Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, May 29, 2016, 10:24 a.m.
The Furman Paladins roared from behind to eliminate the top seed, UNC Greensboro, from the Southern Conference Baseball Tournament.
That’s not the game I saw. Au contraire.
When I was sitting in the front row, beyond the dugout, down the right-field line of Fluor Field, Samford eliminated the Paladins, 2-0.
It’s not altogether bad. The Friday-night game started late and ended well after midnight. I was watching the end of Stephen Colbert and mainly thumbing my Twitter feed when it ended. Had I gone Friday night, I definitely would not have written a blog the next morning. Or, quite possibly, gotten my lazy butt back up the road to Greenville.
I got to Greenville — Fluor Field is the charming home of the Greenville Drive minor-league team — in time to watch Mercer storm from four runs down to edge Western Carolina, 8-7, or at least the final two thirds of it. I chatted a while with Steve White, the longtime WCU sports information director I knew well more than 30 years ago when I worked at Furman. Steve hasn’t changed a lot. We mainly did what we would have done in 1985, which was swap stories about Rick Covington and Ray Parlier.
Furman baseball coach Ron Smith trotted over once his team started loosening up. The game, scheduled for 3:30, didn’t start until 4:45, which made me start thinking about whether I can ever remember a baseball tournament at any level that ran on schedule. Smith, when I first knew him, was the point guard on an exceptional Furman basketball team and the shortstop on a decent Paladin baseball squad that would have been bad without him.
Coach Smith was in a spot. A four-hour, wee-hours, baseball game, in which the teams combine for 25 runs, tends to be taxing on the pitchers. The losers were lucky. They got to go home.
Furman’s Jake Crawford, who hadn’t started a game since April 3, went eight innings, yielding nine hits but only two runs. It was rather heroic. The loss dropped him to 0-5 because the heroism was ultimately futile.
From the fifth through the eighth innings, the Paladins left nine men on base. In baseball, percentages have a way of catching up. The same team that produced oodles of two-out runs the night before ran into the buzz of seldom having anyone in scoring position until two were already out.
If all else is equal, the difference between being red-hot and ice-cold is generally the frequency of two-out hits.
Fluor Field is cut to Fenway Park’s dimensions, right down to a 37-foot wall in left. It also means that long fly balls spiral to a graceful death in the vast center field, and, all too often, that’s where the Paladins put ’em.
I had no appetite for Samford versus Western Carolina — the Catamounts won — so I bought some underwear at Sam’s Club and ate at a place we don’t have in Laurens County.
I got home in time to watch the best basketball game I’ve seen lately.
Most of my books can be found on Amazon here. Three are available — and signed — here in Clinton at L&L Office Supply, 114 North Main Street. The links below are all for the print versions.
Denny Frawley is an ambitious prosecutor whose ambition, private life, and family are all spiraling out of control. Hal Kinley knows he must be stopped in Forgive Us Our Trespasses.
I’ve written lots of songs. Over time, I turned eleven of them into short stories. That’s how my collection, Longer Songs, came to be.
Chance Benford is crazy at the beginning of aptly titled Crazy of Natural Causes. He learns to cope with the world’s absurdity in a variety of ways.
The Intangibles was inspired by growing up during the tumultuous sixties and seventies. It’s a tale of civil rights, bigotry, cultural exchange, and, most importantly, high school football.
Riley Mansfield is the most likable character I’ve created. He’s a pot-smoking songwriter with a stubborn streak and the hero of The Audacity of Dope.
Look me up on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and other painstaking means of circulation that don’t occur to me now. I’m easy to find.