on the Eagle’s side of the field, Rogers dodged a couple of tackles, but had to throw it out of bounds.  We go to the half, 9-6 Aggies.  The team got a good cheer as they came off the field.

The co-workers leave.  One of them had to go to a high school game that was going on at the same time.  That was bad planning on somebody’s part with the public schools, but I don’t think it hurt attendance at either game.  (High school football is big here.)  When I went to bathroom, I ended up seeing a couple more co-workers.  The bathrooms at the stadium are better than the troughs at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, but not as good as at other Aggie sports venues.  I skipped visiting the concessions, since I wasn’t particularly hungry or thirsty.  There isn’t anything hugely appealing there either.  I noticed a sign over the concessions saying that they were run by a non-profit entity.  This might explain the lack of appealing fare, though not their prices.  Presumably the Papa John’s tent is run for profit, though at $4 a slice, they’re likely running at an even larger cost overhead than the stadium concessions.
The halftime entertainment was a large pink ribbon that was brought out on field and a moment of silence.  The cheerleaders were out in the concourse, selling pink shirts.  There was a posthumous video board message from the Aggie’s honorary team captain from the last couple of years, Lori Paulson, who died from cancer.  Several players stopped their warm-ups to see her for a moment.  The team and the crowd stopped to make a finger “L” to honor her when Lori’s family was on field.  Update: 5-0 Cubs in the 6th.

Third Quarter
A good pass to Larry Rose III and a roughing the passer penalty tacked one afterward, got the Aggies on the other side of the field quickly on their first possession.  On a 3rd and 11, Rogers ran for a first down.  Suddenly, I’m distracted by an attractive female reporter on the sidelines wearing very tight pants with high boots.  I don’t recognize her.  She might have been with the local campus news.  She continued to be a distraction for the rest of the half.  There’s another first down on a Rogers’ run, but the Aggies had to settle for 20 yard field goal.  12-6 Aggies.  (The kicker’s normal with regular field goals, just not point blank shots.)

The PA called out for the dreaded “Kiss Cam.”  One couple really got into it.  The PA had to warn them to “Just kiss.”  The Aggie defense forced a fumble on an Eagles on a 3rd and long.  This got the biggest cheer out of the crowd for the game, but unfortunately it only resulted in a missed field goal from 33 yards.  The Aggie defense came up big again as they got a stop on a 3rd and short right after.  After a punt, the Aggie offense fumbled in their end.  QB Ellison got some good yardage running, but this had the evitable result of him getting his bell rung.  After he had to come out, his replacement wasn’t able to convert a 3rd down inside the 10.  Another field goal, and its 12-9 Aggies.            

There’s a surprise onside kick after the field goal, and the Eagles recovered at midfield, but they were offsides.  The re-kick bounced a couple of times when it got to a returner, who touched it, but didn’t catch it.  The Eagles recovered the ball deep in Aggie territory.  The crowd collectively groaned.  End of quarter.  The Sundancers performed on our end of the field.  There was an ad on the video board for the New Mexico State volleyball team.  There’s a nice giant image of Jordan Abalos with it.  The radio call mentioned the team a couple of times as they had won this weekend.

Fourth Quarter
The Eagles started the quarter with a quick touchdown.  Their kicker missed the PAT.  It must be contagious.  12-15 Eagles.  After the score, two guys with Georgia Southern flags and their eagle mascot charged into the endzone.  I finally notice that there were cheerleaders on the other side of the field.  There were about eight of them, which maybe explains how I didn’t see them.  We have about 30 in front of us.

The Eagle defense held and then they blocked the Aggie’s punt.  The ball rolled to the Aggie 40 before the Eagles recovered it.  From there, a screen pass went all the way to endzone.  Touchdown Eagles, 12-22 now.  Final update: Cubs win 5-0 over the Dodgers.  They’ll face the Indians next week.  Between these two historically losing franchises, somebody’s gonna win.  T-shirts were thrown into the crowd, but only on the student side of the stadium.

The Aggies took to the air as the quarter wound down.  They were greatly aided by a pair of pass interference penalties.  On a 4th and 11, Tyler Rogers made it running.  And then, an interception.  The crowd started deserting en mass.  Ron and I were left nearly by ourselves in the section.  A co-worker wearing a really smart Aggie polo came over to say, “Hi” before he left.  (I have some shirt envy now.)  The cheerleaders came up into the crowd and handed out, I think, pink bracelets to everyone wearing pink, which didn’t include us.

A kid below us held up a sign, “Striking for head coach.”  Striking is the name of the tee-retrieving dog.  I have no counter-argument at the moment.  The video board announced a 5th quarter following the game, where kids are allowed to run on the field.  That’s a nice touch.  Attempting to run out the clock some more, the Eagles turned it over on downs.  Rogers passed the ball very efficiently, resulting in a quick touchdown, and the PAT was good.  19-22 Eagles.  Where was this kind of offensive tonight?  Alternately, Georgia Southern’s defense may have gotten tired by the end.

The Aggies attempted an onside kick of their own, but the Eagles recovered with a minute, 19 seconds left in the game.  After the Aggies used their last timeout, they could no longer stop the clock.  We left right before it went final.  Ron was angry and depressed.  He likely would have left earlier if the score hadn’t been close.  I don’t know how we lost.  We had almost four times as many cheerleaders, a dance squad, a band, and Pistol Pete!  Almost needless to say, the player of the game is the Aggie defense for playing so stout and keeping the game close.  A little more consistency on the offense and this would have been an Aggie win.  


On the way out, I got a handout of a couple more Aggie cards.  Check out the resume on this Charley Johnson guy!  Does he have any eligibility left?  We, and some other Aggie fans, ended up at the PQ Treats nearby.  Ron and I took advantage of their shake special, and they were good, helping to wash down the bitter defeat.  On the way out, I suggested to the soda jerk (that wasn’t his title, but I so seldom get the opportunity to use that term) that they should have an Aggie Gameday special, something with crimson and white ice cream.  Well, all I have to say is let’s hope the volleyball team doesn’t take after the football team next weekend.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

NMSU Aggies vs Eastern Arizona Softball 10-16-16

After two overtimes and getting autographs at the soccer match, I entered the next door softball stadium just as the warm-ups were finishing.  The soccer PA had mentioned the free softball game a couple of times during the match, but there wasn’t much of a crowd.  The Aggies’ official photographer was out working both events, but I got the impression he’d just assume not be here either.  Hard to blame anybody, since the games don’t count and the stands are directly facing the hot sun.  Since it’s a free game there’s no program, no announcers, no scoreboard, and no scorecard.  So take my game recap with a grain of salt.  

I noticed the team’s former catcher and just graduated senior, Tatum Reedy, was sitting at the scorer’s table.  I kept wanting to go over to ask what her plans were now and to say that I enjoyed watching her play, but I wasn’t sure how that would go over.  Though she wasn’t in the game, Tatum couldn’t suppress occasionally working in some encouraging chatter during the game to the girls.

Tatum’s apparent successor #2 Alexis Maynez, started behind the plate for Game One.  She greeted the home plate ump and introduced herself.  (Yeah, I could hear that.  It was that quiet.)  I like the way she’s always shouting out stuff during the game to the girls and her pitcher.  New Mexico State’s opponent is Eastern Arizona College.  I don’t know what their name is, and there wasn’t even a recap of this weekend’s games on the Aggie website.  We’re going to go with EAC and AZ to identify them from here out.

