I wasn't feeling great and it was cool with a cold wind blowing, but I had to go. Ron had mistakenly told his wife that the Saturday game was the last of the season. We had to tell her that the Aggies made the "playoffs" and were playing again today (and amazingly, they'll make it to the next "round" next weekend," their actual last home games of the season). Gotta be a gamer and show up.
The Aggies were looking good in their black tops. The Hornets looked good too, wearing their bright yellow tops. With the green trim they almost looked like the A’s. They were without their little bat boy today though. I came wearing my new San Francisco Giants hat. I love it. It’s for my hopefully upcoming trip to Denver to see them and the Rockies later this month. Even though it’s third-party team gear, a ballpark faux pas, it’s cool. I rubbed my Aggie shirt on it for good luck. Besides, the most confused fan award at the ballpark today goes to the guy in the Cleveland Browns t-shirt and the throwback Mariners hat.
In spite of the weather, not threatening but not really pleasant with the wind blowing into the stadium, there was a great crowd. The cold did not prevent most of the girls from showing off their gams in short shorts, a definite distraction. It was police and fire fighter appreciation day, and several members threw out the first pitches. One of them had what looked like a three-year old with him (perhaps they’re related) and the kid had an arm on him, a future Aggie pitcher, no doubt. The NMSU Fire Department was present, but left en mass early in the game. They weren’t in a hurry, but I presume there was a reason.
A couple of volleyball players showed up again. They were also evicted from the good seats behind home plate. (At least I’m not the only one that’s happened to.) They ended up sitting right below us, and were joined later by a member of the football team and his girlfriend. (Sorry, I couldn’t identify anybody on the team. He seemed to be built like a defensive back.) The girls were all lovely, but very unattractively spent most of their time head down over their phones, pouring over various social media. The blonde volleyball player on crutches referred to #10 Trey Stine as “Trissie,” so maybe she’s his girlfriend. Actually, I’ve kind of assumed all of the pretty girls at the park are player girlfriends or relatives.
Treachery! I’d noticed the “fashionable” girl wearing the other team’s colors on Saturday, but on Sunday, she sat nearby and was in fact wearing a Sacramento State t-shirt. Betrayal! This girl’s been to every game, and she’s been a traitor all along. (Or maybe she’s been seducing visiting players every series and taking trophies. She’s certainly hot enough that I could believe that. Or maybe she’s been a scout for Sac State. In that case, she’s been getting by on her looks, because she didn’t do a very good job. Or maybe she has a brother on the team. Who knows?) Meanwhile, behind us, were a couple of young women who were dishing some really juicy gossip. If I’d known any of the people involved, I probably would have turned off the radio call and listened. I’m glad I could listen to the radio though. Once again, before the game, the Aggie players rallied around a pineapple in their pre-game ritual. Adam Young explained thusly, that #4 Brent Sakurai’s mother had sent him some pineapples from Hawaii and somehow one of them had become their good luck mascot. Don’t knock it. It’s working. Ron had laughed when I called it the “Rally Pineapple” yesterday. He got an even heartier laugh today when it turned out to be true.
The cold wind was likely encouraging the players to go up hacking. The scoring started with Hornets getting a solo home run to start off the 2nd. #20 Dalton Shalberg would come back with a pair strikeouts, but then give up three straight hits. With the bases loaded, a sure double dropped a foot foul in right field. Shalberg came back to get a fly out to left and end the inning. The Aggie dugout erupted. In the next inning, #10 Trey Stine erupted with a two-run homer to left. The left fielder didn’t even move as the ball rocketed over him. Aggies up 2-1.
The Hornets would tie the score in the 4th. Nolan Fox on the broadcast made a great observation that the bottom three in Sac State’s order was 6 for 6. In the 5th, the inning started with a popup over first falling in between three Aggie players. The runner was tripled in and then two more runs scored, chasing Shalberg from the game. #21 Matt McHugh came in and got a ground out and catcher #25 Mason Fishback threw out a steal attempt at 3rd, ending the inning. 5-2 Hornets. But in the bottom of the 5th, the Aggies called upon the power of the Rally Pineapple. Two doubles, a walk, and a pair of productive groundouts produced 3 runs, tying the score at 5.
