As is common after most of our home games, I’m sitting in the living room of my summer apartment watching DVDs, trying to decompress after another long day of work at the ballpark.
Tonight, the flick of choice is "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," a fun, light-hearted comedy shot on Oahu’s North Shore. I’ve just finished watching the scene in which lead character Peter Bretter plays one of the songs from his Dracula rock opera at a bar called "Lazy Joe’s."
It’s a hilarious scene, hearing Jason Segal sing his ballad in a voice that only Count Chocula could be proud of. For the first time in about 3 hours, I’m able to laugh.
From the time I woke up this morning until about 9 p.m., it was a really good day. I had time to run a few errands, get a haircut at the mall, and pick up some lunch at the Whole Foods Market in Kahului before reporting to my office at Maehara Stadium around 2 p.m.
After eating my lunch at my desk, I got some paperwork done and filed last night’s scouting reports and replaced them with clean charts for tonight’s contest against the Victoria Seals.
After that it was off to the field to supervise our pitcher’s throwing, and then our daily pregame batting practice. The day went well, the weather was pleasant, and the mood was light following our 5-1 victory over the Seals last night.
I even got a welcome visit from my good friend Tampa Bay Rays scout Casey Onaga, who dropped in to cover our series this weekend. I had a moment to chat and catch up with Casey before returning to my office to dress for the night’s game.
With our outstanding right-handed sinkerballer Wes Etheridge going for us on the mound tonight, we felt pretty good about our chances to make up the half-game we needed to catch the Yuma Scorpions, who opened the day .005 points ahead of us in winning percentage for the Golden Baseball League’s South Division lead.
With just three games remaining before the all-star break, we knew we had to get it done on the field to make our move and catch Yuma for one of the league’s two first-half division titles. The winner of each half in each division in our league qualifies for the playoffs. So even though it’s only early July, we are in the middle of a pennant race.
But a win was not in the cards for us tonight. We allowed the tying run to score in the top of the ninth and had two opportunities to plate the winning run from third base over the next three innings with one out, but could not muster the big hit we needed. Instead, Victoria surged ahead in the top of the 10th on an errant throw to take the 4-3 advantage. But our boys did not relent, and we evened the score again in the bottom of the frame.
Victoria rallied for three runs the next inning after another error in center field, and that deficit proved to be too much tonight.
At this time of the year, wins are really hard to come by for our division’s pennant contenders. Our club and Yuma have found it tough to string together wins during this home stretch of the first half, as we have jockeyed for the top spot for the past three weeks.
It’s been a tough half for us, no doubt. We’ve played 24 road games in three different countries, and have been able to play just 16 home games. In fact, we started our season with a 12-game, two-and-a-half-week-long trip through frigid Canada.
Yuma opened with 16 straight home games, and will have played 31 home contests and just 15 road games in this half.
Entering this final homestand without our leadoff hitter and offensive spark plug Fehlandt Lentini, who is among GBL leaders in homers and stolen bases, did not help our chances. Lentini bruised his throwing shoulder jumping into the outfield wall trying to rob a home run on the road against the Orange County Flyers and has been used only sparingly since.
But it always comes down to grit at this point of the season. We just need to take care of our business on the field and do what we can each day to be the better ballclub on the field.
With two games to go and a half-game deficit, the race for the South Division title will certainly go down to the wire. We can only hope that we end up on top.
Brendan Sagara, a Leilehua and UH-Hilo product, is the pitching coach for Na Koa Ikaika in the Golden League’s team on Maui.