Some of regular senior citizen fans were present.  A couple of guys were talking about yesterday’s games, which I missed being at the volleyball game.  Ron’s nemesis was there.  I found out his name is Tom.  He started his usual cheering when the game started, but then stopped and moved to a spot further away from the field.  He said he thought he was disturbing the visiting team.  (Like I said, it was quiet there.)  An EAC fan entering the stands in a Cubs shirt started up a discussion of the National League championship series.  His wife was wearing a Dodgers shirt.  I suspect some tension brewing in that household.    

On the other side of the stadium, a couple of fans were tucked under the pavilions for shade.  Meanwhile, I was using an umbrella to keep from getting toasted (along with my third application of sunblock for the afternoon).  This proved dangerous as I completely couldn’t see an early foul ball coming over the screen.  Luckily, it missed me by a good margin.          

#14 Kayla Green started the game.  She’s got a lot of moving parts to her pitching motion and something was off.  After a hit by pitch and a pair of mis-pitches, a runner came in from third to score in the 1st inning, making the score 0-1 EAC.  In the bottom, #17 Kelsey Horton hit a pop up on infield with #10 Amy Bergeson on first.  The ball dropped untouched near first between three infielders and rolled foul.  It was a live ball, but somehow it was treated like a foul by the AZ girls.  Amy scored and Kelsey took second.  Somehow, I think that has to count as an RBI double, since nobody touched the ball or misplayed it.  Kelsey was thrown out trying to steal third and we’re 1-1 after one inning.

There was a conversation about the Aggie volleyball game this evening versus the Lobos, and I was able to chip in with the time and radio station for it.  I’d written that down and had my radio with me ready for it.  Kayla unfortunately can’t find the strike zone in the 2nd inning.  Coach Kathy Rodolph took her out and put in #22 Fahern Glackin.  Kayla went back to the bullpen and started working with an assistant coach.  The bases were loaded with one out, but Fahern got out of it without damage.  The bottle of water I’d brought with me that I’d saved for this game turned to vapor as it hit my mouth.  It wasn’t very refreshing.

In the 3rd, an EAC hitter tripped on first base getting a single.  She’s okay, but I’m trying not to laugh.  A double play ended the Aggie half of the inning.  In the 4th, a Texas leaguer brought in another EAC run.  We’re 1-2 AZ after four.  I notice that the Coke sign is still in the outfield.  Along with new uniforms, the softball team will be changing that next year too.

The 5th started off with a home run by EAC.  Fahern came out and Kayla came back in.  A young man behind me made the foreshadowing comment about her offspeed pitch that, “You could swing at it twice and still miss it.”  With that, her first offspeed of the afternoon drew a gasp from the entire crowd.  This was the classic Kayla we love watching.  She finished off the rest of the inning quickly.  The Aggies loaded the bases with one out in their half.  A sac fly brought in one run.  A popped up bunt dropped in.  The runner on third made a break for it, dodged the tag and scored.  We’re at 3 all after five.

Kayla gets three ground outs to end the top of the 6th.  I should mention that #13 for AZ is pitching a pretty good game.  The team defense is letting her down.  There’s some ribbing going on in stands between Dodger and Cubs fans.  This kind of chatter is something I wasn’t getting during the spring games.  Kayla racked up three more ground outs in the 7th.  The Aggie Soccer team, not in uniform, came by.  I smile and applaud Tuti Tirado, whom I’d talked to while getting her autograph.  I’m not sure if she recognized me (or she thought I was cheating on her, watching another women’s team).

For the top of the 8th, I figured that they’d call the game at this point, since it was an exhibition.  The two coaches came out and just agreed to keep playing.  No umpires were involved.  A double play ended the top, and a new AZ pitcher came in for the bottom.  In the 9th, the senior crowd abandoned ship.  The soccer teams also left.  I don’t blame them.  It’s hot and unpleasant, and they’d already sweat enough for the afternoon.  Plus, I doubt they understood the concept of playing a game until somebody wins.  (Just a joke.  Don’t get mad.)  Kayla racked up a couple more ground outs and a strikeout.  The 10th and 11th innings pass without notable activity.

The new Aggie pitcher, #21 Samaria Diaz, comes in for the 12th.  An AZ batter bunts to move a runner on first to second, but the runner over slides at second and is out.  But with a runner on, the next batter hits a monster two-run homer to give EAC a 3-5 lead.  I take the blame for this.  I fiddling with my radio earplugs, getting ready to listen to the volleyball game, and wasn’t paying attention to game.

The least I could do at this point was put my new Aggie hat in rally mode and help the team win.  (I’ve actually done this before.)  #3 Victoria Castro gets it started with a double.  #15 (Misty Hoohuli?) brings her in, and then scores herself on a #18 Rachel Rodriguez hit and an error.  With the score tied, Rachel scores the winning run on fielder’s choice.  You’re welcome.  It was literally the most unenthusiastic extra innings win ever.  Nobody on field celebrated.  They almost kept playing.  And we still have another game to play today.

(Really guys, couldn’t you have done this walkoff thing in the 7th?  And why didn’t I think to use the rally hat during overtime at the soccer match?  I’ve been having problems with new hat, but it really came through in the clutch though.)

During the intermission, I sat in the shade and ate a pear that looked like it had aged a week from being out in the sun that afternoon and a chocolate muffin that had probably achieved nuclear fusion temperatures.  I chugged the last of my water vapor from the bottle before it evaporated.  I chatted with the EAC/Cubs fan in the bathroom for a moment about the Cubs’ win earlier in the week, and I start listening to the Aggie volleyball game against the Lobos on my radio.

For Game Two, Samaria was back out to pitch for the Aggies.  Most of the regulars seemed to be back out for the Aggies.  I can’t tell you about the EAC players.  Long shadows were breaking over the stands and the field.  Just looking at time, I was pretty sure they were not going to get this game in before sundown.  Would they turn on the lights for this?

In the top of the 1st, a double play occured off a pop up that doubled off a runner on second.  (No infield fly rule?)  In the bottom of the inning, AZ returned favor with a caught liner that doubled off a runner, completing another double play.  I notice that the Aggies in the dugout have really turned up the volume on their singing with the greatly diminished crowd.  Between innings, the EAC coach came over and actually chatted with a couple of their travelling fans in the stands.

In the 2nd, the Cowboys won over the Packers at Lambeau 30-16, and the Aggie volleyball team went up 1 set to none on the Lobos in Albuquerque.  Five foul balls fly out of stadium during the top of the inning.  The EAC coach told her bench players to run out and get them.  (I think they have a pretty limited supply of balls for the game.)  In the bottom, another Aggie is caught stealing.  They aren’t getting any benefit of doubt calls from the umps this time, unlike last week.  The next batter is thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double.  The running game may not be there for the team.                    

It may be from being out in the sun all afternoon, or perhaps I’ve poisoned myself from the fourth application of sunblock, but I briefly become delusional.  I start thinking I’m the only one in stands (which isn’t far from reality) and that the girls are out there playing just for me . . . Oh, hey!  Victoria just hit a three-run homer with two outs!  I snap out of it, and the Aggies are up 3-0 after two.

In the top of the 3rd, Aggie #11 (?), the new catcher, guns down a runner trying to take second.  In the bottom, Amy gets a single, steals second, and takes third on a bad pickoff throw.  She almost takes home too and almost gets tagged out diving back.  The EAC fans are upset about the call.  Fahren drives her in, and Amy gets the hustle award.  4-0 Aggies.  Kelsey gets a single and moves to second on an error.  #11 (?) hits an RBI single, 5-0.  #8 Hayley Nakamura gets a bunt single to load the bases.  Hit by pitch, 6-0.  Victoria, another RBI hit, 7-0.  Meanwhile in Albuquerque, the Lobos take the second set.

