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Don’t look to me for coherence.

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In the brief interregnum between snowstorms I was able to get to the first weekend college baseball of the year — always a big deal around here.

Over in Bethlehem, Moravian College did battle in a doubleheader with Catholic University of America, which is apparently a ranked team in whatever division it calls home.

I surprised myself by staying through the wind and cold to watch the entire (seven-inning) first game, which Catholic won 3-2. I hadn’t thought I was jonesing that hard for baseball, but I guess I must have been. It felt good to watch the choreography of the warmups — third baseman whips to second, who whips to first, who tosses to short, and like that.

Both teams played well, with relatively few errors or slop. The final out came on a bang-bang play at the plate that could have tied it for the home team. It made for a dramatic final play … and I was content not to watch extra innings.

As always, I indulged my hobby of taking amateur photos of the game.

I am the last person in America (here I go with that again) who buys digital point-and-shoots; as my old Kodak has finally bit the dust, I had a new Canon to break in. It seems to work acceptably.

I’ll post some of the better pix here, just ’cause that’s what I do, and also because it will give me something to look at at work on Wednesday while six to eight inches of snow pile up outside.

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Warmups.

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Did I mention the new camera has a fisheye setting?

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Out.

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No. 14 has just hit one off the scoreboard in right to bring Moravian within one. As close as they got, alas.

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The game’s last play. Single to the outfield; Moravian runner on second tries to score …

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… and doesn’t.

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As the smoke clears and the players drift away, the catcher still has the ball in his glove.

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Baseball again.

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Regular readers know: Every year I go to college baseball games as early as I can in March. And then I come back and blog about ’em.

I rang in the season last Saturday by going to see the Lehigh Carbon Community College Cougars take on the Penn State-Worthington Scranton Lions.

Nothing noteworthy to say about it except LCCC whipped up on PSUWS 19-3 and they stopped the game early, after five-and-a-half innings. Penn State WS appeared to have only about a dozen active players during the national anthem, and the whole thing was kind of a mismatch from the word go.

The usual photos were taken and you get to look at some.

LCCC scored in every inning, which doesn't happen that often, even in short games.

LCCC scored in every inning, which doesn’t happen that often, even in short games.

A storklike warmup.

A storklike warmup.

I would shoot B&W more often if it didn't torque my battery.

I would shoot B&W more often if it didn’t torque my battery.

If I pitched in that game I wouldn't show my face either.

If I pitched in that game I wouldn’t show my face either.

Baseball ready.

Baseball ready.

Anchors aweigh.

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Usually, when I go to see a baseball game, the thought floats in the back of my mind: Will I see one of these guys on TV someday, playing in the majors?

At the college games I attend, the answer is pretty much “no,” as my local schools are not hothouses of pro talent. (There are occasional exceptions.)

Today, on a gorgeous 80-degree day, I went to see the Midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy play a game against Lehigh University.

And I thought, as I often do when I see Army or Navy come to this area: Will I see one of these guys in a televised briefing someday, explaining a military action?

On the baseball field, the young men of Army or Navy look and perform no differently than the young men of Lafayette or Lehigh. There’s no real reason for me to think about their futures, any more than I should look at the Lehigh kids and think: Hmmm, wonder if he’ll be an engineer with IBM or General Motors?

Still, I often find myself thinking about the unique career path the Army and Navy players are headed down, and wondering if there could be a future Chief of Naval Operations or Chief of Staff of the Army out on the field playing long-toss.

(A quick online search does not indicate that any recent Navy top brass are former ballplayers … though I did learn that Joe Bellino and Roger Staubach, two Midshipmen better known for their football exploits, are both former captains of the Navy baseball team.)

The one Navy ballplayer I will remember by name is Luke Gillingham, the starting pitcher in game one of today’s doubleheader.

Gillingham has clearly mastered the important military skill of executing orders, because he went out today and obeyed the commands given by pitching coaches since time immemorial: Work fast, throw strikes and get ahead in the count.

