Baseball is a funny game. It can break your heart. It can turn you into a little kid. And it can leave you in absolute disbelief. The greatest thing about this game is that it doesn’t care how good you are. The game doesn’t care if your team is full of Division-I recruits or full with kids who’s careers will end after high school. You’ll see some matchups where you’ll just look at the game on paper and say, “these guys have no business being on the same field as us.” Some people will say that thinking that their opponent will just lay and egg and give in, and then they get punched in the mouth. The game of baseball just simply doesn’t care. It doesn’t matter how good you are, and previous matchups don’t mean a dang thing. Whoever simply plays the best baseball on that day will win the game, as Miners’ head coach Jake Kiser has told his guys probably 500 times. A great example of what I’m talking about is what happened last year to El Diamante in the playoffs against the Edison Tigers. The Miners had destroyed the Tigers 14-0 in the first game of the season, and they met once again in May in the Division II quarterfinals.
The Tigers hobbled into the game with an overall record of 11-21. They were 4-11 in league and somehow sneaked their way into the playoffs. They were the very last seed and were desperate to pull off another miracle hoping to beat El Diamante on their own field.
And then something crazy happened.
The Tigers won.
They not only just won, they dominated.
They came out the gates guns-a-blazin’ and stunned the Miners by a score of 8-3. In a matchup where almost everyone on the field thought they knew what was going to happen, the game of baseball took over.
Everyone knew the Tigers weren’t the better or the more talented team, but they played better baseball, which equated to them shocking the Central Valley.
I was on that team. I had a front row seat to everything playing 3rd base. It seemed like the Edison team we had played back in February was a completely different group of guys than what they were on that day. It was wild. They were smoking balls down the line and into the corner that would sneak just by my outstretched glove, and I would have to get up just as dismayed and shocked as everyone else. But that was last year.
Fast forward 8 months and 9 days later, and we had ourselves a rematch.
It was a vengeance game. It was a night that I had been craving for ever since the Tigers had shattered the Miners’ hearts last May. It was a wound that didn’t heal until they stepped back on the field in the winter. Personally, it was one of the few games I had highlighted once I finally got a printed version of the schedule. It was a game everyone knew they had to win, and the Miners weren’t going to make the same mistake they made the last time these teams met; they were not going to let the Edison Tigers play better baseball than them.
The game itself was an absolute dogfight. From the very beginning the Miners came out swinging. A two run home run 5 pitches into the game from, well… nobody important, had put them up early, and the momentum had quickly swung in their favor. This time, the Miners punched first, but the Tigers wouldn’t go down lightly.
Back and forth they went. The Tigers scratched across a run of their own in the bottom of the first, followed by two more runs from El Diamante on a single from Brent Vazquez. From that point on the game was entirely up for grabs. The Tigers kept plugging away, and eventually to the point where it was starting to turn into an absolute nailbiter.
Edison eventually took the lead in the bottom of the 5th on a two run single from David Ortiz, and after going scoreless in the 6th, the Miners were once again on the verge of defeat.
This one would have hurt the most. A loss in that fashion would have been a big pill to swallow in what had already been a disastrous start to 2018 for the Green Sea. But in the top half of the 7th and final inning, the Miners were given life.
The party started when Drake Beno led off the inning with a hard ground ball up the middle that broke through the infield. Just like that the tying run had found its way on base, and the Miners were back in the driver’s seat. However, the Tigers quickly retired the next two hitters on a sacrifice bunt and a ground out. The tying run was on second, and the Miners had one last hope to try and extend in what had become a must win game.
In the blink of an eye the Tigers had flipped in two curveballs and the Miners were down to their last strike. The hitter ended up fouling off a fastball that nearly snuck by him to keep the count at no balls and two strikes. He took a long walk around the backside of the batter’s box, took a deep breath, and stepped back in. I may happen to know the guy a little bit, and right as the Edison pitcher lifted his leg, the hitter leaned on his back leg and coiled his hands.
He knew what was coming.
It was another curveball. A hanger. It was a curveball that didn’t curve and stayed in the top half of the strike zone. It was a mistake.
The ball was smoked into the gap, and trotting home to score the tying run was Drake Beno. Tie game. The Miner bench exploded in celebration, but not so much that they forgot the game wasn’t done. They did a great job of toning down the emotions and getting back to work.
However, things would take a scary turn. The Tigers stranded the bases loaded after a pair of walks and a bloop single. But after escaping a very scary bottom of the 7th, the Miners regained control. After both teams went scoreless in the 8th, the Miners had busted the game open in the 9th inning. They exploded for 5 runs in the top of the 9th and slammed the door shut in the bottom half. It was a huge team win, a win that was extremely needed to remind the Miners of what they’re capable of.
Wednesday night’s dub carried a lot of positives with it. Other notable moments that can’t go unnoticed are big time hits from Andrew Valdez and Parker Boswell. Valdez snuck a base hit in between shortstop and third base that scored the go ahead run in the 9th. And after an intentional walk to load the bases, Boswell blew the game wide open with a bases clearing double. Valdez also mixed in an acrobatic diving play at second base that saved a run in the 3rd inning.
You see, it’s that kind of stuff that equates to winning baseball games. It’s staying mentally strong along with just simply playing better baseball than your opponent. For the Miners, it shouldn’t matter who their opponent is. It doesn’t matter if a Junior High team walks off the bus, or if it’s the Yankees, the same goal will be preached every single time. The Miners are loaded with talent, and have arguably one of the best 1-through-9 lineups in all of Division II. But going around saying that with a 2-4 record won’t do them a lot of good. I’m sure every team in the valley probably believes the same thing, so what will separate the men from the boys is who will go out and showcase how good they really are instead of just talking about it. Not everyone will have the ability to do that, and if you looked at the Miners’ current record, you would probably think they’re one of the teams that will crumble. As a member of the baseball team myself, I would love to say you’re wrong, but quite frankly I can’t do that yet. It’s just simply too early. Teams who are winning now may not be winning when it matters and vice versa. But if there’s one thing I will say, it’s the fact that the Miners have a team that is very capable of standing against the tide and proving everybody wrong.
In a way, this is a team that wants you to doubt them. They want you to think that they’re nothing, so they can turn around and shove it down your throat. I certainly believe they’re capable of living up to the hype surrounding them, and with everything inside me I hope that they do.
These guys have embraced the long road ahead and are craving the opportunity to beat the snot out of anyone that stands in their way. So if you want the chance to possibly witness history, you’ll know where to find them.
Now the only thing for everyone else to do is to sit back and watch. So go ahead, kick your feet up and watch the chaos unfold.