By the 4th inning, the field is completely in shadow.  In the 5th, the lights come on.  So much for the game being called on account of darkness.  The AZ left fielder makes a great catch on a liner.  However, Aggie #7 (?) later triples.  #24 Corrin Green doubles her in.  8-0 Aggies.  What’s the mercy rule number?  Victoria gets an RBI double, 9-0.  Are we there yet?  In the 6th, Aggie #9 (?) singles and ends up on third after a misplay.  #23 (?) drives her in on fielder’s choice.  10-0 Aggies.  Apparently, there isn’t a mercy rule in effect.

Samaria finished off the shutout in the 7th with a 10-0 win.  Well done.  The EAC coach came out on the field.  She asked if they could go ahead and play the bottom of the inning so one of her pitchers can get some work.  Sure!  Three outs later, it’s over.  It’s finally over.  The Aggies are tired, but happy.  From what I’ve seen, the team looks pretty good.  I’m looking forward to next year.

Okay, I’ve been outside at the university for 8 hours today.  I’m finished and done.  Shoot, this is my seventh Aggie game in the last two weeks that I’m attending, taking notes, and writing up.  I’m Aggie’d out.  At least, I’m off this coming weekend.  Unfortunately, I won’t be going to the football game, though I’ll be listening on the radio.  After I get home, crap!  The Aggie volleyball team loses in four sets.  Adam Young, calling the game, is stunned.  It was a team with an 11 game winning streak meeting a team with a 7 game losing streak.  Neither streak was going to continue indefinitely, especially with the Aggies dinged up and tired from a bunch of matches, including one yesterday and then having to travel today.  Something had to give.  Oh, I hate to end on this.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to see them return to form in two weeks.                  

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

NMSU Aggies vs Utah Valley Wolverines Women’s Soccer 10-16-16

It was a bright, warm cloudless, windless day for outdoor sports.  I was already sweating by the time I got to the complex parking lot.  This was bad omen, since I was also planning on going to see the softball double header right after the match.  Since the last time I’d seen the team, they’d played the UMKC Roos to a tie.  This was considered to be a very good effort against a much better team.  (“A tie.”  “Good effort.”  Soccer.  Sigh.)

I picked up a hot dog, chips, and a Mountain Dew before the match at the concessions.  I was hungry enough to quickly eat the meal without complaint.  The large grandstand was unexpectedly nearly full.  By the program stats, if the other two games I’ve been at had over 400, I’d say this crowd might have been near 600.  Good to see the team getting plenty of support.  I finally swallowed my pride and brought an umbrella for shade, but was afraid to open it with so many people around me.  I also figured out what the little pavilions on top of the nearby softball stands are for.  That’s where the PA and the rest of the staff sit when calling soccer games.  In front of the stands, I could see a young woman instructing the little ball kids on what to do.  These kids were a bit younger than the other ones I’ve seen.

The teams and officials went out for introductions.  Again, I’m struck by how young and small the girls seem here.  Maybe it’s because they’re further away out on the large pitch, or maybe it’s just in comparison to the other female athletes in volleyball and softball.  Our opponents today are the Utah Valley Wolverines.  They have a 7-6-1 record that the Aggies at 4-10-1 wouldn’t mind having.  The UV girls are in attractive lime green/dark green uniforms, with their goalie in an off red and black top.  The team let out a scream of a cheer before being introduced.  The Aggie girls were looking good in white with crimson trim (and I’d still like to have one of those shirts).  Local girl, #16 Christina Bertoldo is one of the starters.  During the anthem, a fellow behind me sang it out.  And with that, we’re playing.

Our first opportunity comes with 42’ minutes left in the half.  (I’m not counting back to figure out the proper soccer accounting of time.)  #10 Aileen Galicia takes a shot on a breakaway.  The crowd is still filled with a bunch of would-be coaches, shouting out instant criticism to our players.  Early on, a fan, I hope a parent, starts shouting instructions to one of the little ball kids.  I’m not kidding here.  I’m tempted to shout back, “He’s four years old, and he’s not in the damn game!  Shut up!”  At least there’s enough people present that there’s also plenty of encouragement.

I notice the Utah Valley girls were doing a lot of holding and grabbing early on.  The refs do as well and call it.  The ball mostly stays in the Aggie end of the field for the half.  At 29’, #0 Raeann Garcia comes out of the box for a save.  At 21’, a ball on the sidelines rolls in between one of the ball kid’s legs as he tries to catch it.  Everyone gets a laugh, though I’m cringing waiting for a call from the stands, “You do that again and we’re putting you up for adoption!”  Thankfully, this doesn’t happen.  17’, there’s some great passing and positioning for the Wolverines in front of the Aggie net, but they miss.  The crowd around me was yelling at the girls to shoot and I suddenly realize I’m sitting with fans of the other team.  Well, they act the same as our fans at times, but were generally more encouraging.

The half continued with more shots on the Aggie goal, including an almost intercepted dangerous back pass to the goalie.  I was tempted to start shouting myself at that point.  I’d seen a goal scored off that before.  8’ left and a great chance for UV gets stopped on a hand ball foul in the box.  Finally, Wolverine #10 Breanna McCarter finds the net on a shot.  0-1 Utah Valley.  [Edit: Somehow I missed making a note about the first goal of the match.  I might have been waiting for an announcement of the players involved that never came.  I am an idiot.  I mean really.  Given all the other stuff I'm taking notes on and I miss a goal?]  The crowd is really getting on the Aggie girls now.  Maybe it works, as at 6’, Aileen makes another breakaway attempt, which causes the goalie to come out to stop her.

4’ and a UV shot goes way high and hits the metal scoreboard behind the Aggie goal with a resounding “clang.”  My remaining Mountain Dew has become boiling hot in the 90 degree heat.  It’s no longer refreshing.  A couple more attacks on the Aggie goal are broken up.  Within the last minute, an Aggie breakaway is called offsides . . . at midfield?  How does anybody score in this sport with rules like this?  The half ends with the Aggies having 1 shot on goal and 1 corner, to the Wolverines’ 1 goal, 3 shots, and 2 corners.  Of course these statistics are meaningless except for the goals, but they have to put something up on the scoreboard.

Our halftime entertainment is again a game of musical soccer, this time with a group of young girls.  Once again, there’s some rules confusion, which the PA has a good time teasing the girls with.  One of the parents started shouting instructions at one of the girls.  I kid you not.  Out in the heat running around, the two finalists end the game exhausted and soaked and presumably having gained more appreciation for the players.  The winner got free tickets to next week’s football game for her whole family.

The Aggies were standing by a wall next to the nearby football stadium in the shade, getting instructed by coach.  I don’t see the Wolverines anywhere.  I hop up and grab a cup of courtesy water from a cooler by the entrance.  God bless them for not making me pay $3 for a bottle of water.  Having a little space around me when I return, I pop my now vintage El Paso Diablos giveaway umbrella.  I’d been afraid of accidentally hitting someone with it or blocking their view.  Most people with umbrellas sit on the top row.

We don’t have to wait long for something to happen when play resumes.  At 43’, on their first opportunity, the Wolverines make a good pass in front of the goal and it’s kicked in.  All too easy.  The UV bench screams.  Unfortunately, there’s no announcement about who did it so that I could give them proper credit.  [Edit: It's Wolverine #15 Adrene Harding, with an assist by McCarter, our first goal scorer.]  The crowd gets ominously quiet at 0-2 Utah Valley.  The girls on the field are making more noise than the crowd.  There’s actually lots of chatter on field during the game, you just can’t usually hear it, except for yelling and the occasional “Aggie up!” shouts from the girls.

