It was an odd night for the Unicorns as they faced off against their rival this season--the Wine O's--and That's What She Said.
At Red Mill Farms Park, an area known for its distance from all of the team members and its plague-like population of mosquitoes, the Unicorns took the field early at 6:40pm at the demand of the umpire despite not having a full team. They knew they would be short, but the early start threw them for a loop as players were rushing to get out to Sandbridge after work. "The Wine O's are our favorite team to play--they have great spirit. That might explain Bobby [Weaver]'s feeling that they might have been going easy on us by not hitting the ball into right field since no one was there," skipper Greg Weaver recounts.
An all-time high of four Unicorn females were out of the lineup for evening. Catcher Lanah Stafford was on personal leave, the recently re-enabled Alaina Coletti was hosting receptions at a work event, speedster Joanna Niles is finishing up her time in France, and veteran team sister Sarah Redfield's whereabouts were unknown. Subs were on their way, but it was unclear as to how long they were going to take.
Stafford's absence was probably felt the most, as pitcher Rianna Schweitzer was having trouble locating her lob ball through the first few innings. On average, Schweitzer had a walk rate of 5.75 batters per game before last week's start against Boneshakers Bar and Grill, when she walked a career-high 14, but she walked 11 of the Wine O's, 9 in the long first inning. Mary Hasan was behind the plate for the third time with Schweitzer as the pitcher.
"The first series that Mary was the catcher, Rianna pitched very well," G. Weaver recalled, "but the second series fell apart quickly. The difference between this time and that was that Lanah was around to get back behind the plate."
Hasan enjoys playing catcher, but admits to not being the most effective behind the plate. "If Rianna is aiming for my face, it's not going to help. I'm moving around all the time, half way trying not to let the umpire touch my butt, and the other half trying not to get smacked in the face as batters are going woo woo," Hasan said while swinging her arms in multiple directions.
After what seemed like an entire game, former defensive player-of-the-game and surprising pitching star of last week's game against the Stunners Matt Portner showed up to the field. Portner was allowed to play in the game despite it being against the league rules to have 6 males and 3 females on the field at one time due to the graciousness and sportsmanship of the Wine O's. When his cleats were fastened, Portner took point behind the plate for the first time, sending Hasan into her normal spot in right field.
"Matt was able to give Rianna a target. Mary can't crouch, which she said is due to her bad knees, which she said is due to her age. Man, I am not looking to turning 25," the coach laments (editor's note: there is question as to whether or not Mary is actually 25, as she indicated on the roster she signed).
As it turned out, Portner brought along two subs, Margaret Gardner and Melody Moreno, and during the first inning, Weaver's sub, Mel Di Domenico, arrived alongside her boyfriend, Nathan Anderson. Gardner and Di Domenico filled out the lineup and Portner was benched due to rule that designated hitters may not be added after the game begins.
There is a commonality between most all games that the Unicorns play: the first inning is always the worst. Aside from the nine walks, the Unicorns' defense allowed six hits. Those six hits brought in 11 out of the 19 runs that the Wine O's would eventually score.
There is a second commonality: the third out is always the hardest to get. After surviving the first inning, Schweitzer fanned two in a one-two-three 2nd. The third brought up their whole lineup plus the leadoff man a second time (eleven batters total). Seven of those batters came after the second out was made.
In the end, the Unicorns scored seven runs against the Wine O's nineteen. Players of the game included Ryan Cahill and Nick Wasilewski. Cahill went 2/2 with a double and a triple, tacking on three RBIs, and Wasilewski went 1/1 with a walk and two runs. The double came on a rather courageous flight to second as Wasilewski apparently read the opposing defense as too slow to catch him (most are). Also notable was Prucha's amazing behind the back snag on a line drive straight to him. That man's got reaction and he's hitting a .682/.682/.773 this season.
Though the game started five minutes early, it ended about ten minutes late due to all of the shuffling of subs. It was disheartening that the Unicorns lost so badly to a team that against whom they should have done well and then had to go against a team that beat them held them to seven runs over two games, but there was good news: they could use all of their subs and have designated hitters with the start of the new game. In the first inning, a quarter of the lineup consisted of subs, and then in the top of the 5th, a third of the lineup did.
The game started off, again, as one might suspect: the Unicorns went down after four batters and the opposing team responded by earning seven runs. In the 4th, Bobby Weaver responded with a solo home run, and then a great showing of plate discipline and well-placed hits scored four more at the top of the 5th.
The rally in the 5th started when team captain Greg Weaver called in Nathan Anderson to pinch hit for him. Anderson had already made a graceful leap for a ball in left field in the previous inning, and he followed his defensive acrobatics up with a shot into left field and a run from first to home on a single by Mary Hasan. Prucha went up to bat after Hasan, shooting a softly hit ball up the middle, and then Wasilewski walked, scoring Hasan. It was her first time around the diamond all season.
Another patient at bat by Portner saw two more runs score, but that was the end of the rally as the top of the lineup got put out. A valiant effort in the 5th saw the Unicorns lose only 5-11. Eleven earned runs was their second best total of the season.
Though the Unicorns lost both games, everyone had a good time watching their teamwork show its best with four fresh faces in the field. They have one more game of the spring season against ZDUB softball next Monday and expect to have the whole team with the exception of Joanna Niles. At full strength, the Unicorns are eager at their chance to secure another victory.