The result was an impressive seven-inning one-hitter, as they only play seven innings on doubleheader days. It was the lowest-hit complete game I’ve ever seen at any kind of organized level. (I saw a rain-shortened no-hitter once at the beer-league level, which shouldn’t really count for anything, though it was a fun night.)

Gillingham struck out 11 batters, only got into a jam once, and seemed just about as strong at the end of the game as he was at the beginning; I suspect he could have worked the full nine if he’d absolutely had to. It was a pleasure to watch.

I do not hope I ever see Luke Gillingham on TV explaining why we’re sending battleships to some distant part of the globe.

But if I do, I will think: Y’know, I’ve seen this guy in command somewhere before…

Luke Gillingham and his catcher celebrate after the last out.

Luke Gillingham and his catcher celebrate after the last out.

Swing and a miss.

Swing and a miss.

Another swing, another miss.

Another swing, another miss.

Dealing.

Dealing.

A couple of Navy subs (no pun intended) watch from the bullpen. I believe the military term for their role in the game is "JAFO."

A couple of Navy subs (no pun intended) watch from the bullpen. I believe the military term for their role in the game is “JAFO.”

One guy on that ballfield -- and only one -- knew how to wear his socks. Sad.

One guy on that ballfield — and only one — knew how to wear his socks. Sad.

Lehigh's new infield is entirely fake turf -- including the basepaths -- and balls hit off it send up odd sprays of dirt.

Lehigh’s new infield is entirely artificial turf — including the basepaths and the area around home plate — and balls hit off it send up odd sprays of dirt.

Good game.

Good game.

CITY BASEBALL.

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Yesterday’s outing for a baseball game at Lafayette College was insufficient to ease my pent-up jones; I had to go to another one today.

Today I took the kids to Moravian College in Bethlehem for an ultra-small-school matchup with Elizabethtown College (it’s somewhere else in Pennsylvania; I forget where.)

Another day, another extra-innings thriller. Moravian’s pitchers only allowed three hits in 10 innings, and the Greyhounds finally put together two walks and a single in the bottom of the 10th to win the game 3-2.

(Today’s game was again to be the first of a doubleheader, but other interests kept me from watching the second, including the dinner whose preparation I am blowing off to write this.)

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The great joy of Moravian’s home field, Gillespie Field, is that it’s tucked into a city block in the middle of downtown Bethlehem — maybe not the precise middle, but work with me.

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Unlike other local college ballparks — which are either on campuses, or part of off-campus athletic field complexes — Gillespie Field is surrounded by residential streets with old brick houses. It’s a cool, rootsy setting, and one I always enjoy.

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Unfortunately, since my last visit, the school has erected a couple of high fences surrounding the field — presumably to protect adjoining homes from the hazards of foul balls. It’s a sound bit of town-gown compromise, but it’s tough to shoot pictures through.

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No matter. It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon. And, between this and the Lafayette game, I feel like spring is well and truly here, at long last.

Some more pictures, then:

Elizabethtown is another of those schools that uses a contraction of its name on its jerseys, rather than its team nickname ("Blue Jays").

Elizabethtown is another of those schools that uses a contraction of its name on its jerseys, rather than its team nickname (“Blue Jays”).

Another gorgeous ballpark-in-the-city shot. I'm gonna buy that little brick house and walk to the games.

Another gorgeous ballpark-in-the-city shot. I’m gonna buy that little brick house and walk to the games. (And then I’m gonna put a sign on the roof that says “450.”)

It looks like there's not enough dugout to hold the Moravian massive. (Some of these pix might look better if you click to see 'em larger.)

It looks like there’s not enough dugout to hold the Moravian massive. (Some of these pix might look better if you click to see ’em larger.)

One shift clocks off, the next shift punches in.

One shift clocks off, the next shift punches in.

Warmups.

Warmups.

E'town's first baseman is about to wing the ball across the diamond to catch a Moravian runner trying to take third on the groundout. Something like a 6-3-5 double play.

E’town’s first baseman is about to wing the ball across the diamond to catch a Moravian runner trying to take third on the groundout. Something like a 6-3-5 double play.

