Playing to the end

Published 6:38 pm Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ted Williams could’ve sat out the last game of the 1941 season. His batting average was .401 going into the second game of a doubleheader on the last day of the season, when his coach gave him the option of saving the historic mark. Instead, Williams went 2-for-3 to finish with a .406 average.

Ernie Banks said, “It’s a great day for a ballgame. Let’s play two.”

At least mythically, Shoeless Joe Jackson continued playing center field on semi-pro and barnstorming teams for years after being banned from Major League Baseball for the 1919 Black Sox scandal.

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Their choice won’t quite rise to the level of these grand tales and quotes, but King’s Fork and Hickory deserve credit for finishing their respective baseball seasons the right way Tuesday evening at Hickory.

The Bulldogs and Hawks got rained out last week and could’ve simply let the postponed game remain that way. Neither team can make the Southeastern District Tournament, which is why it’s OK the Bulldogs and Hawks will get this finale in at the same time the top teams in the district are playing in the semifinals at Nansemond River.

For that same reason though, no one would’ve thought a second of it had the two teams simply let the season end.

Even in the majors, despite the legendary anecdotes, look through a year’s standings and there will usually be two or four teams with 161 games played. The total would be 162, but for a game rained out in late September between two teams out of the pennant race.

I’m writing this just before heading over to Chesapeake to cover the game, once again, weather permitting. Predicting the outcome of any single baseball game is usually a waste. Attempting to predict the outcome of any high school sporting event is to forget how volatile things can be in high school. So predicting a high school baseball game is especially pointless.

Since Hickory edged King’s Fork 14-12 the first time the two teams met this spring, I do predict a good competition, meaning the extra game should be a good example of what high school sports is meant to teach.

Prior to the loss to Hickory, KF had lost its last three games by a total score of 35-3. After the Hickory game, KF won two of its next three games, including a 3-2 win over then-first-place Grassfield that KF’s head coach called the best win in the six seasons KF’s been playing baseball.

King’s Fork wins against Lakeland and Nansemond River have been big. Early in KF’s second season, the Bulldogs beat Green Run for their first-ever win, so of course that’s memorable. As far as records and rankings, though, there’s no doubt where the win against Grassfield ranks.

Avenging the close loss and ending the season with a win would be a memorable way for KF’s seniors to go out and would provide motivation for the returning players.

But even if the Bulldogs came up short last night, finishing the season all the way to the end was a healthy lesson, too.