A collective roar rose from the crowd as Marshal tossed the ball back to me. From the full wind-up I leered into his glove as he flashed the sign; slider, low and in. The wind-up. The pitch. The batter held the bat at his shoulder until he realized the ball was breaking waist high, but too late to hit.
Marshal pumped his gloved hand while tossing the ball back to even louder cheers.
The next batter stepped into the box. Marshal then stood and called time, running towards the mound as the umpire threw his arms into the air yelling “tiiiime!”
“Your pitches are on fire, Chase. But let’s switch it up right here. This guy’s the only one who’s hit off you today; two doubles.”
“You wanna fake walk him, see if he bites?”
He shook his head. “After his last at-bat I read the scouting report on him again. Throw him high fastballs. Nothing but high fastballs.”
I shook my head and then Marshal ran back behind the plate, squat, and called the pitch as if nothing were wrong. The batter looked cool standing in the box, expression telling me he had no care in the world.
From the full wind-up the fastball sailed off my fingertips towards the plate chest high but flying upwards. During its approach the batter’s eyes slightly bulged while taking a swing, missing completely for strike one.
With the ball back in my glove I gripped it in the fastball position, not even waiting for Marshal to drop the signs. Once again the batter took a cut hitting nothing but air. His expression changed from cool to begrudge. With the fastball grip at the ready I stared into Marshal’s glove as I watched the batter swing again only this time he foul tipped the ball in front of Marshal where he scooped it up and then tagged him out as he ran for first base. Inning over. Five now in the books. Six strikeouts, no walks, with a pitch count under fifty. Just the kind of start I’ve needed.
On the approach back to the dugout my teammates greeted me with high fives and fist bumps. It was the first game in a while where the fielders hardly did a thing. If every game were like this one I wouldn’t mind it a bit.
Taking a seat at my place on the bench, Coach Tilden strolled over. With hands on his hips he looked at me. “Good game today, Davenport.”
“Thank you, sir. I’m good to go till the eighth if need be.”
With a hearty laugh he said, “that I do not doubt son. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. Take each inning as they come.” With that, he padded my shoulder and walked away to which I placed an earbud into each ear and tuned the world out until I was back on the mound.
The sixth inning came and went, recording another two strikeouts with the seventh passing in a breeze. One strikeout- a batter caught looking. With this win in the books my record improved to 9-4. The team also held sole possession of first place after being tied with Sacred Heart for the last four games.
Walking to the locker room I was stopped by a young kid with a couple pimples on his cheeks and glasses slipping off his nose. He shoved a micro recorder in my face while saying “Mr. Davenport, Sam Waterton here with the Wentworth Gazette. You’ve improved to nine wins this season which was faster than last year. Your fastball and slider looked especially sharp out there, too. What’s your regime before each start to have gotten you to this point?”
I had no idea our school even had a newspaper…
“Nothing, really, I just toss every other day to stay loose. But sports are unpredictable and no matter what you do something will always change the flow.”
“Can the same also be said about one’s love life?”
All I did was shrug and head into the locker room for a shower, knowing where such a question would lead to if entertained. Upon walking in a few teammates gave out more fist bumps and congrats. Others, however, never glanced in my direction. Most of who didn’t were huddled around Novak. No surprise there.
Walking into the shower room on slight tip toes to avoid getting cold soles Novak said, “maybe you should be involved in more scandals if it’ll make you pitch like that.”
Not looking back I said, “that was an average start for me despite my numbers. You, however, can’t seem to get batters out while from the stretch. So either pitch perfect games or learn not to choke under pressure.”
Rapid footsteps approached but were cut short by what sounded like interfering footsteps along with a hushed voice. I only caught part of what the voice said: “..not worth…”
Out of the shower, dressed and feeling good after a solid victory, I walked off school grounds and piled into the back of a black Lincoln town car. My parents decided to have a driver chauffeur me around until this entire ordeal blew over because in New York the press was relentless when it came to cases like this. Didn’t matter if the parties involved were mere high school students.
In the apartment, I was the first to arrive. Setting my backpack down in the hallway I made my way into the living room, outstretching on the couch while clicking the TV on. Channel surfing, I came across one of those locally broadcasted stations nobody ever talks about that produce shows that looked ancient in retrospect of what’s being done today. Flashing on the screen were scores and standings for all high schools in the five boroughs. When it got to Wentworth footage popped up of me on the mound striking out batters. It then cut to me just outside the locker room.
“Care to comment on the recent sexual assault allegations, Mr. Davenport?”
The me on TV shrugged then said “something loose always change the flow” and then I walked off.
Before I could react my phone buzzed in my pocket no doubt it being a collection of dad, Charity, and most likely my lawyer hoping to begin the process of damage control of the fallout I could already see coming.