Don’t quit ’til it’s over

Published 11:31 pm Friday, May 22, 2009

“That’s why they play the games.”

That certainly could’ve been the motto for the Tidewater Conference’s baseball and softball tournaments earlier this week.

First of all, it would’ve been very easy for the coaches and athletic directors involved to call off the last two rounds of the tournaments. By my unofficial count, when Hampton Roads and Nansemond-Suffolk met in the baseball semifinals on Tuesday, it was at least their fifth attempt to get the game in.

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The constant rain and thunderstorms of two weeks ago pushed the conference tournaments past the end of the state private-school tournaments, and it would’ve been understandable for those involved to say, “we tried, too bad.”

It also could’ve been easy to call the tourneys off, since the outcomes seemed simple to predict. After all, top-seeded Greenbrier Christian had already won state championships a few days earlier in both baseball and softball. Both Gator teams went through the TCIS regular season with perfect records, and the Gator softball team was undefeated for the season.

As the tournaments — finally — played out, we got to see what people mean when they say, “That’s why they play the game.”

Three days after winning their third straight state title, Greenbrier Christian was upset by Cape Henry 3-2. The Dolphins finished in the middle of the pack, fourth, in the TCIS standings. Greenbrier beat Cape Henry 14-1 in the regular season.

With the fall of the powerful Gators — who had beat Nansemond-Suffolk three times during the season, with the closest margin being nine runs and the latest contest being less than a week earlier in the state semifinals — the Saints had the odds-on chance for their first TCIS championship since 2003.

The Saints and Dolphins met and put on a well-played game, which was in doubt until literally the last play of the game. If Anthony Waldner, NSA’s freshman shortstop, had been positioned one step closer to second base, or one step closer to the plate, or if his reactions were a split-second slower, Cape Henry would’ve completed a three-run comeback in the last inning and perhaps could have taken the lead.

Unfortunately, with both championship games going on at the same time, I can’t give the same detailed account of the softball final between Greenbrier and Nansemond-Suffolk, but here were the main points.

NSA trailed 3-0 going into the seventh inning against the Gators (24-0) and hadn’t scored in 13 innings against first-team all-state pitcher Brittany Lane (23-0) this season.

NSA rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh before Greenbrier prevailed with a winning run in the bottom of the seventh.

The last couple games of the high school baseball and softball seasons were good reminders — even for those of us just standing on the sideline — of why it’s always good to play out the schedule as hard as you can.