The Hitting Zone - Chapter 826 - V3 ch61 (VS Branham HS 1)
Chapter 826 – V3 ch61 (VS Branham HS 1)
Our room got busy after I finished icing my ankle. Mom, Dad, and the twins came in to see what was going on with my ankle. Dad agreed with Zeke that Coach should be making the final decision. Coach was staying in a nearby hotel and it didn’t take him long to show up.
Coach was a little more reasonable than my family. He let me prove that I can jog by having me go up and down the hallway. His suggestion in the end was, “Let’s see how warmups go. If he can still field and swing his bat like normal, then let’s not mess that up. It’s not really a sprain so I don’t think it would do Jake any good if we restricted his movements.”
I nodded enthusiastically. Yes, I don’t need tape. It’s really just a lump. We wasted this whole morning for nothing. Coach left first, saying he wanted to meet up with his staff. We snacked a little more until it was time for us to leave as well.
When we got back to the tournament grounds, it was noticeably less busy than before. The eliminated teams and their families no longer had a reason to stay. Coach told us to gather in the third base dugout of field #2. Both teams had three wins, but we beat them in run differential so we got to be the home team.
Garret was going to pitch today so after leading us through the basic warmup, he left for the bullpen with Mitchell and the pitching coach. We split into smaller groups and rotated between fielding grounders, fly balls, batting practice, and some other stretches.
Coach checked in on me periodically, making sure I wasn’t being affected by my ankle. “Manageable?” He asked me as everyone got back in our dugout, preparing to take the field in the first inning.
I nodded and gave him a thumbs up. “No trouble.”
“If it gets worse, you tell me.” Coach lifted his sunglasses to make eye contact with me.
I nodded obediently. “Yes, Coach.”
Coach then addressed the team, going over our lineup for today once more.
1 SS Noah
2 P Garret
3 2B Jake
4 3B Jason
5 CF Korrey
6 C Mitchell
7 1B Sean
8 LF Jesse
“It’s do or die time, boys.” Coach clapped his hands together. “Win today and we get another game. Don’t forget, three B’s: ball, base, backup. On offense, I want to see you guys swing. No one better be caught looking. Anything close, you try to foul it off.”
He looked at Garret. “You got this.”
Garret nodded. He glanced around the dugout. “Let’s go!” He was the first one out of the dugout. The rest of us followed.
Although there was less families hanging around, the game had a more official vibe to it. There was an announcer broadcast, going over who was playing where. You could hear claps and cheers for each name, meaning our families really came through to show their support. I was able to find Mom and Dad easily. Mostly because of Jeremy’s presence. He had a small line forming beside the metal bleachers. Looks like he was signing autographs again.
The umpire called for balls in and for the first batter from Branham High School to step up. His name and position was announced, then he stepped in the righty’s box. Garret started him off with his fastball, the batter fouled it back for strike one.
New ball, next pitch. Garret threw another fastball, inside. The batter connected, hitting a grounder to Noah at short. Noah fielded the ball smoothly and got him out at first. One out.
Batter two stepped up. Garret moved his fastball around the zone, getting to a 1-2 count before throwing his cutter. It went inside on the batter, who wasn’t able to react in time. Strikeout. Two outs.
Batter three, another righty, attacked Garret’s first pitch, a fastball. He hit a solid line drive…right at Noah. Three outs. We went back to the dugout in high spirits. Three up, three down.
Garret didn’t get to have a break. Noah, him, and I were the first ones up. I was in the hole, watching Noah’s first at-bat, studying the pitcher. He had a good fastball and after watching him striking out Noah on three pitches, I could only assume he had great control too.
“Decent effort.” Coach told Noah as he got inside the dugout. “Your timing is just a bit off.”
I went out to the on deck circle, taking some practice swings as I watched Garret take this guy on. Coach had said that Noah’s timing was off, and I could tell that Garret was the same way, but slightly better. He fouled off quite a few pitches, being a tad late. The pitcher threw a curve, to change it up, but Garret was waiting for it. He pulled the pitch to right field for a single.
Seeing that Garret had success against the curve as a lefty, I chose to be a lefty too. I glanced back at the still-standing catcher. Was he not ready?
He held his gloved hand out over the righty’s box, calling for an intentional ball. The pitcher obliged, throwing me four balls and sending me on my way to first base. At first base, I saw a familiar face: the player from the trainers area yesterday.
He recognized me too, greeting me with a smile. “Wow. Didn’t expect you to be one of the brothers I was talking about yesterday. I didn’t say anything to offend you guys right?”
I shook my head.
“Good.” He grinned. “I was worried I did and that’s why you guys didn’t say anything.” He looked me up and down. “I really didn’t expect you to be Jake Atkins either. You’re having a really good tournament. I thought you’d be bigger since you’re capable of hitting homeruns.”
Never have I had such a talkative first baseman. It really threw me off. With him standing on first with me and trying to have a conversation, it was hard for me to lead off. Distracted, I had a late jump when Jason hit the ball. It was a grounder to short. The shortstop threw to the second baseman, beating me by a mile, who then threw it to first to complete the double play.
On my way back to the dugout, Coach Luis caught up to me. “Jake, wait up.” We walked into the dugout together. “Do you know that guy?”
I shook my head, then shrugged. “I just saw him yesterday. Him and Kyle made small talk.”
Coach Luis nodded. “He’s a real talker. I don’t think you could have made it to second on Jason’s grounder, but it didn’t help that you barely got two feet off of first. Next time, ignore him and focus on the at-bat.”
I nodded, feeling a little bad. “Yes. Sorry.”
“I can understand you’re not used to it, but don’t let it happen again.” Coach Luis went to go talk to Coach.
I went to my bag and put my helmet away. Put my hat on and grabbed my glove.