|Edition No. 4||
March 16, 2012
ODE TO OPENING DAY
Yesterday marked the Opening Day of the Mount Michael baseball season, and with 80-degree weather and sunshine on March 15, it couldn’t have been a better day to begin the season.
As I arrived at our home field for the 4:30 p.m. start against visiting Nebraska City, the atmosphere was electric, the air practically crackling with excitement for the start of the new baseball season. The infield was green, the mound Georgia-clay red and perfectly manicured, and the two teams ready to mark the beginning of time for 2012.
While I thought that Joe would be the Opening Day starter, Coach Suing opted to go with our lone Southpaw against the Pioneers, and unfortunately, it wasn’t his sharpest day. He led off the game by walking the first opposing batter, and as often happens, the free pass came back to haunt him as a run scored after the base runner advanced on a stolen base and a hit. Lefty escaped the top of the 1st without further damage.
In the bottom of the 1st, after the lead-off batter popped out, our gritty catcher pole-axed a triple to deep center to get the Knights rolling, aided by a bit of a misadventure by the Pioneer center fielder. Joltin’ Joe Ernst then did his job by knocking him in with a fairly deep fly ball out to right field, knotting the score at 1. Unfortunately, it was the only run that would be tallied by the Knights Varsity crew on the day, as the Pioneer pitcher threw a complete game gem against an inexperienced Knight lineup.
After the Knights’ starting pitcher began to falter, Coach Suing surprised everyone by getting young Will Ernst loosened up in the bullpen, making him ready for his Mount Michael Varsity debut. Just before the top of the 5th inning, Coach Suing told Will to be ready, because if our starting pitcher let anyone else on base—with our team already behind 4 to 1—he would be calling him to the mound. As young Will related to me later, at that moment he began pulling and cheering ever more earnestly for our starting pitcher, the butterflies in his stomach in full flutter.
After Lefty threw three straight balls to the first Pioneer hitter in the top of the 6th, Coach Suing signaled for Will to take the mound. The stout young sophomore marched resolutely to the bump and calmly took his warm-up pitches, and then threw his first official pitch into the dirt to put the leadoff batter on base. For the record, supplemental oxygen was then administered to his father. But not to worry, Will almost always does his best work from the stretch.
Loading up the horsehide with a couple of slices of Münster, Will struck out the next batter, his first official Varsity out; got the next batter to ground out; and then fanned the next hitter for the final out of the frame, adding a dose of Gray Poupon to the last pitch as the Nebraska City hitter flailed helplessly into space.
As he came off of the mound after holding the Pioneers at bay, Will had a 360-degree grin on his mug, and big brother Joe came running in from right field and slapped him on the back with his glove and heartily praised his performance, warming every last cockle of my heart. One of those moments that will be burned into my memory bank forever.
In the bottom of the 6th, Joe led off the Knights’ hitting with a double to the fence in left center, but was left stranded on the bases. Will took the mound again in the top of the 7th and once again did a great job, giving up a single unearned run on an error followed by a single, but recording the three Nebraska City outs on a nice play at first where he had to cover the bag, and then gassing out the other two Pioneers with tall heat. Not a bad day’s work in Will’s pitching debut: 4 strikeouts in 2 innings, 1 unearned run, 1 hit, no walks.
Joe also had a good day at the plate with three hard-hit balls, a double, a sac fly and an RBI. If only the Knights had been able to start the season out with a win, the day would have been complete.
Now onto Hot Stove League business!
As you all know, we have this little thing called the Hot Stove League Draft sneaking up on us, a mere two weeks away, as the crow flies. Let’s plan on a 6 p.m. start time on Friday, March 30, 2012, at the Pansing Hogan Ernst & Buser (I’m only promoting him so that he will bring the spirits) law firm. If any of you want to get here earlier to claim your rightful spots around the altar, we will probably be ready for you by 5:15 or 5:30.
Get ready, get set, and see you in two weeks!