40’ there’s a yellow card as a UV player runs over an Aggie player.  36’ and Aileen gets a shot off in front of the goal that goes just wide.  From some conversations going on in the crowd, I notice two former Aggie players nearby.  I found myself eavesdropping on one of the girls as she described the horrible injuries that ended her career.  She seemed to be okay now and was extremely pretty, so I think things will work out for her.          

At 24’ left, there’s a slow developing two on one breakaway towards the UV goal.  #21 Holly Abdelkader just barely kicks it past the goalie coming out on her, and the ball slowly rolls right into the net.  #3 Audrey Chavez gets the assist.  We’re now at 1-2 Wolverines.  The PA had scarcely finished his “Gooool!” call when at 22’, Abdelkader gets the ball outside the penalty box and slams a hard shot right into the net.  If the first Aggie goal caught everyone by surprise by being so quiet, this one finished with an exclamation point.  #12 Kelly Burton gets the assist.  We’re at two all and a brand new game.

I look over at the pretty ex-player.  She’s had head down over her phone the whole time.  I wonder why she’s here.  Well, I at least am excited.  The Aggies keep up the pressure for much of the rest of the half.  The Wolverine keeper makes a couple of good saves on attacks.  Aggie #22 Gabby Campbell, the smallest player on the field gets a good opportunity at 4’.  She gets a big cheer from the crowd and appears to be a fan favorite.  The PA announces “One minute remaining,” with a sense of urgency, and the crowd gets into it before regulation ends.

What happens next is amazing.  The PA actually explains the rules for overtime.  Trust me, there have been several times at Aggie sporting events where I wish they’d explain the rules.  The Wolverines get on the offensive.  7’ left and the Aggie keeper Raeann and a UV player collide by the net.  With the overtime, criticism of officials also steps up.  4’ and Aileen makes a solo charge downfield.  She's slow to get back afterward, probably cramped up.  The Aggies get two chances in the final minute.  The UV goalie makes a good punch save on one and a mid-air catch on a corner kick.

We start a second 10’ overtime.  The Wolverines make a couple of attacks, with Raeann having to come out to stop one of them.  With a couple minutes left, the refs let a couple of obvious UV holds go.  The crowd doesn’t seem to expect any better officiating at this point.  The whistle blows and it ends in a 2-2 tie.  In hockey, they play four on four for OT to open up the game a bit, then they go to a shootout.  Just saying, that soccer and the NFL are the only sports that allow ties in games that count.  Still, it was a great comeback for the Aggies.  It’s just a pity that the rules don’t really facilitate a better chance at a resolution.

An autograph session was announced for after the game.  Unlike the volleyball signing, this affair is a bit disorganized.  This is mostly due to this event being held on a field and tables have to be brought in and there’s no chairs for the girls.  It’s also a bit loud and rushed.  I do get to speak to #24 Tuti Tirado for a second.  She’s another small player and is from Puerto Rico and played on their national team.  I told her that I saw her profile on TV, which immediately brightened her day.  I asked her if what she about the facilities and equipment here at NMSU being better than Puerto Rico’s national team is for real.  I can just barely hear her over of the crowd, but she did confirm that.  

I’d hoped to talk to #20 Dominique Rivera, since she’d been featured in that profile too.  I’d also wanted to tell Aileen Galicia how impressed I was with her in the previous game with Chicago State.  I was going to tell Christina Bertoldo that I work with her sister in law.  Most of all, I wanted to congratulate Holly Abdelkader and ask if she was related to or knew of the hockey player with the same last name (such a cool name).  I didn’t even finish with the same poster I’d started with and was lucky there was a signed poster left over at the end.  (A little boy got mine with his name signed on it by the girls.  I was almost resigned to going away empty-handed.)  Still, as I said in another post, given the physical distance between the fans the players on field, some get-togethers are crucial to building a relationship with the sport.

It was a pretty good morning at the pitch.  I enjoyed it, even though there wasn’t a winner.  Soccer has a way of lowering your expectations.  Unfortunately, their last home game is probably going to conflict with the last volleyball home game, unless there’s a very efficient winner at the volleyball match.  That’s bad scheduling there.  My opinion of soccer hasn’t really changed over these three games, but at least I found these games with the Aggie girls entertaining and liked supporting them.        


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

NMSU Aggies vs Chicago State Cougars Women’s Volleyball 10-15-16

I have to start this looking backward.  I saw the match on Thursday (10-13-16) versus the UMKC Roo’s on Aggievision.  What a tremendous win for the Aggies.  They went down two sets to a good team and battled back to tie it.  In the 5th set, the Aggies went down 1-5.  #20 Sasha-Lee Thomas, who had been used sparingly due to an ankle injury, just took over.  She was directly involved in winning about seven points in a row.  The Roo’s made a comeback, but the Aggies would finally take it.  #6 Tatyana Battle had a career game, while #3 Jordan Abalos had another 20+ kill game.  (I was at work at the time and not taking notes.)  #12 Megan Hart was a starter and #24 Lexi May platooned with her for much of the game.

However, Sasha could barely walk by the end of the match.  #13 Alexsa “Crash” Parker also had an ankle injury and was mostly limited to just serving, which is one of her strong points.  If Jordan was playing hurt in the last game, at least she looked good here.  In the post-match interview, Coach Mike Jordan said the girls played through some “yellow puddles,” but came through.  I hate to imagine what he’d have said if they’d lost.  Congratulations to Adam Young for not having any reaction to what the coach was saying while he was interviewing him.  

This brings us to today’s match on Saturday.  I’d like to thank everyone involved in Major League Baseball for putting both league championship series on obscure cable networks, so that I wouldn’t be able to watch, thus making it a very decision to go this afternoon.  The parking lot in front of the Pan-Am Center was pretty full.  There was even a tailgater party.  An unidentified student association had a table set up.  I’m not sure if they were handing out anything.  I was too shy to find out.  The building had two large pink ribbons mounted on the front for New Mexico State’s “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” campaign for breast cancer awareness.  This is a well supported promotion by the community.

Inside, there was a table set up with various cancer awareness material.  The Pink Panther was behind the table, taking pictures with kids.  It was cute with kids running up for a hug.  Who doesn’t like a mascot?  The souvenir table was packed with customers.  No, you read that right.  I was surprised too.  Here I’d finally decided to get a new hat and couldn’t get at it.  There didn’t seem to be anything new there.  A bunch of young girls just wanted some team gear.  I just picked up lemonade at the concession, since I was planning getting a meal after the match.  (If only the Chihuahuas people ran the concession here.)

The stands were filled with a riot of hot pink.  There were plenty of styles of pink shirts, but I think they were handing out shirts somewhere though I didn’t see where.  It was just as well.  I’d be afraid to wash one of those shirts with anything else.  (Two words to get me to not wear an article of clothing: wash separate.)  The Aggie team staff was in pink, and even Coach Jordan wore a light pink dress shirt.  The team wasn’t in pink (I’ve seen the softball team in pink before), though there was some pink trimmings.  #12 Frankie Taylor, the Cougars’ libero, was in a light pink shirt.  I don’t know if it was a coincidence or not.

