By Connor Jones
I was watching Blake Snell of the Padres pitch last night and it got me to thinking of the World Series game last year when Snell, playing for the Rays, was absolutely shoving it for five innings against the Dodgers. Then the Rays manager takes Snell out and I, like most baseball fans, couldn’t believe it.
He had given up zero runs and only one hit. The Dodger players proceeded to completely mash the ball off the next pitcher.
When we were fifteen playing in the Babe Ruth Regionals in Kelso, Washington, the same thing happened. We were the Dodgers, and North Kitsap were the Rays.
Their pitcher for five innings, who I’m pretty sure was related to or maybe even was Josh Beckett with a matching black goatee, was throwing more than 90 miles per hour. He had 13 strikeouts and our team had yet to hit the ball past the pitchers mound. We were losing 1-0. We had no confidence and we were all dreading our trips to the batter box.
In the top of sixth inning, we see their first baseman heading to the mound to grab the ball.
Our mouths all drop and our team celebrated in the dugout. It didn’t matter if Pedro Martinez was the next pitcher, the other guy was out of the game.
I led off the inning and hammered one deep right field but the kid makes a great catch, one out. Kellen then hits one hard right back up the middle and then gets to second on a bad throw. Luke Stone hits a triple and Kel scores to tie the game. We’re going bananas, this is incredible. Undies, up next, uncharacteristically strikes out.
Two outs, and Nick Rypien nervously strolls to the dish. Ball one, strike one, strike two. My dad, coaching third base, gives Nick his most aggressive fist pump and emotionally yells, “You can do it, here we go Ryp!”
That accidental fist pump is our sign for the squeeze play. Nick tips his helmet to recognize the mistaken sign. Uh oh… Coach Jones sees this acknowledgment and starts jumping up and down like some crazy lunatic, too late. Nick, a horrible bunter has not attempted one bunt all season.
All baseball teams know it is a sin to run a squeeze play with two outs, and you certainly don’t do it with two strikes with your worst bunter hitting.
So Luke’s on third, confused as hell but takes off tentatively as the pitcher throws a fastball almost above Nick’s head. He almost has to jump to make contact, but he does and the ball bounces much too hard, off his bat towards the pitcher.
Completely catching their team off guard, North Kitsap has no idea what to do. The pitcher frantically fields the ball and panics. If he remembered the situation he would know he has five-seconds to throw out Ryp at first base. Instead he comes pretty close to completing an Irish jig as he jumps towards third base, then first base, looks at home, then decides to throw to first. He proceeds to throw it so far over the first baseman that Ryp ends up on third.
The dugout is going crazy, my dad is in disbelief, but the momentum was ours as we rush out to swarm Stony after scoring. Nick standing on third like it’s a podium, throws his hands in the air like the hero he is.
We end up winning the game as Kel shuts the door on the last two innings, starting off our Regionals with a miraculous victory. To this day, I wonder what the North Kitsap coach was thinking, and also what the manager of the Rays was thinking too… maybe they are the same guy! Something to definitely look into.
So, a lesson? Change your signs? Don’t mess with a good thing? When your pitcher has a no-hitter leave him in the game?