Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Opening Round playoff results

It takes different teams a different length of time to “click" and finally start playing up to their level of potential. Some teams hit thal level from the opening gates, while other teams need to ramp up to their peak level. And some teams never do reach that point, for any number of reasons.

Last night was the Opening Round of the playoffs, and going into the game, I was pretty convinced that we were going to be in the “never reached our potential” camp. It’s not that our record was that bad in the regular season – we were 5-3, and the No. 6 seed out of 16 teams, and two of our losses were by one run – but it’s just that the majority of our wins were a lot harder than they needed to be, where we let inferior opponents hang around because we were unfocused and making a lot of dumb plays. Eventually, that’s what doomed us against Smurfageddon last week – we put ourselves in such a big hole, that even a huge last-inning rally wasn’t enough, when in truth we shouldn’t have needed to rally at all if we just played like we’re capable of playing.

I’m generally very, very skeptical that a team can just “flip the switch” come playoff time – I tend to believe that you learn habits (good and bad) during the season, and that at some point you can’t get away from those habits; in short, you are who you are buy the time the playoffs come.

I don’t want to use last night as an indication, because it was just one game, but…maybe I’m wrong, about my theory and about our team. Because I’ll be damned if we didn’t go out against a pretty good team (Mean Girls and Boys Next Door) and lay the hammer to them from the opening pitch on. The final score was 12-4, and it really could have been even more lopsided.

Without question, it was our best overall game of the season. Everyone, and I mean everyone, contributed. I believe we either scored in four of the five innings or in all five (Scott?) which means that the entire line-up was doing good things. And not just big kicks, but kicks that got people on base and moved runners over. All the little things that championship teams do but we had forgotten for most of the season.

I have to give a personal shout out to Julie P., who had to be arm-twisted by her brother Scott P. and her good friend Michael into playing this season. She’s been playing catch-up in adjusting to playing with a bunch of veterans since Day One, but no one has wanted to improve more than her. And guess what happened last night? She went 2-for-2 and kicked in a pair of runs. Afterwards, she came up to Scott J. and I at the bar and let us know how much fun she had last night.

And she’s right – last night was the most fun I had all season. And as much as I’d like to say that it had nothing to do with winning or losing, I know that’s a lie. Yes, I’ve had a lot of fun in games I’ve lost; and yes, I’ve won games and not had a lot of fun. But, as Chuck Klosterman said, if you are going to play a sport, winning is the logical thing to try and do. More importantly, I think we’ve finally “clicked” – there might be a few minor things to improve upon, but I think we’re right where we want to be.

It only took us eight games to get there.

(Side Note: Scott J. pointed this out to us last night - we are on the fifth season of kickball in the Studio Division, and there has only been one round of kickball play (regular season week or tournament round like Quarterfinals, Semifinals or Finals) that we haven't been involved in - the Championship Game of the first season. Since then, if there's a round of games being played, we've been involved (except for Wild Card round playoff games, since we've avoided those). We need two more wins to keep that alive this season.

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