Baseball is often accused of being a tedious and boring sport to watch. Inning after inning of monotony with little action. However, baseball has its moments, and it's the moments that make the seemingly endless droll of three up, three down worth the suffering. These aren't moments in the traditional sense. They are events that are seared forever in the minds of those who witness them, and they are talked about for decades. They are what make sport in general, and baseball in particular, loved by millions. Anxiety, frustration, anticipation, and eventually the duality of life in its purest form - you either win, or you lose - exhilaration or despair.
Blethen Field on the South Campus of San Jose State University was the stage today for just such a moment. The kind of situation every athlete dreams of - coming into the game with it all on the line. "Give me the ball" is the mantra of the elite athlete, and such was the case when senior reliever Jack Adams saw that his freshman protege, Andy Hennessy in his first game as a Spartan, was struggling. It was the top of the ninth and the Spartans were clinging to an 8-7 lead against visiting Louisiana Tech, who were chomping at the chance to steal away from San Jose with one win. Hennessey walked the first batter he faced, but then did what he was called to do - get the Bulldogs to hit the ball on the ground. However, as often the case in sports, an unlucky bounce on a routine grounder that would otherwise have been a double-play, instead a run scored to pull the Bulldogs to within a run. Hennessey walked the next batter, which loaded the bases with nobody out.
It was then that SJSU head coach Sam Piraro called on his senior reliever, who had saved game one, to come in and rectify the situation. Adams wasn't supposed to pitch in game two, and Piraro never told him to warm up. Adams saw what was happening and took it upon himself to get ready for the call - if it came. And he wanted to be the one getting the call. "There was no one left so I knew I'd get the call," Adams said.
As Piraro walked purposely towards the mound to relieve his embattled freshman, Adams was ready. When his coach signaled, he jogged to the mound to accept the challenge. As cliche as it sounds, tt was the stuff of movies - at the plate was La Tech's best hitter, senior Chris Kersten. Kerston had hit in a run, then scored himself in the top of the eighth. In game one he'd had a 14-game hitting streak snapped. He was 4-4 in this game, including a home run in the first inning, and now was looking to be the hero for the Bulldogs. Here it was - Adams vs. Kersten. Mano-a-Mano and all that.
|Junior shorstop Kyle Bellows turns the double play to end game two of Saturday's doubleheader against Louisiana Tech|
The count was 2-2 when Adams reared back and blew strike three past a swinging Kersten. A huge sigh was heard in the stands, but the threat wasn't over as that was only the first out of the inning. Adams got to 0-2 on Mark Threlkeld before getting the freshman to hit a grounder up the middle - ironically to almost the identical spot where earlier in the inning Nick Grunenwald's hit took the fateful bounce that led to the eventual bases loaded situation. This time, San Jose State junior shortstop Kyle Bellows was able to scoop up the ball, touch second, and fire to first to complete the double play, and complete the four-game sweep of the Bulldogs.
"As soon as he made that play I was just floating," Adams said. "When someone puts the bat on the ball it's always scary because you think it's going to leak through a hole here or there. I was thinking 'oh no, what's going to happen' but Bellows was right there and he was lined up and got the double play. It was awesome."
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Don Hoekwater is the Publisher of Inside Sparta. You may contact Don with any questions, comments, or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org