There was a good crowd present (attendance later announced at over 1,000).  The people behind me were talking about Thursday’s game.  I didn’t see any girls’ volleyball teams present, but there were plenty of kids.  There are three women working as officials, including the attractive blonde woman I’d noticed from another match.  I get the impression that there aren’t that many refs to work these conference games.  We’ve got a DJ spinning the tunes.  The cheerleaders, along with the guy cheerleaders are present.  Pistol Pete is in the house, as is the women’s basketball team (who get shown the video board later).  This time, I’ve got a radio with me to listen to Adam Young’s commentary.  I have to turn the volume way up to hear it over the crowd and the music.  
Set 1
The Aggies roll off four points to start the set.  When the Cougars get their first point, they let off a small scream of a cheer.  Crash comes into serve and Sasha-Lee, who didn’t start, comes in.  Her and #14 Kassandra “KC” Tohm get a point off a block.  Sasha gets a kill at 8-3.  She seems okay playing.

Adam mentions something from Thursday’s TV broadcast about the Aggies changing systems.  I can almost see that they’re playing a bit differently style-wise, and occasionally there’s some coverage assignment issues.  Unfortunately, the analysis went over my head.  In any case, I’m enjoying getting some informed commentary with the action.  There’s just a slight delay between live action and the radio.

#15 Hannah Combs comes in and gets a good kill that just hits the line.  #1 Brianna Ainsworth follows that up with an untouched ace on the back line, 12-5.  Crash serves up an ace at 16-10.  Unfortunately, errors bring Chicago State back into the game.  18-14, Jordan gets her first kill.  At 20-16, Brianna tries a dump kill.  The ball comes back over, but she manages to kill it into the backcourt.  21-17, the Cougars’ Frankie Taylor, that I mentioned before, makes three diving saves on the play.

The Aggies end up taking the set 25-19.  Tatyana leads the way with six kills.  I notice that #12 Megan Hart doesn’t come in during the set.  She’s ends up not coming in for the game.  I hope she’s okay.  Between sets the Pink Panther, excuse me, “Pinky” as he’s announced, comes out on to court for a breast cancer awareness message.

Set 2 Aggies 1, Cougars 0
Aggie #5 Brigette Lowe enters as a starter for this set and promptly scores two points off a kill and block.  I hadn’t seen the freshman in a game before.  At 5-0 Aggies, Chicago State takes a timeout.  It was a good one as the score was tied at 5 shortly thereafter.  Timeout Aggies.  Another spot runs for the Sideout Club promising exclusive after match events.  With the players?  Dinner and dancing perhaps?  Since most of the girls are taller than me, they’ll have to lead, but that’s okay since I don’t really know how to dance.  I really feel like they’re teasing me with this ad, just ever so tempting me.

6-7, a Sasha-Lee kill ends a run.  She gets another and limps off the court.  Or is it another kill?  The Cougars argue the point and after a conference, the refs call for a replay of the point, which the Aggies lose.  Well, that’s one way to do a replay that doesn’t involve watching a ref put on a headset and stick his head under a hood.  Actually this rule was so unexpected to me, I didn’t know what to make of it.  It must have been really confusing for anyone not listening to the broadcast.

9-9, Crash serves up an ace to tie.  11-11, Jordan gets a kill to tie it.  Do you get the impression this was a closely fought set?  14-13 Sasha-Lee gets the kill and the Aggies take the lead.  During a timeout, another guest comes out on court, an older woman.  She’s introduced as Jordan Abalos’ grandmother.  She was diagnosed with cancer earlier in the year, and she’s beaten it.  God bless her, she gets a standing ovation from the crowd.

From here the Aggies take over.  Adam finally makes a comment on the officials after a late call.  There’s been some hesitation on some calls.  A Sasha-Lee kill at 24-18 brings up set point.  Chicago State gets the next point, though Crash makes a spectacular save during it.  KC gets a slap kill to end the set, 25-19.  KC I’ve had a little trouble identifying since her hair color and style have changed since her program picture, which identifies her as Kassandra, though she’s always announced as KC.  She now sports dark hair with distinctive light purple highlights, which looks attractive without being showy.

During the intermission, I ran out to find a bathroom.  Running, because I’d noticed many of them were closed on my way in and I had to find an open one.  I also made it to the souvenir table and finally got the new hat (serviced by a very nice young woman).  I just made it back to my seat before the start of the 3rd set.  I may never get to see the intermission entertainment.

Set 3 Aggies 2, Cougars 0
It starts contentiously with a long point, which ends on a kill by Tatyana.  Crash is starting this set and takes the first Aggie service.  Though they lose point, Crash gets a great dig during it.  Adam states that she’s probably good to start tomorrow’s game.  The next point, however, is a bit scary as Sasha-Lee takes a kill shot right to face.  A referee stops play for a minute as she composes herself.  Sasha stays in for the next point, but comes out right after.  Hopefully, this doesn’t leave too bad a mark on her after the game.  Sasha has such a pleasant face and great smile.

The Aggies go down 2-5 and become a bit flustered.  At 3-6, Jordan Abalos starts the comeback with a kill.  #24 Lexi May comes in and helps on a block with Jordan to bring the score to 8-7 Aggies.  Lexi then gets a great soft kill at 11-9.  Wait, Pistol Pete walks by and gives me a high-five while he’s working the crowd!  Okay, back to game.

14-9, Sasha-Lee is back in and gets the kill of the match.  She reaches over the net and smacks an overpass hard enough to leave a crater on the court.  Obviously that’s an embellishment, but I’d like to think she worked off her frustration over getting hit.  15-9 and Tatyana slams a kill and joins the party.  16-9 Crash serves up an ace.

Chicago State was not done yet.  20-15 is another late call by the officials.  I would at least say that volleyball generally doesn’t seem to be ruled by the officials, unlike football.  The officiating I’ve seen in my limited exposure has generally been efficient and unobtrusive.  20-16, the Cougars win a long point.  21-16, Jordan gets a fine defensive kill.  Chicago State goes on a run, but is ended at 23-20 by another Jordan kill.  At the first set point, Tatyana gets a kill to quickly end the set (25-20) and match (3-0).
A big crowd went to the floor to get autographs.  Jordan got held up taking pictures with fans on court and doing an interview on camera.  Pistol Pete may have taken her place in line until she got settled.  I could finally hear my radio better with less crowd noise and had to turn it down.  Coach Jordan finished his interview with a “Go Cubs!”  Hey, I could talk baseball with the coach at the exclusive booster parties.
Our player of the game is Jordan Abalos’ grandmother.  Obviously determination runs in the family and it’s even contagious amongst teammates.  While there were many standouts playing, let’s credit this as a team victory.  While the team occasionally veered close to self-destruction, they stubbornly refused to do so.  The spotlight rotated around several players (Jordan 13 kills, Tatyana 12 kills, Sasha-Lee 9 kills, KC 7 kills, and Hannah and Brigette had some good playing time) as they were picking each other up during the match.  Short-handed Chicago State (they only had three girls on the bench) also played with quite a bit of heart, but the Aggies have too many good players to stop them all for a whole match.  It’s been a productive, but painful homestand for the Aggies, and the girls have another match tomorrow afternoon in Albuquerque.  Hopefully, they can gut out another win against those Lobos.  


Monday, October 17, 2016

NMSU Aggies vs UTEP Miners Softball 10-9-16

Ah, who doesn’t love fall college softball?  Okay, I didn’t know they were playing either, except my dad noticed a little blurb on the sports page announcing that the Aggies were playing on a couple of weekends this month.  I missed the Saturday game to go to the volleyball game.  Have I been cheating on the softball girls going to these other women’s sports?  I’m sure they’ll get over the betrayal.

