The Hitting Zone

Chapter 939: V3 Ch173 Heritage Oak HS (4)

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Chapter 939: V3 Ch173 Heritage Oak HS (4)

Noah shrugged. "You're right. I don't give a crap about your stats. I'm here to win games."

"In case you didn't notice, that was the tying run." Dave jerked his thumb at home plate. "We could have given it a shot. Since when did you start playing it safe?"

We all looked at Noah. Dave was right there. Noah was always a gambler. Even earlier today against University Prep.

Noah rubbed his chin and thought about it. "Okay, maybe you're right. I should have at least made that throw to Mitchell and let him decide." He pointed at Dave. "But you also need to admit that you're getting a little distracted up here."

"Yea, cause I'm getting pounded, bro." Dave waved his hands around. "Take a look. I haven't gotten one strikeout and we're almost through the lineup. I'm a bit on edge. These guys keep hacking at the ball."

"Let them. We'll use our fielding to get them out." Noah squinted. "You're not thinking of trying to replicate Kyle's nine strikeouts, are you?"

"Not anymore. Damn." Dave cursed under his breath. "I'm looking like shit all around. Can't do it on the mound or the plate. Best believe I'll be doubling my practice on Monday."

Noah rolled his eyes and hit Dave in the chest with his gloved hand. "Stay present, dude. We have a game to win first. Take it all in stride. You give up hits, but we'll get it back. These guys aren't the best on the mound either. We'll back you up with a couple of runs and you'll feel better."

"You literally just implied that I wasn't the best on the mound." Dave rolled his eyes. "Jesus. I wish I could get a do over on today."

I nodded in agreement.

Sean nudged me and gave a small shake of his head.

Oh. Dave might think that I'm thinking that he needs to start over. I coughed to clear my throat. "One run isn't a big deal."

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"And if I give up another? And another?" Dave shot back.

I looked to Noah for help.

"Then Coach pulls you and we get a less temperamental pitcher on the mound." Noah shrugged. "Not our problem." He laughed. "We're trying to help you, bro. Just calm down. One batter at a time. Tell me what's worse: giving up some hits and runs with a win? Or with a loss?"

"God. You suck." Dave started to wave. "Leave. Go. Shoo, shoo. Get away from me."

We were all kicked off the mound with the exception of Mitchell. Him and Dave shared a couple of words before he went back to his spot behind home plate. With a runner on first and two outs, the eighth batter stepped into the box.

Sean stood on first with the baserunner and I shifted over. Dave looked wild, throwing pitches everywhere but in the zone. I say look, but he was actually following Mitch's signs to throw outside, high, in the dirt, or inside. The batter swung at most of it, getting to a 2-2 count before popping the ball high up in the air. Super high. I looked up to try to find it. From the trajectory off the bat, it shouldn't leave the infield. My hat did a poor job blocking out the afternoon sun, leaving me just looking up at nothing.

"I'VE GOT IT!" Noah yelled. I looked at him and saw him running my way, looking up.

Instinctively, I started to back up.

The runner on first had long taken off, tagged second and was on his way to third.

"Jake, move!"

"Out of the way!"

"Watch out!"

A lot of yells had me more confused. Move? Move where? I was already backing up.<> </>

I was suddenly yanked by the back of my jersey, nearly choked. How familiar. I looked up at Dave, but his eyes were on Noah. Noah was tracking the ball down and caught it somewhere between first and second. Kind of where I was standing the whole time. Oops.

"Out!" The umpire signaled the end of the inning.

Dave sighed with relief. He let go of my jersey and fixed my collar for me. "Sorry, Jake. Didn't mean to choke you out like that."

"It's okay. I didn't know where to go." I rubbed my neck as we headed back to the dugout together.

Dave laughed. "Yea, I could tell. That's okay, the sun got in the way."

"Didn't get in Noah's way." I looked back just in time for Noah to join us.

Noah had thrown his arm around my neck. "Of course not! I've got the reflexes of a cat. This is a natural talent."

"You know cats don't have the fastest reflexes in the world of animals, right?" Dave asked.

We got in the dugout.

"Yea, but I don't want to compare myself to a fly. Cuz then you would say-"

"Shoo, fly, don't bother me." Dave laughed and pushed the two of us away.

"Predictable." Noah muttered.

We separated at our bags. I started to change out my gear. I was first up this inning.

"Do your best for a homerun." Noah lowered his voice. "We need some runs to comfort Dave. Or he's going to be a wreck all game."

I nodded in understanding. Dave wasn't usually on edge, but he might feel pressured with how well Kyle did this morning. Kyle was the same way when he saw his identical twin do well while he struggles. I couldn't tell if it was a twin complex or just a pitcher problem.

I tugged the batting gloves on and grabbed my bat. I headed out, not receiving any special directions from Coach. Garret was just a couple steps behind me, coming out ready for his at bat too.

We took practice swings, watching the pitcher warm up.

The umpire called me up and my name was announced.

"Let's go, Jake!" My name echoed throughout the stands and dugout. I wanted to look for Mom and Dad, but I didn't want to risk seeing people I didn't want to see. I couldn't let them get to me. Not when Dave needs some run support.

I stepped up, picking the lefty's box. I tapped my bat against the plate, then pulled my bat back, set and ready. I wanted to return the same attitude that these guys have been having against Dave. Attack the first pitch. Too bad the first pitch was low. I let it pass for a ball. For a chance at a home run, I needed something higher. I didn't have the strength to golf it out of here.

The second pitch looked a little outside but maybe it could work. I swung fast, arms outstretched. The bat hit the ball and flew down the left field line. I didn't run right away, watching the ball, praying it would stay fair. The left fielder sprinted for the corner but he didn't make it in time. The ball stayed fair and made it over the fence.

I jumped a little as I hurried to do my run around the bases. I slapped hands with Coach Luis at first and then with Mr. Miller at third. At home plate, Garret slapped me on the head and handed me my bat. Sean did the same slap on the head when I passed him coming out of the dugout. Then high-fived the rest of the team as I headed back for my spot.

Dave was there waiting with Noah. He picked me up and placed me on the bench. "Bambi hits bombs! I should see if Mr. Cameron can use that as a headline when he writes about our wins this weekend."

Noah laughed. "I don't think too many people will understand unless we explain Jake's nickname."

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