The game turned a final time in the 6th, specifically the wind. It began to blow out hard and to the left as the Aggies came up in the bottom of the frame. They took full advantage of it. #44 Dan Hetzel got it started with a solo shot that just cleared the left field wall. After a hit batter, a new pitcher came in for the Hornets. #25 Mason Fishbeck greeted him with a home run in the same manner as Dan’s. With a runner on, #7 Daniel Johnson came up. He’d already grounded out three times in the game. They must have thought it was safe to pitch to him. Johnson pounded one into the scoreboard for a two-run homer. By the time it was over, we’d gone from tied at 5, to 10 to 5 Aggies.
Let’s just pile on. In the 8th after a couple of walks got on, Johnson came up again. Surely he couldn’t hit another home run. Let’s go ahead and pitch to him. Well, that turned out to be a 3-run mistake in judgment. I want the Pineapple’s autograph! Lucky for the Hornets, the game and the series ended before DJ could come up to bat again to hurt them. Once again, three Aggie relievers were used in each of the last three innings to close it out. Final score 13-6 Aggies. Here's your stat of the game (and the reason why you keep a scorecard): Hornets 13 runners left on base, Aggies 1 LOB.
Given the scoring, surprisingly there were no errors by either team. There were some drops on pop-ups, but given the wind, you’d be hard-pressed to hand-out errors. In fact, there were several great catches in the outfield by both teams. (Actually, just about every catch was great given the conditions.) Adam mentioned how the Aggies do practice pop-ups with a pitching machine, shooting the ball high into the air, and the players have to make 10 catches in the row. There was one glaring mental error in the 7th, as #11 LJ Hatch missed first base legging out a double and was called out on an appeal. The reason its glaring is because this has happened before earlier in this the season apparently. I shudder to imagine Coach Brian Green’s punishment.
I need to give the umps a nod. Home plate was a bit tight and the crowd let him know, but he was consistent. One of the field umps caught Hornet pitcher, #32 Tyler Beardsley, licking his fingers for grip and gave him a warning. I’d noticed he’d had a great located 95 mph fastball on the pitch before, where he’d missed badly every time he’d thrown that hard before. Nice pick up. (And, of course, catching the missed bag.)
My obvious player of the game is, of course, the Pineapple. All hail the Rally Pineapple! Now the Pineapple didn't do it alone. It's a team sport. I have to give extra kudos where it is due. Nice job by the 6th inning Wind. That Wind made a crucial difference in the game by blowing out to the left. What can you say about the Wind other than "clutch." Of the minor supporting cast on the team with their small contributions to the victory, I passing-ly mention #7 Daniel Johnson with his two home runs, driving in 6 of Aggies' 13 runs. Nice effort there to support the superstars on the team. All in all, in spite of the cold wind, it was a great three hours at the ballpark. Ron and I left glowing.
After the game, we went to Jason's Deli for dinner. (It was delicious.) One of the perks of the restaurant is that they have sports on their TV. In this case, they were showing a NCAA Women’s Softball game. If you’d told me two years ago, I’d be watching a softball game with rapt attention, I’d have chuckled dismissively at you. “But dude, there are hot chicks playing.” “What!” my two-younger self would say, “Why didn’t you say so? Why don’t people tell me these things!” In this case specifically, UCF pitcher #18 Jamie Ujvari had my attention. Yikes!
Then I felt guilty. The Aggie girls had only been away for a week and here I was cheating on them with another softball team. (Yeah, but look at her! Even when she was out of the game, the director kept putting the camera on her.) Congrats to the Lady Aggies anyway for sweeping KC this weekend to win the conference. Hey, I looked at my poster schedule. The Aggies played UCF earlier this season, but in Florida. Jamie is a Senior. No chance of ever seeing her in person here. How cruel is fate.