It’s the top of the 7th and we’re tied 3-3 in the championship game. Julie has just driven a scorching line drive up the middle for a lead-off single.
After a demoralizing 0-for-Saturday showing, my bat has finally come ’round and I step into the box with a mission to drive something down. Pop-outs equal instant rally death, and we are in big-time need of a rally.
I single with a hot liner and shift in my shoes as I round first, challenge three steps, and then return to the base. Julie’s on second in front of me and the top of our line-up steps up to the plate.
No outs, the go-ahead run is on second. My skin tingles.
Lisa drives another hot single and as I come into second base I turn to see that Jerry is standing in the coaching box on the third base line waving his arms like a madman.
He’s sending Julie to the plate.
The shortstop fields the throw from the outfield just behind me and we make eye-contact for a split second. I’m two steps off the bag when she fires home. I turn to watch the result, knowing well that Jerry won’t risk me in a play at third.
Julie beats the throw by a few steps and suddenly we’re up 4-3 with no outs.
The next pitch goes up and I can see a basehit glowing in Cheryl’s eyes. We’re hungry. We’re all pissed off and hungry and fired up and rabid. Cheryl drives a flat ball through the infield and as I come barrelling into third Jerry is giving me the windmill and screaming, “CHALLENGE!!! CHALLENGE!!! CHALLENGE!!!” I can see the whites of his eyes get bigger behind his thick, round glasses. His hat says, “Find a Way.” and it’s just about to fly off his head.
I take the corner thinking, “Shit. He said challenge. That means this is probably going to be ugly.”
I’m coming in hot when I finally get a good look at the catcher, whom I’d not taken particularly special notice of prior to this point in the game.
She’s a rock. A wall. She’s got at least 60 pounds on me and she is using it all. She is everywhere – I can’t even see home plate but I know that it has to be a few feet behind her.
Now I have to find a way to get to it.
She’s protecting and there’s not enough clearance to go straight under her, and she takes up enough of the base path that I don’t have a shot at taking the outside line and sneaking in behind her. This leaves only one option. If you can’t go under, and you can’t go around, you just have to go straight through.
She fields the throw just before I slide in low, hitting her at full speed. I’m praying that the throw will be high, or offline, anything to pull her away so I can get through.
Instead, the throw is dead-on, and I hit her like a mosquito hitting a windshield. Bone on bone, shin to shin, legs tangled – we land in a heap and I am stopped dead in my tracks. No skidding, no sliding – just stopped.
In the moment after the collision I am stunned but aware enough to see that the ball has just rolled uncerimoniously out of her glove. She’s just stunned enough not to reach out and pick it up.
I crawl the remaining three feet to the plate, touch it, and then clutch my left shin, which bore the brunt of impact. The pain is immediate and my face twists accordingly. And though the bone is already throbbing and purple bumps are already forming, all I can think is, “I’m safe. I’m safe. We are so winning this fucking game.”
Indeed, my team helps me back into the dugout and we drive in two more runs before they shut us down. Jerry lets me play the last half-inning and we handle them with a calm confidence.
The trophy is three feet tall and purple but it’s the furthest thing from our minds. We file out to the parking lot, open up the back gate of Pee-Wee’s truck, drink ice-cold beers from the cooler and relive all the best moments from the tournament.
Among them, of course, the epic Attack of the 200 Pound Wall.