Friday, August 22, 2003

Game 127 - Red Sox, or They Played a Game Last Night?

Saugus, MA 14
Chandler, TX 13

The best baseball game - for pure emotion and excitement - I've seen in years was televised last night from Williamsport, PA. The youngsters from Saugus, MA - coincidentally, a Boston suburb - took a 10-2 lead after the bottom of the 3rd, and seemed ready to coast into the U.S. Championship game of the Little League World Series. They led, 10-4, heading into the top of the 6th, but the Texas team scratched and clawed and refused to go down without a fight. They plated 6 in their last turn to tie the game at 10, and then scored 3 more in the top of the 7th to take a 3-run lead.

I was shaking my head, full of sympathy for the kids from Saugus. The camera panned their dugout, catching shot after shot of sobbing little boys - the same kids who looked so composed and smooth in the field - and their teary-eyed manager. Suddenly, though, the Texas pitcher walked a couple of batters, then gave up a single, and hope rose again. After an out was recorded, a run came across on another hit. A flyout to shallow right left the score 13-11 with two outs and the bases loaded. Matt Muldoon, a monstrous 6'1 12 year-old, ripped a liner to right to score another run, with the tying marker crossing the plate when the eager Texas rightfielder launched his throw over the catcher's head.

Tie game, two outs, winning run on third, and 41,000 people screaming at the tops of their lungs. I can't imagine being involved with that as an adult, let alone as a 12 year-old kid. Players from both teams clasped their hands in prayer, on the verge of crying or yelling with joy, and only the bounce of a ball to choose which ending. Saugus' batter topped a grounder to third, and was slow to get out of the batter's box. The Texas thirdbaseman charged the ball and slung it to first. The umpire paused, then! Saugus' dugout exploded in celebration, while the kids from Texas slumped over in defeat. It's a cliche, but this game had it all: homeruns, big innings, terrific fielding plays, controversial calls (in fact, the batter was out on the final play of the game, so it should have gone to the 8th inning), gutty pitching, and gobs of emotion.

I don't think the Sox were watching this game, because they were in the midst of their own 14-5 win over Oakland, but maybe a little of the Saugus kids' mojo rubbed off on their more highly compensated neighbors. It's been widely documented that several Sox players, including Nomar, called the Saugus team before the Little League World Series started. Maybe...nah, that's just too Hollywood.

But they did both score 14 runs last night. I'm just saying.

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