Monday night, the Dirty Dozen was just coming off two straight big games against Grey Ghost and Get Dirty to land, unopposed, in First Place. We stood at 5-1 with four games remaining and the schedule the rest of the way favored us in that we would be playing progressively stronger opponents each week, starting with the 0-6 Benchwarmers.
After two big wins in as many weeks we all saw the Benchwarmers next on the schedule and we felt a sense of relief. Normally, that sense of relief turns quickly to a let down, so my spider sense was working over time. I could see the robot from Lost in Space running around in circles, sparks flying from its metal torso, bellowing, "Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!", over and over. The Dirty Dozen, no strangers to let downs all sensed it, too.
The last two games we were looking over at the other dugout thinking, "Let's go beat those guys," but this week we were looking at the Benchwarmers thinking, "We can't lose to those guys." Those two mind sets are totally, totally different things, y'all.
The first time we played the Benchwarmers was back on 2/18/08, the eighth week of Tundraball and we blew them out 31-7, scoring nine in the third inning and fifteen in the fourth. The following week, we blew out Statewide 24-4, only batting in two innings with sixteen in the first and eight in the second. Then we ended Tundraball beating the red hot Chiefs 12-9 to grab Second Place from them and finish 7-3.
Then Spring 2008 came and we were poised to piled up runs. Our first opponent was the Benchwarmers, but we had trouble getting the bats going only winning 11-5. Since then we've done a great job in the standings while never blowing anybody out and even losing to The Dead Lois's 9-4. So, here were the Benchwarmers again in exactly the right place in the schedule. We'd plowed through the toughest part of the schedule looking seven feet tall with red eyes and a covering of gnarly black hair. The Benchwarmers were going to get stomped.
I won the coin toss and made us Home and on the field we went. The Benchwarmers put up a pair of runs in the first, mostly on soft liners then it was our turn. Russell "Cosmic" Ray led us off with a triple. A ground-out and a walk left two men on bases and Taylor "Herman" Miller knocked them in with a double to tie the game, 2-2. "Apocalypse" Norm Mapp tripled for a third run, 3-2, and, a walk later, a deep line-out made it 4-2. A single kept the inning going, but a fly-out ended it. It was a good inning, though not as big as what we'd expected.
We handed the Benchwarmers a bagel in the second inning and grabbed two more runs in the bottom of two, the second run on a two-out double from "Liz" Taylor Miller. Again, it wasn't the inning we'd expected, but we led 6-2. The Benchwarmers got a run in the third and we had the bagel and I think we started to get a little jammed up about our lack of serious punch. Neither team scored in the fourth, though we got two guys on base via the walk.
We surrendered another run in the fifth, now 6-4, and we were starting to worry a little about this one maybe getting away from us. In the bottom of five "Slim" Tim McCoy led us off with a gash to the right side and legged out a triple to lead us off. A double made it 7-4 and a walk and single loaded the bases for a deep fly that got two guys home to make it 9-4. A ground-out and fly-out ended the inning, but at least we had knuckled down and scored a few runs of Aflac.
The Benchwarmers focused in the top of the sixth and did some hitting, single after single after single. The clock died early in the inning, so they would need a total of five runs to stay alive for us to bat again. I'll give the Benchwarmers credit for knuckling down, scoring five runs in the inning, but it wasn't enough and we held on for the win 9-7.
It wasn't a pretty game, especially on the offensive front, but it was a much needed win that kept us on top. We did very well defensively as we held the Benchwarmers to only seven runs in six innings, but we only really hit in our first and last innings. It wasn't the blow out some of us had expected, but we did score when we needed to in a game that was hard to get up for. Good job, Dirty Dozen.
Taylor Miller "Park" was 3-3 with four RBI and Russell Ray "o-vac" ** was 2-2 with a walk.
** This particular nickname courtesy of Tim McCoy.