Sunday’s announced double header was a rivalry game versus UTEP.  I had seen the Miners on the local TV news the other day playing a double header at home.  They have some nice lawn seating near the stands.  I figured between Aggie and Miner friends and family and that old man that shows up to all the games, I wouldn’t be the only one there.  Although that is an intriguing thought.  Maybe they’d invite me up to the booth to call a couple of innings.  The girls might bring me on field to be the bat boy.

Pulling into the parking lot, I could hear Rascal Flat’s I Like the Sound of That playing over the stadium speakers, a rare country song on the PA.  The “Gameday” banner was out in front of the front gate.  The WAC school flags were flying in the outfield.  A few umbrellas were popped open by fans at the top of the stands to block out an unexpectedly bright, warm sun.  I could hear girls shouting as they took infield.  At least I’m now sure there’s a game scheduled.

Well, there’s no one selling tickets and the gates wide open.  I guess these games don’t count, so they’re not charging for them.  I’m not going to complain about a freebie.  Oh, there’s no program.  The concessions are also closed.  This is problem, since it’s hot and there’s no water or vending machines anywhere nearby.  We’re going to be missing a couple other things here in a few minutes.

The Aggie girls were taking a spirited infield practice inside.  Four catchers were geared up and taking turns behind the plate doing drills.  I immediately noticed that several UTEP fans were filing in, and I only saw a few Aggie shirts.  The old man wasn’t even there.  On the left side of the pressbox was a pair of strange skybox/pavilion-like things sitting atop the grandstand.  They didn’t look finished and, in fact, flimsy to where I wouldn’t want to be sitting near them.  We’ll see what becomes of them next year.  I could see the baseball team out playing in their stadium through the screen of trees between the two stadiums.  It looked like batting practice and infield.

Some of the regular senior crowd was there in their regular spots as I took my seat.  They were talking politics.  They were talking about yesterday’s volleyball game and Friday’s soccer match.  They were chatting about the baseball playoffs.  Maybe I should have sat in closer and joined the conversation since these were topics I could speak on.

The game started without an anthem.  There wasn’t an American flag out there anyway.  There was also no PA announcing anything.  (The music went off right before the game started.)  The scoreboard was off.  Okay, it really was just a practice/scrimmage game.  About two batters in, I chucked trying to keep a scorecard.  I was going to be missing too many names.

I recognized #14 Kayla Green immediately out in the circle.  I was hoping I’d be seeing her pitch today.  The rest of the girls I had to have my memory jogged on.  Several familiar faces had graduated and were gone.  A senior lady was shouting out encouragement to the girls by name, which helped.  One of them had a printed roster.  #2 Alexis Maynez was behind the plate and was presumably going to be the Aggies’ main catcher.  I liked the way she worked.  She was constantly working up chatter and shouting out encouragement to Kayla.  

The 1st inning started with a loud, “Let’s go Miners!”  Oh, crap.  The other team’s fans don’t just outnumber Aggie fans, they’re louder.  The Miner bench also started off the game really loud.  Not to worry, Kayla had it covered and came out throwing hard.  There was one troubling mis-pitch off her leg, but no harm done.  The team is still wearing last season’s uniforms.  I guess the new Underarmor uniforms will get rolled out next year for the baseball and softball teams.  The Miners looked pretty good in their Underarmor uniforms.

In bottom of inning, I noticed the Miner third baseman (Woman?  Player?  Person?) had really short hair as opposed to everyone else’s long hair.  Seems more practical.  #18 Rachel Rodriguez led off.  The Aggie serenade started immediately for her, “Oh Rachel, you’re so fine!”  They’re still in great voice and hearing that would have been worth the price of admission.  #10 Amy Bergeson came up with an infield hit.  The bench yelled out, “Amy is Awesome!”  She then awesomely stole second.  Coach Kathy Rodolph then got into some sort of protracted discussion with the umpires.  “It’s a scrimmage, coach!  Let it go!” shouted a Miner fan.  Unfortunately, this would set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.  Regardless, after #17 Kelsey Horton got on (I think, no scorecard here), a delayed double steal would give the Aggies a 1-0 lead.

In the 2nd, Kayla finally threw her trademark offspeed pitch for a strikeout to end the inning.  An Aggie fan commented, “That pitch should be against the law.”  #3 Victoria Castro and #8 Hayley Nakamura came to bat that I recognized.  Hayley’s sister and teammate, Brennalyn graduated last semester.  Hayley’s also gone with fairly short hair.  Megan Hart and Tatyana Battle from the volleyball team made an appearance for a couple of innings, causing a bit of a stir in the senior section, who recognized them.  I was hoping to say “hi” and thanks for the autographs yesterday, but didn’t have the opportunity before they left.        
In the 3rd, Amy made a great diving catch in left field.  Ah, I remember those.  She hasn’t lost a step.  Another fan asked me what the score was.  I regret to say this was my only interaction with anyone at the ballpark today.  In the bottom, the UTEP ended the inning with an offspeed pitch so slow, it might have qualified as a knuckleball to strikeout Kelsey.  The Miner fans laughed.  Aggie fans voiced their concern that while the defense may be better, the offense may be lacking.

On to the 4th and a loud double drives in a runner from second for UTEP, making the score 1-1.  The crowd erupts.  Kayla, a bit flustered, ends up balking the runner to third with no one out.  This leads to another rules discussion with Kathy and the umps.  The UTEP fans get restless.  It was a good break.  Kayla came back and got three outs and stranded the runner.  A kid running off for a foul ball was called back by one of the seniors, telling him it went into the dugout.  He came slinking back and one of the ladies told him, “Good effort.”  In the bottom, Aggie fans got on to the ump after a strikeout.  “That was one strike on the batter, two strikes on the ump!” shouted a fan.  

In the 5th, Kayla was throwing even harder by the sound of the ball hitting the mitt.  In the bottom, things got interesting.  A dropped throw let a runner on first and a pinch runner took second.  It was a controversial safe call that UTEP fans erupted over.  The Aggie bench got loud enough to shout them down.  An error let another runner on.  Then the catcher double clutched on a bunt.  Bases full.  I think the Aggies got in their heads with their cheering.

From here, there’s a fielder’s choice RBI.  A hit by pitch reloads the bases.  Kelsey walks and drives in another run.  At 3-1, UTEP brings in a new pitcher.  #30 for the Aggies comes in (who I don’t recognize).  It’s power versus power with a hard fastball against a big swing.  After two strikes, there’s a score on a wild pitch, 4-1.  Then there’s a double, 6-1, and the Aggie bench goes wild.  Two singles, including one by Alexis that just clears the infield off the tip of the second baseman’s glove, reloads the bases.  The Aggie girls start chanting.  Hit by pitch drives in a run, 8-1.  A single drives in a run, 9-1.  The trail runner is thrown out at home and a strikeout finally ends the inning.

In the 6th, a new catcher comes in for the Aggies.  Kayla drops in an offspeed wicked enough to irritate UTEP fans and their coach.  #22 Fahern Glackin comes in to finish.  She gives up a single that gets the UTEP bench into it.  A foul ball pops up behind the screen into my section, getting me into the game.  It falls into the senior section, no damage done.  One of umps spoke to a fan sitting in the front before the start of the bottom of the inning.  They seemed to be discussing the score or the rules.  I hadn’t seen that in a game.  Another thing I hadn’t seen in softball was the pitcher batting for herself, but that happened with Fahern.  Some fans brought in a sack of snack food.  The smell of fiery Cheetos filled the air.  In the 7th, Hayley made a great stop and threw out the runner at first.  The last two outs were flyballs to right.  I think those were the first two fly outs of the game.  Game One final, 9-1 Aggies.  Still worried about their offense?

