A hit to cherish

Written by Bob on October 12th, 2010

Named to the NAFA AA-Major All World team were Manor’s Christopher Torres, Peter Saldana-Rodriguez (front row, far right), Jason Chagoya, and Corey Avery. From the Toros, Jaime Garcia, Jr., Boomer Berry, Kyle Brown, and Tony Buckley were selected All World. Avery was selected the Most Valuable Pitcher, while Buckley was named the Most Valuable Player.

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DES MOINES, WEST DES MOINES, IA – Peter Saldana-Rodriguez stepped into the right-side batter’s box. The bases were loaded. Tim Schultz was on third, Will Sandifer on second, Chris Torres on first.

For over three hours, the Texas Manor Dirt Bags and New Image of Monfort, WI. were locked in a battle in the NAFA World Series “AA-Major” playoffs. The score was tied, 1-1, in the 14th inning.

Like two iron-willed poker players playing for high stakes, the game had everything riding on it. The winner advances to the championship game. While the loser goes home.

And all alone in the batter’s box stood Rodriguez with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 14th. He could hear his Manor Dirt Bag teammates imploring him to wait on the change up and just meet the ball.

Much easier said than done.

For on the mound stood the imposing, 6-foot-2, and 240 pound, Jeramie Holman. New Image’s ace hurler, long considered one of the best – if not the best intermediate pitcher in North America.

And most agree that Holman owns the best change up in the game. A pitch that leaves the best hitters lunging like drunken sailors throwing wild punches and hitting nothing but air.

Just relax, sit back, and meet the ball Rodriguez told himself, while taking a deep breath. But Holman had already slipped two strikes by Rodriguez and controlled the battle of wills with an 0-2 count.

“He had just thrown me two change ups,” Rodriguez said, “that I swung at and missed…”

But not the third time.

Holman wound up and delivered. But this time Rodriguez was ready. “Change up,” his eyes told his hands. “Wait, wait…” And then like a Texas Timber Rattler striking out at a helpless cottontail, his hands whipped the bat around, driving the ball into the hole between short and third. And in raced Schultz with the winning run.

Within seconds of touching first base, Rodriguez’ teammates embraced, mobbed, and greeted him with high-fives, and “aata boy’s.”

But there was little time to celebrate. For the championship game was about to start. A game that the Manor Dirt Bags went on to win, 2-1, over the Topeka Toros to claim the “AA-Major” title, Sunday, Aug. 22.

And Rodriguez’ clutch hit helped bring it all about.

“That was definitely one of my biggest hits,” said Rodriguez, “especially since we were able to win it all, and I was able to be a part of a national championship team.”

But Rodriguez will also remember facing Holman, who not only pitches for New Image, but manages the ball club as well. A ball club that went on to finish the 2010 season with a dazzling, 95-11, record.

“The toughest pitcher in the tournament had to be Jeremy,” Rodriguez said. “For every nine change ups you might see a fastball… Everybody knows what’s coming, but his change up has so much movement and he throws it with different speeds and different arm angles that it’s hard to pick up.”

Both Holman and Rodriguez were selected to the All World team. Rodriguez had a blistering .417 batting average (5-for-12) along with two RBI’s and a stolen base.

And years from now when he’s long retired from the game, he’ll recall that moment in time when one swing of his bat sent his team on to victory and the championship.

“That hit is something I will always cherish,” Rodriguez said.

For more fastpitch news, visit these websites:
Al’s Fastball
Fastpitch West
International Softball Congress
North American Fastpitch Association

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