Dave Porter at Oak Hall/Chapter 33
HOW A GREAT GAME WAS WON
The game began amid a breathless silence. Shadow Hamilton was the first to the bat, and he was retired on strikes. Roger followed, and then came Dave, who by the merest chance managed to reach first. But before Dave could steal down to second, the fourth man up went out on strikes.
"Hurrah! A goose egg for Oak Hall!" came from the Rockville followers, and they began to yell and use their horns and rattles.
"Gasperfelder is certainly a good pitcher," was Phil's sober comment.
"Yes, but it is a question if he can pitch nine innings like that," said Ben, who was one of the substitutes.
A student named Jennings was in the box for Oak Hall, he having pitched the first innings against Gus Plum's team. He was swift, but had spells when he became badly rattled.
"Now, Jennings, do your best," said the captain of the club. "Don't let them rattle you."
"If I get rattled, put Porter in the box," said the pitcher, who knew his own weakness.
The first Rockville player up was struck out in quick order, and the followers of the Hall cheered roundly. But the second player made a safe hit, which was followed by a two-bagger to left field. Then came another single; and when the inning ended Rockville had scored two runs.
"Never mind," said Phil, bravely, in the midst of the din made by the visitors. "One inning isn't nine."
"I knew Rockville would beat!" cried Gus Plum, with a gleam of triumph in his crafty eyes. "I hope they lick Lawrence's team good, don't you?"
"Yes," answered Poole. "It will teach 'em a lesson." Such a thing as loyalty to their own school never once occurred to them.
No runs were scored in the second inning, and only one run by Rockville in the third. In the fourth inning, when Dave was in the field and two players were on base, a high fly was knocked far over the third baseman's head.
"Porter!" cried Phil. And Dave ran for the ball with all speed. It was coming down before he got anywhere near it, but by a long leap he scooped it in with his right hand and held it.
"Look at that! Wasn't that a great catch!"
"Finest catch I've seen on these grounds!" And then a wild cheering went up.
In the fifth inning there were "big things doing," as one player put it, and this condition of affairs continued during the sixth, when both Gasperfelder and Jennings got rattled. As a consequence, at the opening of the seventh inning the score stood Oak Hall 6, Rockville Military Academy, 11.
"This is bad," said Roger, with a sigh. "We have got to pull ourselves together if we want to overcome that lead."
Besides becoming rattled, Jennings had been struck in the arm by a "liner," and he was perfectly willing to retire from the box and give Dave a chance to pitch. He was thoroughly loyal, even though disappointed.
"Go in and win," he said to Dave. "Strike every one of 'em out, if you can!"
"No such luck," answered Dave, with a quiet smile. "But I'll do what I can."
No runs were made at the opening of the seventh inning, so the score still stood 6 to 11 when Dave took his position to face the rivals. As he went out some of the Rockville supporters let up catcalls and jeers.
"Jennings has had enough of it!"
"Say, but our boys won't do a thing to that new pitcher!"
"He's a green one. They'll bat him all over the field."
It must be admitted that Dave's heart beat very fast as he took the ball -and signaled to Roger, who was behind the plate. One of Rockville's heaviest hitters was facing him, and he knew he must be careful.
"Perhaps I had better let him have his base on balls," he thought, but that was "baby ball," to his notion, and he sent in a good, swift ball directly over the plate. The batsman struck at it, and sent it out to near center, getting first easily.
"That's the way to do it!" cried a Rockville coach. "Keep the ball a-rolling, Jackson!"
Jackson was also a good hitter, and after having two strikes called on him, he lined out a hot one to third base, just within the foul limit. Then came another hit, which brought in a run, and a fumble at second that resulted in another run and an out.
"Hurrah, 13 to 6!" was the shout. "We've got 'em beat to a standstill!" And again the rattles went off, followed by a loud tooting of horns, and a wild waving of Rockville banners.
The cheers made Dave set his teeth hard. He whispered a few words to Roger, and then hurried back to his place. In came the ball with a decided outward curve, and the batsman missed it completely. Then he missed twice more.
"Good!" shouted Phil. "That's the way to do it, Dave!"
The next youth up knocked a foul, which was caught by the third baseman, and this brought the inning to a close.
"Now, fellows, we have got to make seven runs," said Phil, earnestly.
"I wish we could make two or three," said the shortstop.
"Come on and make eight," said Shadow, as he walked to the plate. He was growing desperate, and made a wild pass at the first ball pitched. Then he struck again and managed to reach first on a fumbled grounder.
As before, Roger followed, and he also got to first, while Shadow advanced to third. Then Dave came up.
"There is the new pitcher," cried several. "He is sure to be struck out."
Dave heard these remarks and they made his face burn. Come what might he determined that he would not miss the ball. He must knock a foul, if nothing else.
As luck would have it, the first ball sent in was too high, but it was, nevertheless, called a strike. Then came a second, just where Dave wanted it. Whack! He struck it fairly and squarely, and out it sailed to deep center.
"Hurrah! Run, Dave, run!" was the cry. "Come in, Shadow! Come in, Roger!" And Shadow and Roger did come in, running as if for their lives. Dave reached first with ease and fairly leaped to second. Then he looked out in the field, and started for third.