During the intermission, I stood in the shade and reapplied sunblock.  I saw a UTEP player using the public bathroom.  Are there no bathrooms in the visitor’s clubhouse?  That would be a travesty.  For Game Two, the afternoon sun became more brutal, and I still haven’t had a drink.  Even worse, the UTEP fans all returned for the second game.  The Aggie seniors, tired of the heat, left to watch football.  In fact, it seemed to be just me and the Aggie bench left rooting for the Aggies.  I’m at a Miner home game.

The Aggies put out a mostly fresh squad of player, many of whom I don’t recognize.  #21, who is not the graduated Karysta Donistrhorpe, is in to pitch.  Not having her name is going to make this recap awkward.  [Edit: She's Samaria Diaz.]  UTEP has also put in some new players.  Their new pitcher, #88, grunts like a tennis player when she throws, a really loud one.  I could swear I heard somebody in the Aggie dugout making fun of the noise, which is probably why other pitchers don’t do it.  The grunting worked on the first two batters.  Kathy called a timeout.  The next batter got a hit right afterward.  Good talk.

Between innings, Kayla was out of the dugout, goofing around.  She seems like a livewire.  In the top of the second, UTEP singles to bring in a runner who got on via an error.  1-0 UTEP.  A lady comes in carrying two boxes of Papa John’s pizza.  I can smell it from the other side of the section and am officially miserable.  In the bottom, #24 Corrin Green comes up.  Catcher’s interference puts her on (I think, again no scorecard).  A single and a hit by pitch load the bases.  A wild pitch brings in the first Aggie run.  An Aggie run then scores on a bunt.  Actually, it’s way more complicated.  Two runners ended up at third on the bunt.  The trail runner tried to go back and the pitcher missed the throw to second, and then the runner scored from third.  Error?  Fielder’s Choice?  Help?

By the 3rd inning, the baseball team is done.  I kinda hoped they’d come over so I could ask if they have any games coming up, but they did not.  #30 for the Aggies homers to left.  I wish I knew who that was.  Corrin gets a serenade from the dugout during her at bat.  A lady comments, “You have to be a cheerleader and a softball player on this team.”  Darn straight.  The short-haired UTEP third baseman made a great catch just off the ground on a hard liner.  I respect good plays by the opposition.  #4 for the Aggies then homers to right.  Again, I don’t know who that is.  #12, who might be Kennedy Johnson as per last season’s program, got the serenade “Do something baby!” and #7 got a clapping song.  Even the UTEP fans were finally impressed.  4-1 Aggies.

In the bottom of the 4th, we finally get a new UTEP pitcher.  Thank God.  Aggie #1 got the chant, “We want some Bran-day!”  I assume her name is Brandy and she’s really small.  She beat out an infield hit and then stole second.  A UTEP fan behind me called that before it happened.  #1 then took third on a wild pitch and scored on a fielder’s choice, 5-1 Aggies.  She’s got some hustle.

In the 5th, the Aggie third baseman made a great stop and threw out the runner at first.  That might have been Corrin.  She was mobbed coming off the field, and I didn’t get the number.  Corrin did lead off the bottom of the inning with a hit and there’s another steal of second.  At this point, the UTEP crowd officially turned ugly after all of those close plays at second not going their way.  The home plate ump, who’d been getting the brunt of the criticism (because he was closer than the second base ump), had his mask off, and I could tell he was about to pop.  Then there’s a steal of third after a strikeout.  The crowd is now livid.  This gets the UTEP coach involved too.  I can hear a bit of it, “So you’re admitting the call was wrong and you’re not fixing it?”  Then there’s a single driving in the run, 6-1 Aggies.  The Aggie bench cheers loud enough to drown out anything else.

In the 6th, Aggie #21 is throwing even harder.  Whoever she is, she’s throwing a heck of a game.  A great double play ends the top of the inning.  In the bottom, UTEP fans are cheering every Aggie out.  There’s no drama in the 7th as #21 closes it out.  That’s seven innings and one unearned run.  Let’s keep her on the team.

The teams lined up and slapped hands and said “Good game” in fashion mechanical enough to make you think they probably didn’t really mean it.  The Aggie girls went to the circle and said a loud “Thank you!” in unison.  I don’t know if they were thanking the Miner team there, certainly not their fans.  They weren’t facing me, their only remaining fan in the stands, so I’m not sure who they were thanking.  In any case, two convincing wins over a rival is always great to see, especially in front the rival’s angry fans.

Friday, October 14, 2016

NMSU Aggies vs UTRGV Vaqueros Women’s Volleyball 10-8-16

I gave up a trip to Carlsbad to come to this game.  You know, writing that out, it really doesn’t seem like that much of a sacrifice.  The entry concourse to the Pan-Am Center was a bit deserted.  There wasn’t anyone manning the courtesy tables, and the team gear table wasn’t there.  This was too bad.  I’d finally broken down and decided I’d buy a new hat.  (The new ones look nice and old one is pinching my head too much.)  The concession lines were full.  I’d also decided to finally try a churro.  I almost got blanked on that too as a concert last night (don’t know who it was) had nearly cleaned them out.  I got the next to last one.  On the one hand, it was pretty tasty.  On the other, I got loose sugar and cinnamon all over EVERYTHING.  Verdict: mixed feelings.

I’m guessing the crowd was around 900 from looking at previous attendance figures.  It was a lot of older people and there were groups of teen girls in school team t-shirts.  If I’m understanding this right, the Aggies give volleyball lessons to middle school teams, and it includes a game ticket as part of the package (The Spiker’s Club).  What the crowd may have lacked in size, it made up for it in spirit.  As I was finding my seat, leaving a trail of sugar and cinnamon behind me, the girls had finished their warm up and were going back the locker room.  The crowd just erupted for them going out.  The middle school teams also worked out cheers all the way throughout the game.
The cheerleaders arrived.  They looked a little sedate.  Perhaps they’d had a long Friday night.  It was just the girls this time.  When they did pyramids, it’d take three of them to hold one up, instead of just one guy holding up a girl.  There was one slightly built guy with them, and he wasn’t going to be holding anybody up over his head.  (More on him in a minute.)  Pistol Pete was with them.  Okay, there’s at least two Pistol Petes.  This was the one with the fake mustache and two guns, as opposed to the one with the real mustache and one gun.  Good to see either of them.

The Aggies came back out to another big cheer, as they did their pre-game dance.  Our opponent today was the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros.  No, I don’t know where that is either.  They were introduced with Tomoyasu Hotei’s Battle Without Honor or Humanity (the Kill Bill cool walk out tune).  Again, that’s really nice of the venue to give the opponents a little fanfare.  Then the lights go out and the Aggie promo video plays.  The UTRGV (these guys need a new name) girls were all watching it.  The Aggie starters each got their spotlight and tossed balls to the crowd.

Set 1
The Aggies started off strong.  On 5-3, UTRGV (forget it, let’s go Vaqueros, even though it seems like a misnomer for a female team) had several great digs on the point, but the Aggies won it.  #12 Megan Hart cycled into the game.  She made a couple of near standing kills.  If she could jump better, there’d be no stopping her.

