Hey, let's play nine! Really?Jul 23, 2017 By Scott Akanewich, Sports Editor
Imagine if you will, two big-league baseball clubs reach the World Series and are told, all of a sudden, "Guess what, boys? Now, that you've gotten al the way to the Fall Classic, the games are going to be 10 innings!"
Or if the Super Bowl was five quarters.
Or the Stanley Cup or NBA finals best-of-nine.
Ridiculous? Absurd? Makes no sense whatsoever?
Yes, yes and yes.
But, that's exactly what awaits American Legion clubs across America as they arrive at their respective state tournaments this week.
Included are the local nine, the Riverton Raiders, who will journey to Cowley for the Class A state tourney as the No. 2 seed out of the A West conference with an opener against Gillette on Wednesday.
For nine innings.
Which begs one simple, yet profound question.
Why in the world are we suddenly playing nine-inning baseball games after only going seven frames all season long?
Waiting for an answer.
In fact, many of the Raiders games this season haven't even gone the seven-inning distance, as they've pounded the opposition into submission on many occasions, putting them to the sword early via the 10-run rule.
Yet, here we are, playing the most important contests of the season and now, we'e increasing the length of games?
Now, most athletes at all levels are creatures of habit at the very least and downright superstitious at the extreme end, but baseball players even more so due to the nature of the frequency of their games.
Day in, day out.
Everything at the same exact time.
Same food, same routine, simply put -- same everything.
Especially for pitchers who are accustomed to going a certain distance on a certain number of pitches, pacing themselves in the process.
Usually, 100 pitches is enough to pitch a complete game at the Legion level, or far fewer if you're on and have your best stuff.
Different story altogether.
Major-league pitchers rarely go the distance these days, but at least they're already programmed to go six or seven before they empty the tank and hand the ball to a set-up man or a closer.
Which brings us to my next point.
Middle relievers are par for the course at the major-league level, as most teams have separate hurlers for the seventh, eighth and nine innings, if necessary.
A closer, a set-up man and a set-up man for the set-up man providing a bridge from the starter to the final out.
Only problem is while their big-league counterparts are well-equipped with the requisite arms to get through nine innings every day, American Legion managers don't have that luxury.
Most clubs have a closer, but with only seven innings to negotiate, managers usually count on their starters to go six, then turn it over to the resident fireman in a save situation.
Especially vexing is the fact you're playing several high-pressure games every day over a five-day period, going all out on every pitch.
Okay, so my starter has given his heart and soul with blood, sweat and tears, having thrown as many as 120 pitches and it's still only the sixth or seventh inning.
Well, it's too soon to bring in my closer, so what do I do?
It's not like I have a stable of middle relievers to get it done.
Oh, I know what.
I'll attempt to groom guys for the role during critical regular-season games, so I'm ready for such scenarios when they present themselves once we finally reach the games we play all season for.
Does any of this make any sense at all?
A pair of big hitters and a speedster on the basepaths make the cut for this week's honors.
Milleson and her Riverton teammates traveled to Missoula, Montana for the Little League Senior Softball regional tournament this week and Milleson, more known for her cross-country and track exploits for the Lady Wolverines, put her speed to excellent use in Big Sky Country.
Before the tourney began, a skills competition was held, with one of the events a second-base-to-home-plate dash and Milleson took advantage to represent the Cowboy state, finishing second in a time of 6.02 seconds, coming up just short of the winning sprint of 5.99.
Milleson then followed up her lightning-like exploits with a four-hit, four-RBI performance in Wyoming's pool-play game against Nevada on Friday.
Uriah Hines, Riverton
Little League majors
Hines was one of the most feared, prodigious power hitters all season in all of Riverton Little League and carried that power into the postseason at the District 1 tournament in Green River.
He began his barrage with a home run in a 19-18 victory against Cody on Thursday, helping propel Riverton into the championship game against Big Horn on Saturday, during which he launched two more long balls to go with a pair of doubles as part of a 4-for-5 performance during which he drove in seven runs.
Oh, by the way, he also closed the game on the mound, striking out five in 1 2/3 innings of work.
Riverton Little League
Usually, Hines would've been a slam-dunk, sure bet to capture the top spot for the week with his Nolan Arenado-like effort, with only a feat of Ruthian proportions toppling him from the peak of the mountain.
Well, that's exactly what Hutchison did in Riverton's semifinal victory against Cody.
Down 15-5 with only three outs separating his club from defeat to their bitter rivals, Hutchison went to work with the fury of a lumberjack wielding an ax in a forest.
A three-run blast brought his club within 15-8 in the bottom of the sixth, but no pressure -- garbage time, right?
After his teammates had scored three more markers in batting around, Hutchison stepped in again, only this time with two outs and the bases loaded before crushing a pitch over the center-field fence to tie the score.
Two home runs in one inning, one a three-run bomb and the other a grand slam. Now, I'm not sure the Bambino himself or anyone else for that matter, has ever accomplished such a magnificent moment.
Also, not done.
After Cody scored three times in the top of the seventh, Hutchison again found himself at the plate staring defeat in the face, down 18-17, with two outs and the bases full yet again.
No home run this time -- only a walk-off single to drive home the tying and winning runs.
So, in review, three at-bats, nine runs batted in, seven of them with his team down to its final out.
Did we also mention the winning hit was delivered on a 3-2 pitch?
Very cool, indeed.