The DeSoto County baseball season was not supposed to end in a 5-0 loss at Lake Placid. The Bulldogs outplayed the Green Dragons, yet it was the Dawgs turning in their uniforms, while Lake Placid went on to win the district championship over Lemon Bay.
Bulldog ace Braden Steele was on the mound and the team was filled with confidence that their season would include the championship game in Lemon Bay. With the Bulldogs picking up as many hits as the Dragons and having one fewer error, it would seem like everything was in place for a win, not a 5-0 loss.
Baseball is a game filled with superstitions, and the loss could be blamed on the “Baseball Gods” that influence a team or player in either a positive or negative way. A batter could hit a ball right on the screws, for instance, and the ball lands in a fielder’s glove before he can even drop the bat. That’s the Baseball Gods in action. The next time the batter could hit a little “duck snort” and it falls for a hit ... and the Baseball Gods had paid him back.
If you believe in the Baseball Gods, then you know that the DeSoto team has a lot of good calls coming their way next season. There were many opportunities for the Bulldogs to win that game last week. Let us go over a few.
First and foremost on the players and fans minds were some of the calls by the umpiring crew. They are trying to do the best they can, but they had an off-night. In fact one of the Lake Placid coaches told me after the game “that was brutal.” I didn’t have to ask what he was talking about.
Starting in the first inning, the Lake Placid lead-off hitter checked his swing and made contact, sending the ball just over the outstretched glove of second baseman C J Nelson. With two outs and two runners on, Steele threw a 3-2 pitch right down Broadway, and as the players started to leave the field, the umpire called it ball four to load the bases.
The next hitter topped a pitch and sent a slow roller about eight feet down the third-base line. Picture a perfect bunt that hugs the chalk, and you get the picture. Steele raced in and desperately dove for the ball and tried to shovel it to Logan Adams at the plate. The throw was low and it appeared as if the baserunner may have accidentally kicked Adams’s glove. With two outs, runners were going on contact. And by the time the throw was made to Steele covering the plate, all three runners had scored. The Baseball Gods were in action.
The Dragons added a single run in the second on two walks (close pitches) and an infield single in the hole at short. A fielder’s choice plated a run. The final run came in the sixth as the first hitter swung at a pitch—the ball hit his hands ... and he was awarded first base. That was followed by a sacrifice and a single to make the final score 5-0.
The Bulldogs had plenty of opportunities to score, as they left 14 men on base in the game! They left two in every inning except the fifth (just one) and left the bases loaded on three walks in the seventh. The game ended on the third strikeout of the inning.
While some of the players were saying things like “we didn’t come here to lose to the umpires,” it was coach Monty McLeod that reminded them of their responsibilities in the loss: “You aren’t going to win any games if you don’t score any runs. It wasn’t the umpires that left 14 men on base or had nine strikeouts.”
The Bulldogs had a walk, single and a Dragon error in the first, yet failed to score. A single and hit batter with just one out in the second put another zero on the board in the second. The third saw a single and walk, yet no runs. A walk and error put two Bulldogs on in the fourth, yet no big key hit could get anybody home. The fifth saw a single by Danny Shea, but that was all. In the sixth, the Dragons committed two errors to put two runners on, but another goose egg was the result of that threat. The three walks in the final frame could have gotten the Bulldogs some momentum, but three strikeouts ended the game.
There were several plays that drew the anger of the fans and players, and rightly so. One call had first baseman Bueford Patton off the bag when he caught a throw, for example, but that was questionable.
Another Bulldog was running to first and the first baseman jumped to catch the throw, in the air when the runner hit the bag. The first baseman landed on the bag and the runner was called out. The first baseman looked at DeSoto’s first-base coach and smiled, as if saying “we got a call there.”
There were several calls, if going the other way, none of the Lake Placid coaches would have questioned them. They were key plays that extended the innings for Lake Placid or put an end to a potential score for DeSoto. The Baseball Gods were not wearing the DeSoto blue and white that night.
I liked the way coach Mike Klossner talked to the team afterward. He knew the game was taken away from the players and it was a shame that the season had to end like that.
But he gave them something to think about.
“Baseball is a great game. It’s a humbling game, but also a painful game. This game will teach you a lot about life and how you handle adversity. You’re going to get into situations where it will affect more than just a baseball game. You’ll have jobs where people are going to make decisions that will affect your life.
“You’re going to get into situations where it’s going to affect your life and livelihood. Use these moments to learn about yourself and how you’re going to react to it, because life is like that.”
Klossner finished with a thought that will carry over into next season. “You guys far exceeded what many people thought you could do. You worked hard and got a lot better as the season went on.
“I’m proud of every one of you guys and I hate to see the seniors end like this. This was a good season.”