JD Pruitt [seen left] opened this NWL season like an all-star, albeit in an unlikely way. With an OBP that was at one stage pushing .700, and a flurry of "I shall not duck" HBP activity, and yes, even a little bat on ball action, Pruitt was a frontrunner for the Notes From The Nat soon-to-be-annual ‘One to Watch’ award.
Soon he was breaking the NWL HBP record. Then he was smashing it. Then he was obliterating it in a way that will not be touched - ever.
But once you’ve figured out that Pruitt’s plate crowding and non-flinching routine works at this level primarily because opposing pitchers…:
1) Get freaked out by it and start overthinking their pitches.
2) Try to brush him back, not realizing he won’t be brushed.
3) Try to keep the ball away from him, only to stray outside and give up a walk.
…and then you realize that pitchers next season and in higher levels of ball won’t be making the same errors, you start looking at other aspects of his game, and the sub-Mendoza batting average jumps out at you like an evil clown.
I’m sure he’s had it pointed out to him by the Oakland A’s higher-ups, who are no doubt happy with the size of his cajones, that things like baserunning, defense and bat-on-ball contact are important parts of the game too. And he’s certainly answered way too many questions like, "Don’t you get hurt sometimes?" and, "Are you trying to get hit?" and "What’s with your batting average?"
So JD has decided to put the HBPs behind him and just freakin’ swing.
Shane Keough has also had a weird year, coming off a back injury last season, dealing with issues in his swing, suffering a little hard luck with good hits that went to the wrong places, and hustling for a regular outfield spot in an outfield packed with quality. He too struggled with his average all season, and with season 2007 nearing a close, he knew it was time to get ornery and smoosh the ball some.
Last night, Keough and Pruitt took the wheel in front of 5000 fans who had largely come to watch a guy in a chicken suit, and they raced the C’s to a solid home victory over a team that, for the most part of the season, has looked unbeatable.
And they did it, surprise surprise, with the long ball.
Top of the 1st inning, and the Lava-Men weren’t messing about as a pair of singles to ‘Bouncing’ Brock Bond and Matt ‘Syndome’ Downs set the table for a Garret ‘Shakin’ Baker sac fly to open the scoring.
Traditionally, the C’s cave in on themselves in front of large crowds (look over the records of any fireworks night over the past few years for evidence of this phenomena), but JD Pruitt put paid to any thoughts of a cakewalk by the Volcs with a solid lead-off double to left field to get the crowd rolling. Runway Richard duly (and perfectly) sac bunted him over to third base, and Matt Sulentic made certain of the RBI with a single to right.
Dan Hamblin, who is one home run from equalling Dan Johnson’s single season C’s homer record of 12, then went looking for a crushed ball, only to drop it into the left fielder’s glove, and Greg Desme, who has looked ridiculously strong since coming back from injury, did likewise, striking out swinging.
So we’re into the top of the 2nd, and with Beanpole Brent Lysander struggling a little on the mound for the C’s, Sean ‘Vanderlay Industries’ VanElderen drew a leadoff walk, followed by a single to right for ‘Tetherball’ Tyler LaTorre. Greg Desme in right field opted to airmail a futile throw to third base which allowed LaTorre to snag second base, and set it up for Jose Flores to sac fly home another run.
But once again it would be Pruitt who would help keep the C’s in the game, when he singled Justin Frash home in the bottom of the frame.
As The Famous Chicken prowled foul ball territory during the third inning, the hitters were clearly getting annoyed with his antics, even if the crowd was in hysterics by them. If you’ve done a little YouTube surfing on La Coq, you’ve seen most of his routines - the eye chart for the umpire, the spraying of Lysol after a bad call, the parade of little chickens, but there’s no denying the guy is entertaining.
…Certainly more entertaining than the action on the field in the 3rd inning, as Lysander sat the Geological Anomalies in order, and the C’s struck out 1, 2, 3.
The Volcanoes brought in pitcher Andrew De La Garza in the bottom of the 4th to replace Tim ‘Over Easy’ Egart, and that should have been reason for the Canadians to get concerned. ‘Andrew of the Heron’, after all, had an 8-1 record coming in to the game - and that’s as a reliever. With 18K’s to just 5 walks in his last ten games, he’s no slouch, but you wouldn’t know it the way he got passed around and abused by the Vancouver hitters.
Rented mule? Redheaded stepchild? Nicole Ritchie in the 82 minutes she spent in prison? You decide what he was beaten like.
# Dante Love singles on a line drive to center fielder Shane Jordan.
# Justin Frash walks. Dante Love to 2nd.
# Shane Keough turns around to bat left-handed.
# Shane Keough homers (2) on a fly ball to center field. Dante Love scores. Justin Frash scores.
That’s right, Keough [seen right] spun around to swing southpaw and calmly stroked a beauty into deep left field. I won’t say it looked like a dinger off the bat. I won’t even say it looked like one on the fly. In fact, it was only when it somehow got over the wall that anyone at the ballpark, hitter included, realized it was a chance at doing so.
But hey, we’ll take it - and Keough deserves it. Vancouver up 5-2.
Fast forward to the 6th inning and things have slowed down some. The Volcanoes aren’t rabidly trying for the win, since they qualified for the division title in about February, and the C’s aren’t panicking because, well, it’s a nice lead.
But JD Pruitt isn’t playing out the season - he’s got a batting average and slugging percentage that need a little kick up the backside, and he’s all about delivering said boot.
Wilmin ‘Valderama’ Rodriguez on the mound. Pruitt at the plate, not crowding. Pitch comes in, bat goes swing, connection, flyball, gone.
A solo shot to left field that, much like Keough’s shot earlier, looked like it had no chance of getting over… until it did. Again, we’ll take it. And, again, he deserves it. Vancouver up 6-2.
In the 7th inning, the C’s took Brent Lysander out of the game after 6 strong innings in which he gave up only 5 hits, 2 walks, struck out 2 and gave up 2 earned runs, and Chuck ‘Kerplunk’ Kerfoot [seen left] took the reins without missing a step. He sat the next six hitters in order for two perfect innings (three groundouts, two pop-ups and one fly-out).
Michael Richard kept up the pressure by driving in Walt ‘can’t lay off the breaking stuff’ Correa with a single to left after Correa has walked and Shane Keough got drilled in the head by Volcanoes pitcher Stephen ‘The Scud’ MacFarland, and when Lee Land came in to close it out in the 9th, he managed to extricate himself from a bases loaded situation with a high pressure ground-out.
A big win for the C’s in front of a near sell-out crowd on a Tuesday night… who would have thunk it?
Can we book The Chicken again for next season, please?
|August 28, 2007|