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Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by Fuchs, Jun 18, 2008.

  1. Fuchs

    Fuchs New Member

    After writing this sidebar for a state playoff softball game, I was told by a peer that it was the best analysis piece I have written.
    Unsure of whether or not it was the 17-hour workday that we had just put in talking, I submit it to you -- SJ nation.
    First is the game story, while my sidebar follows. Is this the type of in-depth jazz I should shoot for with all of my analysis bits? Or was it too much like a gamer that was only missing a few critical details?
    Thanks for the thoughts.

    RADFORD — It was almost as if the Trojans won the game in the top of the sixth inning.

    Heather Francisco drove a sharp single into left-centerfield to score Jenna Rudder, who was mobbed by Tunstall teammates at home plate after snapping the scoreless tie. Brittany Arnn followed that up by crushing a double to right field to score Francisco, and Tunstall held on to best Poquoson 2-0 in the Group AA state semifinals Friday in Radford.

    “I was very nervous,” Francisco said. “I knew that we had to do something quick if we were going to do it.”

    The victory advances Tunstall (23-3) to the state championship game for the first time in 20 years, where the Trojans will take on defending state champion Broad Run (27-0), an 8-0 winner against Salem in the other semifinal, at 1 p.m. today in Radford.

    Broad Run, which is ranked No. 2 in the country by USA Today and is working on its second consecutive undefeated season, eliminated Tunstall in last year’s state semifinals when the Spartans captured a 1-0 victory in nine innings. Broad Run defeated New Kent the next day by the largest margin of victory in a state title game in nearly 30 years.

    “Bring ’em. Bring ’em on,” Tunstall coach Roger Cook said. “We’ve got to play somebody. They always told me — and Broad Run might take this wrong — but if you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. And right now they’re the best. …We might get beat 10-0, I don’t know, but we’re excited about being here.”

    Tunstall very nearly faltered in the state semifinals again Friday before a couple of fortuitous bounces and clutch playmaking allowed the Trojans to claw out of numerous jams.

    Poquoson (19-8) had the bases loaded with only one out after Arnn, who struck out eight, walked one and allowed four hits to earn the victory, surrendered that walk and consecutive singles in the fourth inning. The left-handed junior struck out the Islanders’ next batter looking, and runner interference was called after Poquoson’s Catherine Clavin ran into Tunstall shortstop Sarah Smith as she was attempting to field a ball for the final out of the inning.

    Cook stormed out of the dugout in protest after it seemed as though the Islanders had taken a 1-0 lead, and the official along the third baseline agreed with Cook’s assessment, ending the inning in a 0-0 tie.

    It was a pretty cut-and-dry call, considering Clavin was called out for interference in the second inning after plowing into Tunstall’s Jenna Rudder while racing to second base on Nicole Windham’s fielder’s choice. That play sparked a 25-minute delay in the game as coaches and officials went scrambling for their rules books, because the collision prevented Rudder from turning a very easy double play.

    The officials correctly called an immediate dead ball, which allowed Windham to take first base on the fielder’s choice. Tunstall unsuccessfully argued that the interference was intentional, which according to Rule 8-6-10A of the National Federation of State High School Associations rules book would have resulted in both Poquoson players being called out. Islanders courtesy runner Valerie Sothcut took first base for Windham when play resumed.

    Tunstall may have lost the decision, but clearly gained the momentum as its intensity level increased exponentially.

    The players warmed back up, returned to the field, and the Islanders’ next two batters went down in order.

    “I think if anything (the delay) helped us,” Cook said, aware that his team had been outplayed to that point. “It brought them back in the dugout and let them cool off a little bit, but they were ready to play. I think the longer it took the more enthused they got.

    “You know, I told them, ‘I’m out there fighting for everything I can for you. I want you to fight for yourselves.’ And I believe it worked.”

    If not for a couple of extremely lucky bounces for Poquoson in the top half of the third inning, including a ball that bounced off its second baseman’s head before being caught by the right fielder and a diving grab in foul territory by its third baseman, the Trojans may have scored much earlier.

    “That’s Tunstall for you. That’s just the way we are,” Arnn said. “We have to make it interesting.”

    RADFORD — In 25 years of coaching softball there are a few certain truths that Tunstall’s Roger Cook has come to learn.

    One of those is this: If you’re going to win big ball games you have to be good — and you also have to be lucky.

    On Friday, Cook’s Trojans were both.

    A few strokes of fortune helped Tunstall hang on to beat the Poquoson Islanders 2-0 in the Group AA state playoff semifinals at Radford University. An interference call and a ball that got away from Tunstall pitcher Brittany Arnn may have in fact saved the day for the Trojans (23-3). If nothing else, those two plays may have gone one step further toward proving Cook’s theory on luck. There’s little doubt that the Trojans are good. But now the ball is bouncing their way, too.

    “Sometimes it falls our way, and it has so far,” Arnn said.

    In a game where runs came at a premium, Arnn should know. Her shutout against the Islanders (19-8) was saved by both of those breaks.

    The first came in the bottom of the fourth inning, with the Trojans and the Islanders still deadlocked in a 0-0 tie. Fairly dominant to that point, Arnn finally proved to be hittable in the inning, allowing a walk and then two straight singles to load the bases with Poquoson runners. Two outs were on the board, but Arnn was in trouble.

    And then serendipity intervened.

    A ground ball by Poquoson’s Brandy Wyatt rolled out to Tunstall shortstop Sarah Smith. All of the Islanders’ runners were on the move, Smith appeared to bobble the ball, and Taylor Walker came home to score the first run of the game.

    Or at least she did until the umpire along the third baseline opened his mouth.

    Smith didn’t bobble the ball of her own accord, he said, she was hit from behind by a Poquoson runner moving from second to third. It was ruled interference on the runner, resulting in the third out of the inning. And just like that the Trojans were out of a difficult jam.

    “We’ve had kids run into kids, and we’ve been called out,” Cook said. “You have to give the fielder a chance.

    “God, that would have put us down, and put them up 1-0. Anytime a team goes up 1-0 in a game of this magnitude it’s big.”

    It was a deficit that the Trojans avoided again in the bottom of the fifth inning, this time thanks to a wild pitch by Arnn that plunked a Poquoson batter in yet another fortuitous folly.

    With two outs away and a runner threatening from third, the Islanders’ No. 2 batter, Kayla Renn, was coming to the plate, and Arnn again found herself backed up against a wall.

    “They had some great hitters up, and I was nervous,” Arnn said. “I just had to locate pitches and get some ground balls. I had confidence in my defense.”

    But instead of a ground ball, Arnn tossed a ball off the ground on her fifth pitch of the at-bat — skipping it off of Renn’s foot before it zipped toward the backstop. Cook could have sworn that the ball had skipped off the front of home plate. And so too must have Poquoson’s Page Turner, who was only steps away from scoring what again seemed to be the first run of the game before the home plate umpire called the casual beaning what it was and awarded Renn first base on a dead ball play. Turner had to go back to third, and when Arnn settled down to induce a groundout in the next at bat, the Trojans had once again dodged a bullet.

    “It would have been a lot different. Once we get up we get momentum,” Arnn said. “If they would have scored there it would have taken some out of us.”

    But the Islanders didn’t. And Tunstall rebounded in the next inning to post the only two runs it needed to advance to the Group AA championship game today at 1 p.m. against Broad Run — USA Today’s No. 2-ranked team in the nation.

    It’s time to see just how good and how lucky the Trojans can be.
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