After winning 11-7 on July 2nd, I held a postgame meeting. I congratulated everyone on doing their job of shut-down defense. The pitcher was shaky that night, having walked 8 batters total and he apologized for that. I told him not to worry - he would do better next week.
"Uhm, about that..."
He proceeded to let me know he would be on vacation for 2 weeks. Okay. I asked the team if anyone would be willing to pitch next week. I was immediately nominated for that. Uhh... I repeated my question and they all stared back at me.
The problem was I hadn't pitched in a game for 12 months and I figured with so many available players, I would not need to stay sharp. After all, I was doing practice with two different teams at least once a week which helped keep me fit. I consented and then sent everyone off with a rousing victory speech.
Before I knew it, Monday the 9th was here and...I never got around to practice on my pitching. Crap. I knew the exact distance because I have the measuring tape...but can I do it again, hitting the target consistently after all that time? Only way to find out. I went to the park an hour early, measured off the distance, placed a faux home plate at the end of the tape, and took my spot on the other end.
I positioned myself, took one step back, took a breath, and went into the motion. I was short by two full plates. Tried harder...*thud!* The ball had hit the plate. I tried harder and I cleared the plate, but a bit off to the right. Took a breath, centered myself, focused on the area above the plate, and let it fly. Landed perfectly. Threw another...almost same result. A slight hiccup in my throwing mechanism and the ball veered off. Centered myself and I found the area once again.
15 minutes later, I felt good about my arm. Then the game started 10 minutes later.
First inning - we scored a run and then it was my turn. I was a bit off and walked the first batter (since this was a male batter, he automatically advanced to second base). The next batter tried to wait on my pitches in order to draw a walk. The shortstop (one of the fixtures) came over to tell me how to pitch. I told him to back off, do his job, and I will do mine. The batter then grounded out, advancing the runner to third. I walked third batter, putting him on 2nd base. The fourth batter flied out to outfield, scoring the runner. The 6th batter grounded out, tying the score at 1-1.
Second inning - we didn't score a run. First batter grounded out, 2nd batter singled, 3rd batter singled, 4th got on by shortstop's error, 5th lined out, 6th lined right at me which almost took me out, scoring 2 runners, before shutting down the next two batters through flyouts. I became very vocal on the field and that fired the team up. I didn't walk a batter and gave up just three hits. Down 3-1.
Third inning - we scored a run to cut the deficit to 3-2. Got first batter to ground out. Second batter singled, third batter grounded out, and fourth batter struck out. Score remained unchanged, but I underwent a transformation on the mound. I found my zone and nothing was getting to me at all.
Fourth inning - no score from us. Struck out first batter, gave up a single to next batter, third flied out to outfield (outfielder thought it was three outs and never bothered to throw the ball back so the runner advanced on no throw), fourth singled to score the runner home, fifth singled, and sixth batter lined out at second baseman. Score 4-2. Everyone could hear me and I told the shortstop off again for not being in his position.
We scored 2 more runs over the next 2 innings...but gave up one more run in the final inning to seal our fate. The funny thing was that shortstop singled before I told him to back off and do his job. He floundered, going 0-4 and committing two errors. I felt good about myself despite having pitched 7 innings, giving up 5 runs and walking two batters. I wanted more out of myself and others...and I knew the team wanted me back on the mound next week.
The problem with next week was... Come back next week to find out! ;)
The Crux of the Problem
1 day ago