The Crashaw Brothers/Chapter 9

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CHAPTER IX

THE ELEVENTH INNING

IN that first inning not a man for St. John’s reached first base, and St. Timothy’s were cheering gayly. But in turn their own batsmen did no better. Already it appeared that the game would be mainly a contest between the two pitchers, Bell and Jackson—the formidable Jackson, who revealed himself to Edward now as left-handed, and who seemed to reach up to a height of about ten feet and from that point hurl the ball down at the batter with terrific sharpness and speed. He struck out four men in the first three innings.

“I don’t believe he can last, just the same,” Payne said to Bell. “Not at that speed.”

While Jackson was striking out the St. Timothy’s hatters. Bell was forcing St. John’s to knock pop flies. In the fourth inning, however, with one out, Jackson came to bat for St. John’s and drove the ball over Warren’s head in left field. Amid tremendous yelling from the third-base crowd he reached second base.

Morton, the St. John’s captain, came to bat; until Jackson’s drive, he had made the only hit that had been secured by St. John’s. One strike was called on him; then he sent a swift grounder which Blanchard at short-stop just failed to reach; Jackson came tearing round third base and with all St. John’s screaming for him to go on raced for home.

Warren’s throw in from left field was swift and true; Payne crouched for it, but Jackson flung himself feet first and touched the plate just before Payne fell on him with the ball.

Instantly Payne leaped up and hurled the ball down to Blanchard who was covering second base, but that throw too was just a moment late: Morton was already there. One run for St. John’s, only one out, and Morton on second base: Bell took the ball and rubbed it viciously against his trouser-pads.

The next batter made a neat little bunt that brought Stearns rushing down from third base to field it; he gathered it up all right and flung it on the run to Keating. It was a wild low throw; Keating stretched for it and scooped it from the ground and then fell prone, but he had managed to hold his foot on the base just long enough. “Out!” cried the umpire, and St. Timothy’s clapped their first baseman for his plucky catch.

But Morton had gone to third base on the play, and was now creeping back and forth on the third-base line, impatient to get home.

Crowell, who tapped the plate with his bat, had struck out once before; but this time he hit the second ball pitched safely into right field, and Morton scored. The next batter went out on an easy fly to Keating; and with the score two to nothing against them, St. Timothy’s went to bat.

It was the weak end of their batting list, and yet the inning opened auspiciously. Dinsmore at short-stop fumbled Warren’s grounder and let him reach first base. Stearns tapped the ball just a few feet in front of the plate and was thrown out; but it was a good sacrifice; Warren ran down to second. Another sacrifice by Slade advanced him to third; then, with two out, Keating came to the bat.

He had struck out the time before; he did not mean to do that now. The first ball came straight at him; he stood heroically still, he did not seek to dodge it; and then it took a sudden curve and cut over the inside corner of the plate.

“Strike!” called the umpire; and Keating pounded the plate with his bat.

The next ball went wide; Keating swung at the third and missed. Then came a high ball, too high, Keating thought, and let it go.—“Strike three!” called the umpire, and Keating could not refrain from giving him a reproachful glance, and St. Timothy’s could not refrain from uttering a sympathetic murmur. And the score was still two to nothing in favor of St. John’s.

So it was after the fifth inning, so it was after the sixth, so it was after St. John’s half of the seventh. Then Blanchard was first at bat for St. Timothy’s.

“We’ve got to score this inning, Blanche,” Jim Payne said to him imploringly as he picked out his bat.

Blanchard made a response better than any words, for he hit the first ball hard at Jackson’s feet; it bounded past him and skipped over second base and out into centre field.

Durant stood in front of the St. Timothy’s crowd and cried, “Now, fellows, keep it going, keep it going till we score!”

Before the cheer which he started could be finished, it was turned into a tremendous shout of joy, for Blanchard, the swiftest runner on the St. Timothy’s nine, had gone down to second on the next ball and reached it safely. Fred Bell was at the bat, Jim Payne and Harry Carr, the best batters St. Timothy’s had, were to follow.

“We’re going to score!” shouted Durant.

“Cheer, fellows! Three times three!”

And as before, that cheer was never finished, for it was interrupted by a sharp crack, and then all St. Timothy’s were leaping, yelling, swinging their hats: it was a clean base hit into right field; Blanchard came sprinting home, and on the throw in, the vain attempt to head him off. Bell ran to second.

No one out, one run, and Jim Payne at the bat; here surely was where St. Timothy’s would tie the score. So at least Edward shouted exultantly into Lawrence’s ear while the cheering went on.

“Tie the score!” shrieked Lawrence.

“Here’s where we win, you mean!”

But Payne disappointed himself and all his supporters; he hit the ball hard, but he drove it straight on a line into the short-stop’s hands, and only Bell’s nimbleness in getting back to second saved him from being the victim of a double play.

“That was hard luck,” said Lawrence with exasperation. “A good clean hit like that! Harry Carr’s got to hit the ball—because if he does n’t Pollock never will.”

Carr knocked a long fly which the left fielder caught; and Bell was still on second base.

“Cheer, fellows, cheer!” entreated Durant.

