Saturday, May 12, 2012

Playoff Diaries, Day 3: If It Had to End...

9:46 am - The day should have started earlier because we would be playing the second game of the day, but I skipped breakfast this morning. Not really in the mood to run into any of the other teams in the hotel. Not that there was any bad blood or anything, but it felt like a day to keep to myself.

11:15 am - We had a change of plans for the rest of our morning. Because of the hotel's policy of check-in, we had to pack our things and completely check-out of the hotel or be charged for another night. We had all the confidence in the world that we could win two games today and stay another night, but it wasn't the right move to pay for an extra day (if we lost) and hang around another night. Besides, the worst that would happen is we unload for one night after our second game. The rooms wouldn't be booked by anyone else so I didn't see it as a big deal. Considering the inappropriate behavior by another team in the hotel the night before (allegedly), we made the right decision.

12:01 pm - We made sandwich's in Coach McGee's in-laws room and gave one last look to our rooms, checking for any stealthy items which may have made their way out of our respective duffel bags and loaded the bus, possibly for the last time this season.

12:22 pm - We gathered our equipment and the position players got ready for cage hitting while the pitchers watched the end of a down-to-the-wire game between Grand Valley and Wayne State. WSU couldn't hold a one-run lead in the 9th and once GVSU tied and took the lead, added some insurance en route to a 6-4 victory, and a spot in the GLIAC title game on Saturday.

2:10 pm - It was win or go home as Logan Nordquist (@Logan_Nordquist) took the mound for game six of the tournament.

6:23 pm - Game tied at 6. Runners on 2nd and 3rd. 1 out. Bottom of the 15th. That was the scene as our season teetered on the brink of destruction (not for the first time either). As many times as we dodged the agony of defeat, we couldn't get out of the way of the last big red ball that was a suicide squeeze. It was a brilliant call. Never saw it coming. A left-handed hitter in the box, no way they would try that with such an easy view for the catcher. But if there ever was a time to try it, it was with a lefty on the mound who would have his back to the runner at 3rd. It was executed perfectly and I don't care how many times a team practices defending that play, if the offense executes it properly, there is no stopping it.

One of the gutsiest efforts I've seen in a long time (by both teams) was on display that afternoon. We had four different leads and three different chances to close out the game but couldn't seem to hammer in the final nail. This is very cliche, but this game revealed a lot of character in a lot of young men that will carry them through their lives long after they hang up their spikes. For the tournament to begin like it did in the bottom of the 9th on Wednesday, and to end like this in the bottom of the 15th on Friday, it was almost poetic justice. It feels like the baseball gods are telling us, "Yeah, you got a taste of how good it can be, but we're showing you the other side too. Remember this when you're here next year."

In no way does this make anyone who graced the 1st base dugout feel any better about the outcome, but it does serve as a reminder that much like life, this game plays no favorites but offers everyone the same opportunity to be great.

10:27 pm - The bus returned to campus and dropped the players off one last time. The campus was empty, much like the streets of Painesville when we pulled in the parking lot. Garbage bags circulated the aisles in efforts to render the bus spotless. Sacked lunches were disposed of, a few remaining Gatorades were chugged, and a few final instructions were given by the coaching staff. Uniforms were going to be turned in tomorrow at 9 am so in less than 12 hours, the 2012 season, and the careers of 11 seniors, would be officially over.

It was an absolute pleasure and joy to be a part of this record-breaking season. I would like to wish the seniors the best of luck in their future endeavours, while wishing the returners luck during summer ball in hopes they come back eager to test the uncharted waters of postseason greatness in 2013. I would like to thank all the parents, friends, families, students, and fans who supported this team all season. While playing this game is reward enough, your support made playing and coaching that much more enjoyable. Thanks for a great season and as always, RAGE ON!

Stay tuned throughout the summer for updates on Storm players in their summer leagues, and any other random thoughts about baseball on Twitter @thecoachscave.