Wednesday, May 31, 2023

James Madison-Oakton Playoff Baseball

The Moose arrived home from elementary school recently and said that he wanted to attend a high school baseball game later that evening. We had nothing scheduled, so I took my three boys to a quick fast-food dinner and then their first high school baseball game. Guys night out!

This was a regional semifinal game between James Madison High School (21-4) and Oakton High School (16-8) located less than 1.5 miles away from each other. The place was packed since it was a playoff game between two rival schools. The limited bleachers at James Madison HS were full when we arrived, so we watched the game standing against the fence where the third base line met left field. Well, I watched the game as the kids played various football and baseball games with some of The Moose's friends in the huge grassy area adjacent to the field. 

I should probably mention that one of the attractions of the game was James Madison pitcher/first baseman Bryce Eldridge. In separate mock MLB drafts over the last few weeks, Keith Law of The Athletic projects the Baltimore Orioles to select Eldridge #17 overall while Jonathan Mayo of (who apparently used to play basketball with my brother) has him going to the San Diego Padres at #25. It definitely appears that Eldridge will go in the first round, so seeing someone play before they are potentially a star was intriguing. Of course, it turns out that Eldridge didn't pitch in the game, and Oakton elected to intentionally walk him for all four plate appearances. More on this momentarily.

In preparation of writing this blog post, I searched online for a recap of the game. Some type of news article or a blog post. I came up with absolutely nothing except for this recap from the GameChanger app, which is clearly auto-generated. I guess I'll give a mini summary of the game. Tied 1-1 after 5 innings, Oakton scored 5 runs in the top of the 6th. While I might be wrong on the specifics, I believe that Oakton retired the first Madison batter in the bottom of the 6th before intentionally walking Eldridge. This makes no sense to me. Yes, Eldridge is the best player on the field, but the worst-case scenario is that he hits a solo home run. Maybe you think there's a 75% chance that he'll get on base, but that's still a 25% chance that he gets out. Of course, Eldridge came around to score and Madison ended up putting up 4 runs after a series of hits and errors. Then, down 6-5 in the bottom of the 7th (the last inning), Madison scored two runs including the walk-off hit batter which GameChanger described in great detail with multiple quotes from managers and players. A little local journalism would have been nice.

The highlight for the kids was the chance to meet Eldridge after the game. He stuck around on the field and was gracious in signing autographs for kids while he probably would have preferred celebrating the win with his teammates, family, and friends. I'm now definitely rooting for him, and my kids are too.

Once again, I show that I'm terrible at writing blog posts titles. There are probably countless options better than the one here.

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