Thursday, March 19, 2009
So sorry a whole month has passed since the winning of our 2nd softball tourny this year. The seniors are very excited to be leaving Sahel as a 2 time champion. This most recent tourny took place in Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, just south of Niamey.
While it was hard to get motivated again for yet another tourny. As we began to assemble for practices, of course, the cool season ended and the dust rolled in. So, I had one question for the boys, "are we going to play to win this thing, or play to just have fun?" After a rather dramatic pause, one of the younger guys said, "I guess we have to go defend our title last October" So with that, we began to prepare. If anything could have gone wrong, it did. We lost almost every exhibition game we played. Our defense was bad, we weren't hitting and all of our heads were a bit down. However, there were two bright spots that I saw. First, the boys played better and better defense even in those losses. Second, Tim Smith, the campus ball player and home run hitter was back from furlough to work on the books here at school. However, he had the weekend off, conveniently, just to join the team.
So, on Friday, very early, we boarded the vans at 6am to head for Ouaga. Our trip was rather uneventful and we had the afternoon to rest and watch other teams play. Our first game was at 7am on Saturday..yikes. And it was against the team that beat us up consistently before the tourny. So, needless to say, our guys felt a bit intimidated by this team who could just flat out hit the ball and they had a great defense. True to the past weeks, they ran out to an early lead. I kept all the adults on our team on the bench so the guys could go beat their dads up in the game. We chipped away at their lead and got within 3 at the end, but dropped our first game. That left us with the realization that we had to win the other 3 games to get to the championship game.
It is amazing, that even though we lost that first game, that we actually gained confidence in our play because our defense started to dominate. "Your offense starts with defense" was one of our sayings, and the boys really concentrated on playing hard nosed D. We played another "embassy" team from Ouaga, a Burkina team and a little league team who were much larger than little leaguers I grew up with. They had beaten our guys in previous years at this tourny, so our guys exacted a bit of revenge this go around.
We woke up Sunday ready to go at it again, knowing we play one game at 8 for a chance to make it to the championship game against the same team we lost to earlier. While it took an inning or two to wake up, we had no problem getting to the final game. What fun this was going to be. As a coach player, it was so hard not to be in the outfield. I actually rode the bench and didn't do a good job. I think the boys took 10 years off my life. The first 2 innings saw the same team hit the ball all over the field, over our heads, in between us, for an 8-1 lead. We were visiting team, so we knew it had to start now. The third inning saw us score 3 runs, so the challenge was to put up a goose egg on their side. Wow! they did that for 2 or three innings while we scored 3, 2, 2 runs to tie the game at 8. Then we actually took a 2 run lead in the 6th, to see the Nomad's come back with 2 of their own in the bottom of the inning.
Now, one final inning, we must score and hold them to 0 if we want to win. Everyone was on the edge of their seat because this was a great game! great defense, offense, sportsmanship, etc. There were a few controversial calls, but even so it was great to see how easily they were resolved. God is good! Now, the drama begins.
Top of the inning, our lead off hitter was up, so the meat of our line up would have a crack at it. Trae starts out with a harmless fly out. Well hit, but right at him. Rufus gets on the way he seems to be able to get on all the time...with an error. He got on base 6 times with an error. By far, the most of anyone on our team. Then big Phil gets up and drives one over the left fielder's head, who misplayed it a bit, so it turned into an inside the park homerun giving us a 2 run lead. Not safe at all. We stranded another runner at third.
Bottom of the inning,..They have the bottom part of their line up coming up, so I think we should be able to get through these guys and win. However, they put the first two on with a single and a walk. Oh, no, I thought, here it goes. The big hitters are coming up with their special bat that hits the ball forever. Rufus, our pitcher was confident he could do it. He placed the ball all over the place and the first guy hit a hard smash right at the shortstop who made a clean pick up for an easy force at third. The second guy hit it almost the same place, but the throw wasn't on target, so our third baseman tried to keep his foot on the bag and get the ball. It dropped, but fortunately, we had a tall third baseman who laid on the ground fully extended to keep his foot on the base and reach for the ball just in time. 2 outs. Then the third guy hits the hardest in the gap between the short and third. Justin went after it with a dive, got it, and threw from his back to 3rd. Usually, when he does this, he throws wildly, but this throw was right on target and nailed down the championship for the Sahel Suns. My heart was rapidly beating and then went to celebrate with the boys in the middle of the field. That was the first time since 2001 since our school has swept these tournaments.
Enjoy the pics of the guys. I have included our two trophy's from NUTS(camel) and Sofanwet(turtle) which Jayson really likes!