By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist
There’s not enough going on to write one good-sized column today. Therefore, let’s write two short ones.
A difficult ending
On Saturday, I had the chance to cover the Far West Regionals in girls lacrosse for The Buffalo News. The games were held at Williamsville North High School, which has a very nice complex for such events.
The playoffs usually are the best time to cover high school sports, because usually you get to write about winning teams and athletes. What’s more, when a Section VI championship is involved, a victory could be the biggest athletic moment in the entire lives of those involved. Those people will remember the details of that title through their 50th high school reunion and beyond. It’s a great deal of fun to talk to players in such situations; it’s quite a contrast from, say, following the Sabres on a nightly basis in a given season lately.
There’s a “but” coming, of course, and it’s about what can happen along the way. The pressure on these kids – and remember, that’s what they are – can be intense. You make a mistake in these games in a crucial spot, and you’ll also remember that for the rest of your lives. I remember hearing about a local high school baseball player who made an error in the last inning on a play that could have given his team a state championship. That’s almost too cruel.
It would be easy to say that nobody signed up for this when they tried out for a high school sport. But actually, that’s actually what they signed up for. There’s a chance for glory, but there are no guarantees.
That brings us to Saturday’s girls lacrosse games. The Section VI teams were coming off one of the great moments of their lives, winning games that made them the best team in their class in the area. That’s a moment worth celebrating, and they did.
The problem, though, is that they don’t get to enjoy it for a long period of time – only a few days. Even the Sectional champs have a small chance of finishing their seasons with a win. In this case, the Buffalo-area schools were a few steps behind Section V’s best, and the results were predictable. The Rochester-area teams haven’t lost a game in this round in at least four years, and most of them have been one-sided margins. Such was the case on Saturday.
And that’s almost unfair, when you think about it. The last moments of the seniors’ careers at a sport were spent looking at the scoreboard of one of the biggest losses in those careers. Across the state, there are teams on the ride of their young athletic lives – and the journey ends with a loss that can be one-sided or too close for words. Either way, it’s a difficult way to end a segment of one’s life.
I was talking about this set-up with one of the coaches on Saturday, and we agreed it seems like an inappropriate way to end a season. Maybe that’s why a team banquet is in order; it celebrates the wins that should drown out the losses in the long run. Let’s hope it does.
Fans who head to Sahlen’s Field tonight will get to see two games for the price of one.
The Buffalo Bisons host Scranton-Wilkes Barre in something of a twin-bill. The teams started a game earlier in the season, but had to suspend it because of weather. Buffalo had a 1-0 lead in the top of the third when the rain came. It is scheduled to be completed tonight; the two teams then will play the regularly scheduled game. By the way, both games will be limited to seven innings barring a tie, just like a typical twi-nighter.
This didn’t used to be the procedure in baseball. Games that were rained out in the second inning used to be wiped off the record book, and then started over at a later date. However, someone finally determined that anything that happens in a professional game should be counted at some point, rather than erased. Therefore, if you hit a home run before the rains arrive, you get to keep it.
This does raise a couple of statistical and scoring questions that are a bit out of the norm. The Bisons’ veteran official scorer, Kevin Lester, needed to go get a copy of the scoresheet from the original game for his use tonight. He’ll pick up the scoring from where the game was suspended earlier.
However, Kevin will have some chores to do before the game starts. Remember, this is minor league baseball, where the rosters change from day to day. The players who are still around have to go in the same spot in the batting order, but otherwise mass substitutions are the order of the day. When the game is over, the box score is liable to be positively huge – because the players from both portions of the game will need to be listed.
Along those lines, the numbers from the first part of the game have been held in suspended animation since the game was halted. They haven’t been added to the International League’s statistical base yet. Therefore, the figures will be “freed” when the game is finished, and someone’s batting average might rise a couple of points from an at-bat made on April 20.
When you think about it, in what other sport does something like this ever happen? I can’t think of one. It’s another quirk in a game that has plenty of them.
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)