Lawrence was obedient, but desisted long enough to say to Edward, “Now it’s up to the weak bunch again; I guess nothing but a miracle will bring Bell home.”

Pollock was not a miracle exactly, but he hit a grounder that Wells, the St. John’s third baseman, had to run for. Wells picked it up cleanly, and then hurled it high over the first baseman’s head, and while St. Timothy’s went wild over this unexpected and unmerited gift and while St. John’s stood aghast. Bell came all the way home. With Pollock on second, Butler struck out; the seventh inning was ended and the score was two to two.

In the eighth inning neither side got a man to first base.

The ninth inning opened most disastrously for St. Timothy’s. Wells, the St. John’s third baseman, who had made the costly wild throw, came to the bat eager to redeem himself. He made a clean hit into right field; it should have been good for only one base, but the wretched Slade let the ball go between his legs. Wells sped on to second base and then on to third; Morton, who was coaching there, rushed out, and, embracing him, fairly held him upon the base. St. John’s were whooping and dancing; St. Timothy’s were smitten into silence.

Morton was next at bat, and after him came the other good batters for St. John’s; the outlook was desperate. Wells stole cautiously down along the third-base line. Bell watched him anxiously, Jim Payne behind the bat thumped his big mitt nervously. Two balls were called, then a strike.

Then Morton swung at the ball; Wells saw it go in a high swift line towards right field, put down his head and ran for the plate.

But just off first base Keating leaped and reached, and that swiftly-driven liner struck and stuck fast in his glove; he turned and hurled the ball across the diamond to Stearns, a beautiful low throw; and Stearns caught it and touched third base. Then there was a burst of shouting from St. Timothy’s and a most jubilant convulsion; the voices of St. John’s were stilled; and the astounded Wells and the disappointed Morton walked glumly to their bench. Cose, the next batter, knocked up an easy fly which Payne caught, and St. John’s took the field.

Keating was escorted in from first base to the plate by the band and by a crowd of friends, among them Edward,—all striving in the turmoil to express their gratitude and admiration. He was first at bat that inning, and Durant led a cheer with Keating’s name twice repeated at the end of it—after which, Keating as usual struck out.

But he could be forgiven that many times over—for had he not snatched them all from the very jaws of defeat? Blanchard and Bell each hit slow grounders and were thrown out at first; and still the score was tied. And at the end of the tenth inning it was still two to two.

The crowd had become silent with excitement. Bell had been betraying signs of nervousness and fatigue; Jim Payne, from behind the bat, had obviously been working hard to steady him. But Jackson was still as swift and accurate as ever; as in the football game he seemed to be growing stronger all the time.

In the eleventh inning Crowell for St. John’s was given his base on balls. A moment later he stole second base. Bell was watching him over his shoulder; suddenly he turned and threw the ball at Blanchard in the attempt to catch Crowell napping; but the throw went wild, the ball bounded out into centre field, and Crowell dashed on to third base.

St. John’s had roused themselves again to a pitch of intense enthusiasm; they were shouting incessantly. Fulton, their next batter, knocked a swift grounder to Keating, who picked it up cleanly, touched first base, and held Crowell on third. St. Timothy’s shouted at that; these weren’t the best of the St. John’s batters; perhaps after all Crowell would n’t have a chance to score.

That hope was ruined the next moment when Ramsay hit the ball just over Blanchard’s head. It was a miserable scratch little hit, the luckiest kind; and over such a wretched thing St. John’s were howling like mad!

Crowell dashed across the plate, and St. Timothy’s gazed at capering St. John’s in dumb resentment. The next batter struck out, the next went out on a fly, and the St. Timothy’s nine came in for their last effort.

Warren stepped up to the bat.

“All the weak hitters,” groaned Lawrence to Edward. “If it was only Blanchard and Payne and that bunch!”

“Warren sometimes hits the hall,” said Edward.

This was the occasion. Warren made a clean single to left field. Durant was leading a nine times nine cheer to put heart into Stearns, the next batter, when Jim Payne came rushing up, seized Edward by the arm, and dragged him over to the crew captain.

“I want Edward to bat for Keating this inning,” Payne cried. “You’ve got to let him, Harry!”

“Don’t be foolish, Jim,” Durant answered, and Edward laughed at the absurd thought.

“I mean it; I have n’t time to argue with you.” Payne spoke warmly. “Strike one!” called the umpire; Stearns was at the bat. “There! If Stearns strikes out! He’s got to advance Warren to second! After him there are only Slade and Keating. We’ve got to have Edward in to hit the ball; it’s our only chance.”

“He has n’t been practising, he might get hurt,” cried Durant. Three times three, fellows; everybody cheer!”

“He’ll have to take a chance,” Payne shrieked in Durant’s ear, while Durant was waving his arms. “You’ve got to run the risk. If Stearns and Slade both go out, he’s our only chance.”

At that moment Stearns struck out, and there was a roar from St. John’s.

Durant turned to Edward. “Do you want to do it?” he asked.

Edward’s hands were cold. “Yes,” he said. “I’d like to try.”

“Durant hesitated. Strike one!” called the umpire; Slade was at the bat.

“Go ahead then,” said Durant.