Feb. 12, 2007
GOOD THINGS COME TO HIM WHO WAITS...
I don't think my Dad ever used that saying during his life, a life which began 99 years ago today. I do know that he would have loved to have seen just how that quote exemplified our three game sweep of Cincinnati this past weekend. Dad was a big baseball fan, who really appreciated close games and exciting comebacks.
This weekend had plenty of both.
Friday night saw Mike McKenna and Robbie Widlansky give Mickey Story and our bullpen four runs to hold off the Bearcats. The pitchers were up to the challenge, as the bullpen backed Mickey's eight strikeouts over five innings, with Joel Schmal getting his first save of the year.
I asked Bearcat coach Brian Cleary if we were always going to have close games. Two years ago, all three were decided at the end. Brian said he was waiting one to go his way. In the eighth on Saturday, I thought Coach Cleary was going to get his wish.
Brandon Cooney pitched great into the seventh, but things started to turn, so we went to the pen. By the time the inning ended we were tied at eight and the tempo had changed. The Bearcats added five more in the eighth, and we had a tough row to hoe.
Down by five, with six outs left, we needed baserunners. We were taking a strike and trying to work some counts to get on base. Will Block managed to coax a walk, and with one out, Robbie Widlansky looked at me to confirm he was taking. I reluctantly said yes; it was the standard approach when down that many runs. But my heart wanted him to swing. I felt a big hit would get "Old Mo" back in our dugout, and give us a shot.
My son Luke is seven years old, and Woody is his favorite for two reasons. They share the same birthday and the same taste in music. Most of our guys have some sort of rap, rock, or country for their walk-up music, but not Widlansky. Luke comes alive whenever he hears Robbie's name, followed by the Darth Vader music from Star Wars!
Woody bent down to pick up the previous hitter's bat, and I was right behind him.
"Anybody with that walk-up music should be swinging, not taking", I told him.
Last season was supposed to be Woody's year. Our club was pretty solid, and he was a guy that most of the scouts were coming to see. He could run and hit for power, and was a veteran leader we needed to get us to another post-season. Exactly a year ago, Robbie tore his hamstring and his dream of a big junior year was ripped apart as well.
It's not easy to sit out an entire year and watch your team miss the contributions you would normally make. The rehab is tough on your body, but the waiting is murder on your mind. What if it never heals? Will it be a recurring thing? Will I ever run like before? These thoughts and more filled Robbie's days and weeks, as he waited for this season.
As he waited for days like Saturday's eighth inning.
Vader's theme ended and Cincy's Michael Hill spun a first pitch curveball that Widlansky waited on and drilled over the left field fence!
We had our big hit and "Old Mo" took a seat in our dugout.
We needed a scoreless ninth but didn't want to waste Joel Schmal in a losing cause; not with another game Sunday. We had shorted the pen in the nightmare seventh and eighth, so we found another guy who had been waiting.
Lou Morey left the swamps of Jersey for Delaware University where he was cut. After transferring to FAU, he showed up at our walk-on tryout. Lou's not big, and he didn't throw hard, but Coach McCormack had an idea. "Drop him down sidearm and let him throw a few". Lou's ball moved a ton, and Mac talked me into keeping him for the fall. Our guys didn't hit him much and they all cheered when I announced he had made the team.
Lou looked 10 feet tall and bullet proof as he mowed down the Bearcats in the ninth.
Pumped by Sweet Lou's performance, our guys fought back to load the bases in our last frame. Down to our last out, Danny Bomback drew a walk to force in a run and it was 13-11.
Darth Vader was back.
Oozing confidence, Robbie Widlansky drove in his fourth and fifth runs in his last two at bats to tie the game at 13. Luke was going nuts.
Joel Schmall came in and walked a tightrope for three innings, but came up big at each challenge, until Mike McKenna launched a walk-off home run over the scoreboard, just five minutes short of the five hour mark for the game.
Our wait was over.
Sunday would be another challenge as the Bearcats put up a seven spot in the top of the second. What is a Bearcat, and why are they so resilient???
One mark of our team these first two weekends has been the ability to respond in kind when the other team scores. A two run double by Nick Arata and a two run homer by Will Block contributed to a five run second for the good guys. An inning later the same two sophomores drove in a run each and we were tied at seven.
Meanwhile, starter Mike O'Bradovich was hanging tough after his rough start, and then we used the long ball to push the lead to 12-7. Billy Degnan homered in his first start, and Danny Cook hit a bomb off the batter's eye in dead center. Will Block missed the cycle by a triple, as he went 4-4 with four rbi's.
Chris Salberg pitched the last inning and slammed the door shut for the weekend.
Next week we host a tournament with LaSalle, Ball State, and Oklahoma State. The competition should be great, and a chance to find out more about our club.
I can't wait. KC