Seven-run ninth inning sends Pirates soaring to victory
BY JEFF STRATTON
The Kool baseball field in Gravel Bay resembles a grassy knoll, an un-gentle slope, plus one of those cow pastures that’s been over-run by groundhogs. That said, the location — tucked in a gorgeous, palm-lined valley down the Steel Pan Alley road — isn’t without its charm.
But on this field, balls take bounces that aren’t just weird or difficult to field — they seem to defy the laws of physics. Some ground balls just stop, as if caught in a sand trap.
That’s a factor to take into account when playing here, and for Pirates general manager Dave Elmore, it makes it harder for his team, whose home is the less-than-perfect Sandy Bay field. For a master strategist like Elmore, it makes the game much tougher when the fields’s as much a factor as the players or umpires.
But on Sunday afternoon, August 7, it didn’t matter.
It was back-and-forth until about the fifth inning, when Kool was up by a couple runs and their boisterous cheering section smelled blood. Every Kool homer was greeted with air-horn blasts, high-fives, blasts from the DJ and screams of delight.
By inning six, Kool took the lead and the Pirates started to unravel. Flustered, they looked ready to fall apart. Then they got their game back, only to promptly lose it again. Their bullpen was silent as another Kool homer gave them a 10-8 lead.
“Yeah,” said one spectator on the scant Pirates-fan side of the field. “Make it interesting.” It was the bottom of the 8th inning, and Kool fans were howling, taunting, heckling, certain of the imminent death of their prey (after all, Kool are the only team all year to beat the Sandy Bay Giants).
Pirates coach and scorekeeper Mark Flanagan said he was feeling “a little tense” about the situation. It was the last inning of the last playoff game between the Pirates and Kool. But Pirates pitcher Cuny Miller, with the bases loaded, struck out the last batter to prevent further carnage.
Then it was the Pirates’ last stand. First a triple from Ross Connor. Then a base hit from Cuny. Game tied. The Pirates let loose and the Kool bench quieted right down. This was the game of the year. This was a contest no one, baseball fan or not, could walk away from.
Then, with only one out separating the Pirates from their last defeat of the year, they rallied for five more runs. “Pile it on!” came shouts from the Pirates’ bench. The entire mood of the afternoon had changed. The Pirates players were like inflated helium balloons, ready to pop or float away. Jittery with nervous energy, one said, “Man, I’m getting drunk tonight!”
“Look at those guys,” said Flanagan, nodding at the Kool outfielders, who were practically crumpled into balls of fear. “They’re dejected. The wind’s out of their sails! They’re gassed out!”
And they were. Cowrie-necklaced Cuny, beyond pumped, shut down Kool quickly. With the bases loaded, no less. With one oddly-hopping bounce into a leather glove, the final anti-climactic out prompted screams and hugs from the Pirates. “Good!” was all Elmore said when asked how he felt.
The Kool players walked slowly home, alone, beyond defeated. Not used to losing on their own field, and after watching a seven-run ninth-inning rally from the Pirates, their season sadly finished as the sun set over a ridge on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon. The air-horn was silent. The DJ shut down his stuff and packed it up.
The taunting Kool fans didn’t have much to say now.
But the Pirates’ celebration could be short-lived: They now face a best-of-seven matchup with the Giants, the island’s strongest team (I think they’re something like 26-1) and against whom they haven’t had much success.
The Sandy Bay ball field will be the place to be next few weekends, Roatanians.