The cheerleaders came out during a timeout.  I wasn’t really paying attention.  They were waving to the crowd.  The crowd was waving back, so I waved too.  Then a shirt bundle dropped into my lap.  Then I realized that the cheerleaders were throwing stuff to the crowd and people were signaling for stuff.  I hadn’t meant to do that.  That guy cheerleader, that wasn’t any bigger than the small young women he was with, has a great arm on him.  He may have missed his calling in some other sport.  (I gave this shirt to my dad, since I already had one.)  

#20 Sasha-Lee Thomas put down a couple of spikes that were just dunked over the net.  I hadn’t seen that move before.  It worked pretty well.  There was DJ in the house that the PA named.  He was doing a good job with the incidental music.  He played a bit after Aggie points, like Sasha’s kills.  A team of young girls behind the Aggie bench let out a loud “Let’s go Aggies!” right before the end.  Set One goes to the Aggies 25-19.  Megan had three kills.  Sasha mixed in some strong and crafty kills.  #4 Ariadnne “Ari” Sierra was like a mop cleaning up the court of any balls heading for the floor.  (I’m not sure if that’s a good simile or not, but I’m going with it.)

Set 2 Aggies 1, Vaqueros 0
As the girls changed ends, Pistol Pete took a seat with the crowd.  He’s a magnet for attention.  The PA was in great voice today, if I just knew his name.  I’d make one suggestion: if there’s a point on a foul, could it be announced what the foul is?  I don’t know the rules well enough to guess.  (Maybe the PA doesn’t either.)

At 6-6, #3 Jordan Abalos gets a strong kill.  She’d been mostly in the background so far.  Jordan played hard, but she didn’t seem like she was fully putting her weight down on both legs walking around between points.  She’s already got serious hardware on her left knee.  10-7 was a spectacular point with great saves on both sides.  Megan finished it off with a kill.  15-10 was a Vaqueros’ point on serve.  It dropped in the middle of the court.  Ari made a valiant dive at it.  Assistant coach, Ben Wallis, yelled loud enough at the girls from the sideline that I could hear it across the court.  I’m guessing that was a missed coverage.

#14 Kassandra “KC” Tohm had the best kill of the match at 24-16.  24-17, Ari defied gravity making a great dig in the air.  #6 Tatyana Battle finished it with a spike.  The Aggies took the set 25-17.

Set 3 Aggies 2, Vaqueros 0
I missed the Intermission entertainment again.  They don’t sell small drinks, so it’s got to come out sooner than later.  I noticed there was a pretty blonde sideline official.  Being tall and attractive, I assume she’s a former player.  She had a nice smile (for a ref).

The Vaqueros came out focused.  They’d made some adjustments and took an early lead.  The Aggies take a timeout.  Wallis and Coach Mike Jordan were both up yelling at the players from the sidelines afterward.  I blame the DJ.  He was missing for a few minutes at the start of the set.  Things didn’t stay quiet for long.  The girls team next to me made up for it with some inspired chanting, (truly, I love it) until he got back.

The Aggies didn’t get a hard-fought lead until 16-15.  Timeout Vaqueros and the cheerleaders came out to perform.  After a couple more Aggie points, there was another Vaqueros’ timeout.  This caught the cheerleaders off guard.  They were also a bit gassed from having performed a minute before, but they got out and cheered.

From here it got tense.  22-22 tied.  22-23 Point Vaqueros.  23-23 Sasha-Lee gets a kill to re-tie it.  24-24 tied.  24-25 Set point Vaqueros.  25-25 KC with the kill.  26-25 KC with another kill and set point Aggies and they would take it on the next point.  27-25 Aggies and 3 Sets to 0 Aggies.      
I was trying not to jinx anything, since autographs were scheduled afterward, so I didn’t look at the Vaqueros’ record on the program during the game.  After however, yikes!  These guys are good and the Aggies mauled them.  [Edit: There’s a potentially relevant predictive stat from the paper.  NMSU is 12-0 lifetime versus this school.  And, I also apparently could have been listening to a radio play-by-play of this game if I’d known it was on.]  They’re also a very international cast hailing from Norway, Mexico, Senegal, Brazil, Poland, and Serbia.  I don’t even know where this university is, but they do some heavy duty recruiting.  This was an impressive win for the Aggies [or business as usual, depending on how you want to look at it].

My player of the game is Sasha-Lee, who led the team with 11 kills.  It was a pretty well rounded team effort, as several of the girls got into the scoring (#14 KC Tohm with 8, #6 Tatyana Battle with 9, #12 Megan Hart with 6 were the ones I got off the scoreboard at the end).  Ari was bundle of energy, diving at everything headed for the floor.  It was a good effort.  Jordan had a quiet game, but gave a steady effort on offense and defense.

The autograph session was announced right after the game.  I watched the line form up.  If it was all teenaged girls, I was going to be too embarrassed to go.  Thankfully, it was a reasonably diverse group.  The girls knew the young man who was in front of me, who may have been either on the event staff or maybe a trainer.  There were some guys who looked like they were either with the football or basketball team in line.  Who could blame them?

I had some superstition about stepping onto the court, but got over it as I saw some girls and some guys playing out on the court for fun.  I got to shake hands with assistant coach Ben Wallis (put the coaches’ names on the program) and congratulated him.  I got to see the DJ beside the table.  He was still spinning it.  It was about 20 minutes to get to the front, which gives you an idea how many people were in line.  In the meantime, I saw some people getting pictures with the girls.  One of the teen volleyball teams gave the girls a rousing cheer after they’d all gotten autographs.

Here, I really have to hand it to the girls.  They just went from playing to signing autographs for the better part of an hour, without a shower or even a bathroom break in between.  The girls were all smiles, thanking fans, and being charming.  These girls want your sports/entertainment business.  And they give volleyball lessons to middle school girls before the match too.          

I was nervous (hey, I’m meeting a line of pretty girls here and asking for something), but thankfully I was prepared since I’d watched the game and taken notes.  #20 Sasha-Lee Thomas was first up.  I congratulated her on a great game and told her I had seen her profile last night on TV.  “So where’s your accent,” I asked the Jamaican born player.  She smiled and said, “It comes out from time to time.  It comes out.”  I asked #13 Alexsa “Crash” Parker the obvious question about her nickname.  She’d had an upsetting bike accident as a kid.  Her mom and teammates had given her the moniker to help her get over it.  #11 Megan McGuire was very friendly, and #2 Analyssa Acosta was sweet.

I told #4 Ariadnne “Ari” Sierra I was really impressed with her digs, especially the one where she went acrobatically airborne.  She remembered that one and liked that description.  #8 Kaylee Neal lit up a bit that I’d seen her on Sasha’s profile on TV, and she’d said she’d have to watch it.  I wasn’t able to tell #12 Megan Hart that I was impressed with her game unfortunately, and ask her if she’s going to get more playing time.

Last in line was #3 Jordan Abalos.  I wonder if I was blushing.  (I actually shaved on a weekend for the possibility this moment.)  She was as polite and nice as you’d hope a star would be.  I told her she’d had a good game and asked how she was doing, since she seemed to be walking a little gingerly out on court.  “Oh, I’m just trying to play through it,” Jordan said with a little relief and a smile.  I called her a “gamer.”    
Okay, the other sports have their good points, but Aggie Volleyball is the most fan-friendly experience you can get at New Mexico State sports.  In three games, I’ve gotten two free t-shirts, been offered free rolled tacos, a team-signed poster, and face-time with these lovely, charming young women (not to mention, some great sports action).  And all for a $5 general admission ticket.  That poster went right up on my fridge when I got home, and I spent rest of the evening glowing.