Friday, May 15, 2009

We have a pulse, doctor

There always comes a point in those sports with extended regular seasons when there's no point in analyzing Pythagorean projections, scoring margin, roster strengths and weaknesses, quality of execution, tea leaves, whatever: it's about winning and only winning. Nothing else. A win means your season can continue. A loss means the opposite.

This is the point Auburn baseball has reached--win this home series against Alabama, and the NCAA Tournament is a very real possibility. Lose it, and, well, who knows, but I for one won't feel optimistic. (Not that you should take my word for it, I'll admit.) So Auburn's 3-2 win over Alabama in 10 innings last night came on a bases loaded walk--it's still the biggest, most thrilling, best win of the season. Reliever Austin Hubbard, after pitching three shutout innings that gave Auburn the chance to mount their comeback:
"We're playing like we really don't have much to lose," Hubbard said. "You kind of leave it all out there."
What Hubbard doesn't say: the reason his team is playing like it has nothing to lose is because it no longer has anything to lose. There is no longer any alternative to leaving it all out there. That was enough to get one victory--grab another, and maybe Auburn will get the chance to play that same way in the NCAAs.

Assorted reaction, first from Plainsman Parking Lot:
The biggest thing? Auburn never quit.

"The kids just kept battling back," Auburn Head Coach John Pawlowski said. "Both pitchers went out there and were dominating. We couldn't get much going, but fortunately for us we battled back."

I wish I could find the picture, but it summed it up perfectly. The change in attitude. In the 9th. Down a run. Down the their final out. Tony Caldwell came up big. Ripping a all through the gap. On TV you could see the shot from the Auburn dugout. All the player with RALLY CAPS on. That’s right. RALLY CAPS. These guys were having fun last night. They were a team and Auburn is a different team under CJP.
The Pigskin Pathos:
For every action, hobby, job, life calling out there, there is a person who pursues it with passion. An all-consuming kind of passion. A passion in which they forget to eat, sleep, talk to the outside world, everything but that one thing, the one thing they want more than anything.

The all-consuming, forget the world passion is personal. It is not a vicarious experience. It is the passion of writers, athletes, scholars, etc.

The all-consuming passion is not the passion of the sports fan, at least not the sane sports fan.

But sometimes it gets close. And when that line blurs and we forget our inherent separation from the players on the field, that is when we feel it.

An hour ago I teared up while watching Auburn baseball tie Alabama 2-2 in the ninth with 2 outs and then go on to win the game in the tenth. No tears were flowing, but the edges were starting to blur.
The Advertiser:
"I feel like our guys are confi­dent, even in the late innings," said Auburn coach John Paw­lowski. "We're fortunate we got a couple of breaks. We got the bases loaded and got a walk."

Jon Luke Jacobs turned in his best pitching performance of the season, recording a career-high nine strikeouts before turning the game over to Austin Hubbard (3-3), who surrendered just two hits and struck out five.

"You've got to credit their pitching, they did a nice job," (Alaba­ma coach Jim) Wells said. "And their reliever, he's real good. But you've got to win a game 2-1 sometimes. Our (starting) guy pitched well, their (starting) guy pitched well, their guy out of the pen was better than our guys and that was the game" ...

"That's why college baseball is such an exciting game," Paw­lowski said. "You look at all the home runs (203) by both teams and look at what transpired. Both pitchers, I thought, were dominating."
There's some ruminations on Auburn's NCAA chances at Track'Em and some reflections on the season's "intangibles" at PPL.

Next: Game 2, 6 p.m. tonight.

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