Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Incredible Run

Well it's all over for WKU. They lost in the Regional Championship game 4-1. Ole Miss' starting pitcher went on two days rest (in college baseball starters get a week rest, and in pro ball it's typically 4-5 days or in rare cases 3 days). He turned in the great pitching performance in school history, and what many consider the best in SEC history. He pitched a complete game, giving up one unearned run and two infield singles, and set a school record for strikeouts. Our starter Matt, also on two days rest, pitched an awesome 7 innings, only giving up one run. They scored there final 3 runs in the 8th off Chad, and we just couldn't get enough hits to win. But the guys had a phenomenal run, and it is comforting to know that it took a historic performance to knock them out. The Ole Miss fans, team, and announcers showed a rare amount of respect, and I know that meant alot to our guys.

But for me, the best part of the night was an hour after the game. I sent Chad a text, because he was a senior and on the mound when the winning run came in. It was nothing big, just telling him how much he had grown as a player and just how important their impressive run was to alot of people back home. Chad's story is an interesting one. He came from Eddyville and tried out as a walk-on shortstop. It was just a week or so into Coach Finwood's first month on the job. As he was turning double plays, he threw sidearm to get the throw around the runner. Finny and our pitching coach at the time talked for a second and asked him to go to the bullpen. He pitched in high school, but they wanted him to try to throw sidearm. So they brought him on as a little pet project. It's difficult to change somebody's mechanics that much, and Chad has admitted that he wasn't all that great a pitcher in high school, which is why he tried out at short.

Chad was the first player that I met on my first day on the job. I met the coaches, talked for a little bit, and they asked if I could help move some infield dirt from outside the left field fence into the stadium. It was in mounds, and when I got back there, Chad was there shoveling. All of the other players were in drills and practicing, but they sent him to the dirt piles, basically casting him off. We hit it off and became buds quickly. He said that he didn't think the coaches would even keep him on the team through that first semester, before the season even starts. Well, he stuck and worked hard. He only made a few appearances here and there his first 3 years, and only in mop up duty. But he did the work, and this year, he became an important reliever on a good team. He got trusted to hold the lead after WKU came back on Ole Miss a few days ago, and got a win at Vanderbilt a few years earlier. But the best thing about the guy was how excited he was about the team Bible study. He invited everybody. It helped that he was good friends with Balcy and me, but he was pumped.

So when I texted him, I was worried that he would be crushed about the loss. But the first thing he said was how great his 4 years were. And he also said that if he had been a freshman of sophomore trying to deal with the loss, that he couldn't have, but that since his faith had grown so much, he knew that God trusted him with that burden because he could handle it. And I was super excited to hear that so soon after a loss. He thanked Balcy and me for everything, but in all honesty, he was going in the right direction, so we had to just make sure not to hinder his growth. I get really pumped to hear about these guys who I got to spend so much time with growing in the Lord. I love hearing from campers and seeing God's love in them, and it's the same thing with the ballplayers. So WKU is done, but I don't think I could be any happier with the way everything finished. Go Tops!!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Most Improbable Comeback

It's been awhile, so I need to give a brief update on how the WKU baseball team has done. They won a share of the conference regular season title, but lost in the conference tourney semifinals. So we crossed our fingers and hoped for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, and we got it. We got sent to the Oxford Regional, with Ole Miss, a powerhouse, as the host. It's double elimination, and we played the #2 seed Missouri in the first game. They chose not to use their All-American pitcher, and we crushed them. Ole Miss beat Monmouth, so we ended up facing Ole Miss in a winner's bracket game. We made a late push, but they won 7-4. So that left WKU in a tough spot. We had to play Missouri again, who knocked Monmouth out of the tournament with a blowout win. We crushed Missouri on Sunday morning, then had to turn right around and play Ole Miss an hour after that game finished. Ole Miss is #8 in the country and is on the short list of schools with the best home field advantage. Their fans come in the thousands and are smart baseball people. Well, Ole Miss jumped all over us. They got up 7-1, and then 9-3 going into the 8th inning. And to make things worse, they brought in their closer in the 8th, who happens to be the best closer in America.

And then magic. Our 7th place hitter ledoff with a single, and then our 8th place hitter with a walk, and then a single by our 9 hole made it 9-4. A few singles later and it was 9-6 with our star slugger coming up. Well, Wade crushed a 3-run homerun to tie the game. At this point I am going nuts. It's tied at 9 going into the bottom of the 8th. My buddy Chadcock came into pitch and worked out of a jam but held Ole Miss scoreless. So we go top 9, and our 7th place hitter leads off the inning with a homerun to give us a 10-9 lead. And at this point, I'm freaking out. In the bottom of the 9th, we bring in Garrie to pitch. Garrie had faced Ole Miss 3 times in his career and never gotten an out. But Garrie shut them down, completing the best comeback and biggest win in WKU history.

So tonight is the Oxford Regional Championship game. Every game from here on out is the biggest in school history for us. The winner will move on to the Super Regionals for a 3-game series against Virginia, with the winner going to the College World Series. Both Ole Miss and WKU have depleted pitching staffs, but WKU does have all the momentum going back into tonight. My good friend Matt Ridings will get the start at 8 pm tonight. More updates to follow. GO TOPS!!!!