The Hitting Zone-Chapter 1114 V3 ch348 CIF Semifinal: Gridley HS (2)

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Chapter 1114  V3 ch348 CIF Semifinal: Gridley HS (2)

During warmups, the stands filled up. Family, friends, classmates, scouts, coaches, reporters, strangers. It started to feel like a championship game just because of how many people made it. I found Mom, Dad, and Grampa. The three sat in a bleacher behind our dugout and all three waved when we made eye contact. I relaxed my shoulders and Noah slapped my back encouragingly.

"Today's going to be a good day." Noah declared with a grin.

I nodded, trying to find the same feeling.

We did a pregame ceremony of sorts and the starters took the field as our name and positions were announced. We did a short warmup with Sean rolling the three of us ground balls and us throwing it back to him. I felt better than when I first got off of the bus, which was good because the leadoff batter hit a sharp grounder to me. I was able to make a backhanded stab, turned back to first and get the throw off to Sean for the first out.

"Wow! Good job! Nice play!" Noah was the loudest, mostly because he was the closest. But a lot of the crowd was cheering too.

I dusted my pant leg off, feeling a little shy.

The second batter stepped up and Kyle got set. I focused on them and stopped twitching. Had to be ready in case another fast one came. The second batter made contact on a 1-1 count, hitting a routine grounder to Noah at short. He dealt with it cleanly and now we were at two outs. Kyle was only at five pitches.

The third batter was Adam. A part of me wanted him to do well, but a bigger part of me was on Kyle's side. Which is technically my side. Our team. Adam can do well in the future at his college. I smacked the palm of my glove, eager for this first inning to get over with.

Adam made contact, but unlike his two teammates before him, he hit a high one into the air. I started to track it back into the outfield grass; I could Sean doing the same out of the corner of my eye, making me hesitate.

"I've got it! I've got it!" Brian hollered as he sprinted in.

Sean and I both peeled away and Brian made the catch. He threw the ball back in and we jogged back to our dugout together.

"I would have made a nice over the shoulder catch like Noah does." Sean sighed to Brian. "You just had to ruin it."

Brian laughed. "Don't kid yourself. Jake had a better read on it than you."

I shook my head. "No way. Once I saw Sean, I was already starting to bail. Maybe go cover a base like first since no one was there."

"I was there you twerp." Kyle hit me on the top of my head, clearly having overheard us.

"Jake already made a good play and saved you from giving up a hit." Noah shoved Kyle. "You should be thankful. Not name-calling and hitting him."

"It's how I show my love." Kyle moved around to put Noah into a headlock. "C'mon, let's get you ready for your at bat."

"Coachhhh, I'm being bullied." Noah complained as he was dragged along the dugout.

Coach sighed. "Sometimes I really miss having Zeke around."

A lot of the upperclassmen laughed.

Kyle did have to let go of Noah so he could get ready for his at bat. I was next to him, getting ready too. We were the first two to leave the dugout and stand out on deck, taking practice swings. Noah was called up first. I couldn't tell much about the pitcher besides that he was nervous. He pitched four balls all over the place, walking Noah.

I sighed and headed for the plate. I had a bad feeling that I would be walked too. Just without any of the pitches.

But to my surprise. The catcher stayed in a squatted position. The pitcher was set on the mound, checking over his shoulder at Noah at first. I held my bat back and got into position too, feeling stunned. This didn't really make sense. The pitcher didn't seem particularly good just now.

The first pitch came and just barely landed outside the zone. But the umpire gave it to him. A called strike. On me. This guy was really pitching to me. I felt a little frozen in the batter's box, but my mind was working a mile a minute. Do I play it safe and get a hit to advance Noah? Or should I aim for the fences?

I tightened my grip on my bat and pursed my lips, eyes completely on the pitcher. I already had an answer. The second pitch came and I took my shot, swinging for the fences. I pulled the ball down the left field line and the outfielder chased it back. The ball cleared the player's glove and then the fence. I did it. A home run! I pumped my fist as I rounded the bases. I met Noah at home plate and slapped his hands before he threw his arm around my shoulders and we went back to an exuberant dugout.

Everyone slapped my back or bumped my fist. And I was proud to say I didn't flinch. I knew all these guys. This was my team.

"I just knew you were going to go for it!" Noah said excitedly as we put our helmets away. "Even if it meant I couldn't steal a base. I'm happy for you, man. It's been a long time coming."

I grinned and nodded along. "Yea, it's been awhile."

"What are you saying?" Sean laughed at us. "You were only intentionally walked on Thursday. You got to hit normally against OLU just a week ago."

"He hasn't had a homer in almost two weeks." Noah explained. "He's been itching to get back at it. But if he hits homers all the time, will people keep pitching to him?"

I shook my head. "I can't do it all the time." I glanced at Sean. "I had to take advantage of this one. Who knows if I'll get to see some live pitching again today?"

Sean laughed. "I wish I had your worries."

Bryce got a hit and Sean had to leave us to stand in the hole. Noah and I took a seat and relaxed.

"Feel better?" Noah asked me.

I nodded. "Yea. It's always better to feel like I contributed to helping the team." I frowned. "But... I don't know. It's also weird that they tried to pitch to me. Like, didn't Adam tell them I was good at hitting?"

Noah shrugged. "Probably. But also, I got the vibe from him that he didn't expect to win this game at all. If you're not expecting to win, why not pitch to one of the best players in the state?"

"So you think I'll have another chance?" I felt like I was floating.

Noah laughed. "I don't know. I'm not on their team." He leaned back and stretched out. "Having the lead early is a relief for us though. Now it's all on Kyle to defend it."

I shook my head. "Why do you sound like you're hoping he gives up some hits?"

"Not hits. Just let the ball be put into play so I can throw them out." Noah corrected.