The World Prevails! (Mike Kowalewski Reports on the 2014 Softball Game)

23 June 2014

Dateline: Bell Field (June 3, 2014)

The English department gathered for its annual “Seniors Vs. the World” softball game this evening. Skies were gray but the weather was pleasant and dry and mosquitos buzzed sociably around the players on the fresh greensward of Bell Field. In an exciting game that featured offensive firepower by both teams, the World avenged last year’s loss to the seniors by winning this season’s game 14-12, but not before a remarkably stylish and talented senior team fought its way back, from a deep deficit, to the very brink of victory and caused the World to gasp.

Chapter 1. After one of the largest group photos in recent memory – organized at first around a recumbent Henry Southwick, in the pose of a Renaissance courtier – the World took to the field. Fears about an overpopulated World were hard to avoid. “Where did all these majors come from?” John O’Brien asked as he peered out at the 23 outfielders arrayed before him. “It must have been the new wall paint on Second Laird that has attracted all these new majors – or maybe it was the new bathroom renovations,” he added thoughtfully. But the seniors were not cowed. Unafraid of this David and Goliath challenge, the seniors, who christened their team “Burn It to the Ground,” huddled for a rousing cheer. “Come on and lose already,” a resplendently bearded Arnab Chakladar growled genially as he waited for the opening pitch.

Pierre Hecker was on the mound for the World and Hannah Neville led off for the seniors. Three-quarters of the Chakladar family played catcher for the World, with Arnab behind home plate and his sons Adam and Amaan cavorting around the senior batters. Hannah hit a commendable fly ball but Lucas Rossi made an athletic catch as he fell backwards and landed on his back, spread-eagled in the grass. It was clear from the start that displays of athleticism were going to be the order of the day. Isaac Werner was up next and got a hit. Molly Work gave up a sacrifice single. John O’Brien bunted. And then Amy Swerdlow “choked the bat” and brought home the seniors’ first score, as Isaac pranced home with a gazelle-like grace that made seniors everywhere sigh. When their turn was over, the seniors took to the field leading 1-0.

“I am a citizen of the world,” Sylvia Beach once announced. She would have been right at home with the 40+ other batters waiting for a turn at home plate in a line that snaked across Bell Field. Zoe Borden led off for the World with a hit, followed by Joss Olson (whose baseball IQ is high but who was clearly distracted by his paper on frame narratives due in Connie Walker’s class). The senior fielding might best be described as “picturesque,” with dropped fly balls and Gwen Hogan sliding across the in-field. When the dust settled and the inning ended, the score was tied 1-1.

Chapter 2. The world tightened the screws defensively in the second inning. Herr Hecker’s pitching prowess was on full display. Gwen Hogan, Maddie Reynolds and Emily Boghossian all had “palpable hits” but in the end it was: three batters; three outs. First baseman Avery Rux snagged the last hit of the inning with an expert non-chalance that cast a shadow on senior morale.

Shaken but not undone, Hannah Neville once again took the mound for the seniors and pitched balls at various heights (ankle, waist, eyebrow). Most mortals would be hard pressed to capture the spirited versatility of Hannah’s pitching – but not Shavera Seneviratne, who once again, in her inimitable way, found the perfect words. “Hannah pitched like an English major!” Shavera proclaimed. And so she did. But perhaps no one, from any major, could have stopped the breath-taking offensive display the World now put on. Lucas Rossi’s “thunder-crack” fly ball started things off. Samantha Saltzman bent her knees. Julia Bullock was undaunted. Lucy Wasserburg heeded the World’s cries of “play hard to get,” and waited for the perfect pitch. Avery Rux, Jedi Master Sam Braslow, and Sarah Meister all followed suit. Malina Workman, Henry Southwick (who, as Homer Simpson might say, was as powerful as a gorilla but as soft and yielding as a Nerf ball) and Mikayla Coulombe all helped bring in runs. Hopeful chants of “smash the patriarchy” and puzzling chants of “id, ego, superego!” rang out from the sidelines. The World was clearly aroused. Then to top things off, Arnab smashed a high arcing hit and the Chakladars ran the bases together and scored three runs. When the inning finally ended and the smoke cleared, the World led the game 14-1.

Chapter 2.5. Both shaken and undone, the seniors regrouped, huddled and worked to regain their composure. Halah Mohammed rallied the troops. Arnab took a photo of the circled group and said, “I’m going to caption that one ‘futility.’” But “Burn It to the Ground” still had a few matches left. Because of the lopsided score, the seniors were given two extra outs. Erica Lobel was hit by an errant ball and walked to first base. Kayla Tam hit next, followed by Molly Hemes, who discarded her bat for a tennis racquet and hit a splendid two-handed forehand into left field and senior spirits revived. Then John O’Brien came alive and hit a high-altitude fly ball and brought in two more runs. On the very next play, Isaac Werner singled and John O’Brien ran the bases again for yet another score. (When the World protested, O’Brien was unperturbed. “We need the runs,” he explained.) Sarah Walz, Hannah Neville, Molly Work (to cheers of “In and Out Burger!”) and the indefatigable John O’Brien all hit in more runs. Slugger Erica Lobel then smashed a home-run that brought in two runs and the score was suddenly 14-12. The World was on its heels; the World was disheartened; the World was in disarray. But with shouted encouragement from the catcher to regain its balance and realign its outfield, the World somehow managed to avert disaster by catching a fly-ball at first base for the fifth and final out. While not all of the World’s batters had had a chance to bat, it was decided, in the spirit of good sportsmanship, that the game should end without piling on any more runs. The two teams formed two lines and shook and slapped hands in the true Second Laird spirit of good-natured bonhomie.

When asked how she felt after the game, Emily Boghossian said, “It’s sad, Mike!” “If only we’d had a sixth out,” Sarah Walz added ruefully. Always his own man, John O’Brien felt that the extra outs might actually have affected the outcome of the game: “It’s a heavy burden to have extra outs. Most people can’t handle it.”

And so . . . as the mosquitos dotted the rich slanting sunbeams on Bell Field, and English majors returned to their Keats and their Rushdie, the seniors in the Class of 2014 once again proved that they are a classy bunch. For while they didn’t, on this occasion, emerge victorious, they did show that they are fully capable of giving the World just about all it can handle.

Your humble scribe,
Mike Kowalewski

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