"Come on! come on!" screamed Ben, dancing around like a madman. "Come on! You've got plenty of time!" And he beckoned with might and main, as if to help the running thereby.
The third baseman pretended to reach for the ball just as Dave came up to him. Seeing this Dave dropped down on the ground and dove for the bag with his right hand. But the ball was not yet coming up, and in a twinkling the country boy was up again and starting for the home plate.
"Run! run!" yelled half a hundred voices in unison. "Run!" And Dave did run as he had never run before, coming over the plate with such an impetus that he was carried fairly to the players' bench beyond. Then the ball was sent in—but it was much too late.
How the Oak Hall boys did shout and cheer, and swing their rattles and blow their horns! It was as if pandemonium had broken loose, and it lasted for several minutes.
"It was the greatest home run ever made on these grounds," declared Roger, later on. "The very greatest."
"And the best of it is, it brought in three runs," came from Phil, as he clapped Dave on the back. "That helps the score wonderfully."
The home run put new life into the Oak Hall club, and when the half of the eighth inning came to a close, the score stood, Oak Hall 11, Rockville Military Academy 14.
"Here is our last chance to tie the score," said Phil. "Boys, we must do it. Play as you never played before."
The shortstop was the first batter up. and managed to get to first in safety. Then came Phil, who knocked out a three-bagger with tremendous vigor. Next came two base hits, and then a wild throw from third to first. When the wild play came to an end the last batter was safe on second, and three runs had been scored.
"14 to 14!" was the cry. "A tie!"
"Gasperfelder is going to pieces!"
"Put in a new pitcher!"
So the talk went on until the pitcher whispered to the captain. Then another pitcher came onto the field. He tried his best to hold Oak Hall down, but could not, and when at last the first half of the ninth inning came to a close the score stood Oak Hall 16, Rockville Military Academy 14.
"Dave, can you hold them down?" said Phil, pleadingly.
"I'll try my best," answered Dave.
"Of course you will. Hold them down to one if you can—or a tie," returned the captain.
It would be useless to deny that Dave felt nervous when he walked down to the pitcher's slab. He knew that for Oak Hall to win that game depended largely upon himself.
Fortunately for Dave the first batter up was not one of Rockville's best. He got two balls and two strikes, and then another ball.
"Steady, Dave!" said Phil. "Don't let him walk."
The pitcher made a signal to Roger. He made as if to throw in the ball easily, then let drive with all the swiftness at his command.
"Three strikes! Batter out!"
"Hurrah!" yelled the Oak Hall boys. "One gone! Now go for the other two, Dave!"
"He can't put them out!" sneered Gus Plum. "Just wait and see."
It was Plum's sneer that braced the country boy as much as anything.
"That bully shan't crow over me!" he told himself, and snapped his teeth together hard. Then the ball came over the plate, and the umpire called one strike.
Again the sphere was launched forth.
"Make him give you what you want. Brown!" called out a coach.
"Make him hit it, Dave," came from the first baseman.
"That's it, Dave!"
"Three strikes. Batter out!"
Again a wild cheering went up. The ninth inning, and Dave had struck out two players. It was certainly good ball-playing.
"Dave plays like a veteran," was Oliver Wadsworth's comment. He was as much interested as the boys.
"Yes, and this takes me back to my college days," added Caspar Potts, with a smile.
The third batsman now came forward. He was a sure and heavy hitter, and the Rockville club depended upon him to make a single, if not a two-base hit. As he took his place he glared savagely at Dave.
"I suppose he'd like to eat me," thought the young pitcher. "Well, here goes at him," and in came the ball, exactly over the plate, but so quickly that it was in Roger's hands before the batter could make up his mind to strike.
"Good! Go at him, Dave!"
"Knock the cover off the ball, Barriwell!"
Again the ball came in—this time an out curve. Barriwell struck at—and missed it.
Dave braced himself for a final effort. He gave Roger the signal, started as if to throw in the ball with all force—and sent in something slow and tantalizing. The bat swung around—and the ball dropped safely into the catcher's hands.
"Three strikes! Batter out!"
Oak Hall had won the game!
Almost before they knew it, the home club was surrounded, and Dave was perched up on the shoulders of his friends. Yells and cheers rent the air anew, and the rattles and horns added to the general din. In the vigor of his applause Oliver Wadsworth smashed his cane to bits, and in the excitement Professor Potts waved the rim off of his old silk hat.
"But I don't care," said the old professor, gazing at the ruined headgear. "It was worth it! Dave's a—a—"
"A boy out of a thousand!" finished the manufacturer. "I'm proud of him."
"Oh, I say, boys, let me down!" pleaded Dave, gazing around helplesly. "I didn't do so much—really, I didn't!"
"Didn't do much?" cried Ben. "Why, Dave, you won the game!" And then he proposed three cheers for Dave, and they were given with a will.
The only boys who did not relish the victory were Gus Plum and Nat Poole, and when they sneered at Dave they were run off the field, and had to hide, for fear of another attack.
Although they had lost, the Rockville club took their defeat like good fellows. They had been invited to dine that evening at the Hall and did so, and a good time generally was enjoyed. After the rivals had departed, the Oak Hall boys lit a big bonfire on the campus, and the festivities and jollity were kept up until almost midnight. It was a time none of our friends ever forgot.