Thursday, June 21, 2012

Co-Ed Kickball: Season 5 Recap

If you happen to be Facebook friends with some of my kickball teammates, then perhaps your timeline was inundated with pictures of this trophy around, oh, 9:15 PM last night:



That's the trophy for winning the Knightdale kickball league, which as of last night, is ours! I didn't even know they had a trophy. I thought that at best, we would get a certificate or something. (That's a team trophy, and there's only one of them, as opposed to separate trophies for every player. But it does say "Spring 2012" on it, which means we don't have to give it to the next champion. It's ours forever! Sweet.)

How did it happen? Well...the team has been together a while now and has six seasons under its belt (five since I joined), and there has been steady improvement as we keep building the team, find which roles (both offensively and defensively) suit everyone best, and continually learn how to play solid defense and cheap ways to score runs. Yes, I think 'bunt bunt sacrifice sacrifice' is kind of a cheap way to score a run, but if executed, it is very difficult to defend. (Our 1-4 kickers in the lineup are who they are specifically so we can best execute the 'bunt bunt sacrifice sacrifice'.) And it's not like we're the only ones doing it, either. We noticed the other teams playing our style of 'small ball' more and more as the season progressed.

How's this for steady improvement: our team records during my five seasons are 2-11, 3-8, 4-7, 5-6, and this season, 7-5.

"League champions at 7-5? That's not very impressive." Yeah, well, it took some luck along the way. Our 5-5 regular season record was good enough for the #2 playoff seed out of four teams. (Everyone in the league makes the playoffs.) And we got a gift when our first playoff opponent (the #3 seed) showed up with fewer than the minimum three required girls (this is "co-ed" kickball, after all), resulting in a forfeit win for us. That was the only way we were going to make the championship game, too, given how soundly we were beaten in the non-official game we ended up playing. Maybe we just stopped caring once we realized the game didn't count. (I was also still nursing a pulled leg muscle from the weekend on Monday, so I was basically useless in that "game".)

Also helping was that the #4 seed knocked off the #1 seed in the other semifinal. And we caught some breaks in the championship game, too. The 7th inning comes to mind, when the other team had the bases loaded with no runs while down 3-2, and came out of it with no runs. (Good defense, yes, but when you have the based loaded with no outs, and you don't score at least one, it's the offense's fault.)

It also helped to be the home team (by virtue of being the higher seed) because of how the 9th inning played out. In the top of the 9th, they once again loaded the bases with no outs, except this time they scored 3 to go up 5-3. Then, in the bottom of the 9th: single, RBI triple, RBI double, single, out, RBI single, win!

I noticed during the 9th that given the way kickball works, it really helps to know exactly how many runs you need to score. Ball placement is key to advancing and scoring runnners, and if you know how many you need to score, you can plan accordingly and usually accomplish it. (If you execute, of course, which we obviously did! And as long as the number of runs you need to score isn't, like, 20.) We had that advantage, while our opponent did not. In that regard, it was eerily similar to the final game of Saturday's curling tournament, also a championship-clinching win aided by knowing exactly how much we needed to score. (I'm on a roll! Two trophies in a week!)

So, it takes a little bit of luck to win a championship, in any sport. But we'll take it! Luck or not, it's been fun to be a part of this team, and to see its progression from cellar dweller to champion. I can't take any credit for the 9th inning, though, having been the pitcher of record when we gave up three runs in the top of the 9th (some of which were due to crappy defense by me), and not having come to bat in the bottom of the 9th. So, basically, I was the guy who blew the save in the top of the 9th inning, only to end up as the "winning pitcher" when the rest of my team rallied in the bottom of the 9th. Interesting feeling, that.

With that, let's delve into the season stats. Amber and I played in some games together and some games separately while the other person stayed home and watched Marla. This means I only played in 8 games this season, a career low. (Amber played in 7.) So, many of these stats are career lows:

Season batting: 20 H in 31 AB (.645), 1 RBI, 9 R, 0 XBH/BB/K. Career lows in hits and at-bats, which I can attribute to my somewhat limited participation...but that's also a career low batting average. No excuse there! Except that maybe the defense is simply catching on to my style. I may never again match the .761 average I put up in Season 3, but .645 is still pretty good for a bunter, I think. (My career average is .702.) This was also the second season of five in which I did not have any extra base hits. But on a positive note, I scored one run every 3.4 at-bats, which is better than my career average (4.2). Nine runs is also not a career low. (Career low = 7 runs, career high = 11 runs.)

Season pitching: 8 starts, 6-2 record, 2.18 ERA (17 ER in 70.1 IP), 2 K, 5 BB (3 IBB). That's a career best ERA, barely beating out last season's 2.30. This is also the first time I (or the team) has finished over .500. Hooray! My career record (17-29) is still well below .500, however, which again shows how far our team has come. Two strikeouts is a career low, and two non-intentional walks is a career high, both of which we can chalk up to the significantly smaller strike zone. I miss the old strike zone, but they certainly aren't going to change it back now. Regardless, curvy pitching is still occasionally effective. (And fun!)

Kickball season ran much later than usual, which means next season starts in, maybe, two months? I might need more time than that. We need to savor our victory!

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