Chapter 808 - V3 ch43 (VS Bayhill HS 3)
I don’t know who started it, but when I rounded third base, I started to hear chants of ’Bambi!’ I lowered my head, feeling more than a little embarrassed. It must have been Garret. He had just called me that before my at-bat. I tagged home plate to push the score to 2-0.
Garret pulled me close to him and smacked my helmet. "I knew you could do it! Great job! Watch me do the same thing." He gave me a small push towards our dugout.
The team greeted me with high-fives, slaps on the helmet and shoulder, and compliments all around. Even the two other sophomores, Logan and Dalton, had nice things to say. Noah wasn’t mad with them so I smiled back and nodded. I reached my bag and changed out my gear.
"I heard Coach say that Bryce is still going in." Noah said. "That’s gotta suck for Garret. He’s thrown really well so far. Three completely clean innings. Strikeouts are high too."
"He said he’ll try again in the semis on Monday." I repeated what I heard before my at-bat.
Noah grinned. "I wouldn’t compare anyone to Zeke outright, but Garret gives off the same vibe. The constant belief that we’ll win. And he’ll do anything to get us there to the final stage."
We both turned to watch Garret’s line drive fly to left-center field, hitting the fence and dropping to the warning track. Garret was already on his way to second by the time the center fielder threw the ball in. No need for a slide.
Korrey moved to the batter’s box, taking an extra swing before stepping in properly. The pitcher nodded at the sign, checked on Garret at second, then started his short windup to pitch. Ball. Ball. Foul. Called strike. 2-2 count.
My eyes were drawn to Garret as he kept inching further and further. The pitcher never attempted to pick him off, just merely glancing back at him now and then.
Mr. Miller, who had been giving phony signs the whole time, finally gave a real one. Hit and run. Korrey would have to put the ball in play to allow Garret to move to third. 2-2 count; if he strikes out, there’s a good chance Garret can get picked off by the catcher.
Next pitch. Korrey started to swing as soon as the pitcher let go of the ball. He connected and got it past the infield. Both him and Garret took off running. Mr. Miller waved aggressively at Garret to go home. Garret made the sharp turn and the right fielder threw the ball straight to the catcher. Garret started his slide early, just narrowly missing the tag.
"Safe!" The ump extended his arms.
Garret popped up and pumped his fist. 3-0. He came into the dugout, stopping in front of Coach first. "Run support should be enough for Bryce."
Coach let out a small smile before turning his attention back to the game.
Everyone congratulated Garret on a job well done. Me included. Garret’s slide was so perfect, it wasn’t something I could do in the foreseeable future. Maybe ever. I just wouldn’t be that decisive or dedicated or talented.
Jesse put a damper on our offense, hitting into a 6-4-3 double play like Sean did to end the last inning. Tanner followed it up with an unassisted grounder to first.
"Tanner, take a seat." Coach told him when he came back to the dugout. "Bryce will be replacing you in the lineup."
Tanner hung his head.
"Don’t think too much into it." Coach consoled him. "Whoever the last out was going to be, would have had a good chance at being replaced." He looked to Garret. "Garret, take center. Korrey will move to right." He left the dugout to announce the pitcher change to the umpire.
The rest of us jogged out and started to warmup.
Bryce came jogging out of the bullpen, meeting Coach and Mitchell at the mound. Coach said a few words to them before going back to the dugout. Mitchell stayed on the mound for an extra sentence or two then walked back to home plate. Bryce took a few practice pitches off the mound, occasionally kicking the dirt and moving his shoulders up and down.
Bryce had to start at the top of the lineup, a batter that Garret was able to strikeout. Bryce had a steady windup, yet threw surprisingly fast. Especially now with the added muscle. The batter was able to connect, hitting the pitch back up the middle.
Noah came sprinting forward, cutting off the grounder and fielding it smoothly to Sean at first. He walked back to his position with one finger up. "One out!"
"One out!" We echoed.
Bryce wasn’t bothered by the contact and continued to throw fastballs in the strike zone. The second batter pulled a grounder to Noah’s right. Noah made the stop and threw the ball perfectly to first, beating out the fast runner. "Two outs!"
I glanced over at Noah, but he only had eyes for the batter. I could practically feel him begging for the ball to come his way. The third batter got sucked into the vortex of Noah, hitting another grounder within his reach. Noah didn’t stumble for a second, staying focused, and threw him out at first to end the inning.
Noah practically skipped back to the dugout, running on an adrenaline high. He paused next to Bryce and Mitchell to give them a thumbs-up. "Keep them coming!"
Garret bopped him on top of the head with his gloved hand. "Don’t pressure him. We have a combined no-hitter going."
Noah pouted. "I think you’re the one putting pressure by saying that."
Bryce chuckled. "No matter what either of you say, I’ll go out there and do my best." He grinned at Noah. "If I could control it, I would make all the grounders go to you. Only you could handle each one with such precision."
"Noah’s reflexes are unmatched." Mitchell commented while taking off his gear. He would be second up this inning after Jason. "The twins talk about it all the time. How Noah could be a catcher if he wanted to. It makes me nervous."
Noah rolled his eyes. "No thanks."
"Noah’s too restless for that." Garret added. "He would also probably argue balls and strikes with the umpire and get thrown out."
"I wouldn’t!" Noah rebutted. He put his glove on the bench and got his helmet out. "Catchers have a lot more work for little reward. I’ll pass." He pulled his helmet on and grabbed his bat. "I have other things I want to work on."
Jason had already gone out of the dugout, making it to the batter’s box. Mitchell hurried out as well to stand in the on deck circle. Noah went over to the opening to watch the pitcher with all seriousness.
Noah had said all that, but I had a hunch on why he didn’t want to play catcher. He liked to stand out. And being behind the plate, catching for the twins, probably would put a damper on that. It’s also why he didn’t play in the outfield like Zeke. To him, his brothers had already had a claim on those positions. He needed something of his own to be good in.
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