This is real softball. No one could have said it better than Petaluma High School coach Kurt Jastrow after Petaluma and Alhambra hooked up in a classic game Saturday afternoon with Petaluma winning, 2-1. Going into the game, the two teams had just two combined losses, with each having lost only one game. It was softball at its best, with pitching dominating, enough good defensive plays to keep the game interesting and just enough hitting on both sides to keep the tension mounting right up until the end.
It is what softball is all about.
Softball is a multi-headed game.
There is the lob ball played (and I know I am going to get in trouble, but I'm going to say it anyhow) mostly by adults who are much better players in their minds than they are on the diamond. I played this game for a few years when I was in Oregon. By then, my never-to-good skills had further deteriorated to the point where I was playing right field and catcher. At that, I was only in the starting lineup because I was the team coach. We played on a diamond that was just a bit over Little League size with outfield fences that seemed close enough to touch. There were many longshoremen, lumberjacks and fishing-boat crewmen in the league. The result was a home run circus with typical scores of 33-28, 27-17 and even some 41-37s. Defense ranged from lucky to inept.
The slow pitch softball we play around here is much better, with several players who can still pick and throw and run down long flys.
But slow pitch is a whole different game from fast pitch. I played that game as well, way, way back when I worked for my Uncle Sam wearing one of his loosely-fitting uniforms. I had one of the best on-base percentages on my Company team, mostly because I didn't want to embarrass myself by swinging at a rise ball that invariably came in about eye high. The game I played was a far cry from the brand played by Petaluma's Greyview Farms and Santa Rosa's Guenella Brothers. Those games were fun and the caliber of play was superb. Pitching was great and it took a real hitter to get around on an underhand-thrown missile that was rising, dropping and generally jumping around all over the place. There often weren't a lot of defensive plays to be made, but when they did happen, they came with lightning quickness.
We don't see too much men's fast pitch these days, but I do get a chance to see a lot of high school girls fast pitch, and I find it just as exciting as the men's game. The problem we have in our area is that Petaluma and St. Vincent are so dominant in their respective leagues that too many of their games are one-sided yawn fests. Six of St. Vincent's seven North Central League II games were stopped by the 10-run rule, and the seventh was a nine-run win over Tomales. Seven of Petaluma's nine Sonoma County League games were stopped short of the regulation seven innings.
St. Vincent seeks its competition by playing much larger schools. It is in Division V, but always fills out its schedule with games against Division II and Division III schools. Petaluma finds its competition from tough East Bay teams.
This is not to slight Casa Grande, which has a very good team, and is holding its own in the competitive North Bay League. There is no need for the Lady Gauchos to go hunting competition (although they also schedule East Bay teams), Casa has plenty of top-flight competition in its own league.
I've seen a bundle of blow outs this spring, but when I get an opportunity to see a game like the Petaluma-Alhambra game, I am reminded what "real softball" is all about.
(Contact John Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org)