Blondie doesn't know it, but this game has only minutes to live.

Blondie doesn’t know it, but this game has only minutes to live.

The Moravian victory pileup begins, as the aforementioned Blondie and his mates leave the field.

The Moravian victory pileup begins, as the aforementioned Blondie and his mates leave the field.

Postgame victory huddle.

Postgame victory huddle.

BASEBALL BASEBALL BASEBALL.

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As sure as the robins return to herald the spring, the venerable traditions of our vernal roots rekindle themselves anew, and OH HELL THERE WAS BASEBALL LIVE BASEBALL IN THE LEHIGH VALLEY COLLEGE BASEBALL LIVE BASEBALL BASEBALL BASEBALL BASEBALL BASEBALL BASEBALL.

Yes, after two washed-out weekends, at least one local college baseball team finally got to take the field today.

At the start of the day, Lafayette College was one of only 33 Division I baseball programs that hadn’t played a home game yet. Now they’ve played two, and I saw some of both.

It was cold as hell and also amazing. The routine tics and motions and noises and set-pieces of the college baseball diamond are charming as ever.

(The ones that happen off the diamond are welcome too. It was a pleasure as always to watch the players eating sandwiches with their parents between games, or to see two players walking to the bathroom and catch a bit of their conversation: “On that three-and-one count…”)

Lafayette’s opponent today was the Crusaders of the College of the Holy Cross, and their first game was a dandy. At the end of the regulation seven innings, Holy Cross had one hit, Lafayette had three or four, and neither team had a run.

(Lafayette’s starting first baseman was Toby Schwartz, whose heroics last season were immortalized in this space. Schwartz came up twice today with runners on, but couldn’t drive them in. Ah, well. Riding high in April, shot down in May.)

Both starting pitchers shone — Lafayette’s David Bednar struck out 10 hitters, while Holy Cross’s Donny Murray (of Walpole, Mass.) took a line drive to the midsection but kept pitching anyway.

In the top of the eighth, with the bases loaded, a Holy Cross hitter chopped a ball off the plate that rolled maybe 25 feet. Lafayette catcher Parker Hills couldn’t quite make the scoop and tag, and Holy Cross’s Alex Voitik snuck past him from third with the only run of the game.

Maybe one of the better sports action pix I've ever taken, not that that's setting the bar that high.

Maybe one of the better sports action pix I’ve ever taken, not that that’s setting the bar that high.

I hung around for the first inning or so of Game 2, which Holy Cross apparently also won 1-0. For all the pleasure of being back in baseball’s presence, I had had enough of the wind for one day.

I didn’t need to glut myself: It was only the start of the season, and there would be plenty more opportunities.

In addition to Mr. Schwartz, I was pleased to see a couple of memorable Lafayette Leopards back for another year.

Relief pitcher Connor McMahon is a sidearmer, and one of the most pronounced sidearmers I can remember seeing. His entrance music is Men At Work’s “Down Under,” he’s pretty good, and he’s always fun to watch.

McMahon works to the plate.

McMahon works to the plate.

Also back is third baseman Tyler Hudson, the only one of this pajama-panted bunch who wins points for style. With his shaggy hair, horseshoe mustache and stirrups rampant, he looks like he stepped straight off the roster of the ’77 California Angels.

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Not that much more to say, really; so I’ll give this post over to a couple more pictures and bring it to a close BASEBALL BASEBALL BASEBALL BASEBALL BASEBALL.

Lafayette's first-base coach. Did I mention it was cold?

Lafayette’s first-base coach. Did I mention it was cold?

The three-and-one-count conversation.

The three-and-one-count conversation.

McMahon again. The left fielder and umpire look like they're saying to each other, "Damn, that's weird-looking."

McMahon again. The left fielder and umpire look like they’re saying to each other, “Damn, how’s he do that?”

Now THOSE are freakin' stirrups.

Now THOSE are freakin’ stirrups.

Mound conference. Toby Schwartz at far right, hand jammed blithely in pocket.

Mound conference. Toby Schwartz at far right, hand jammed blithely in pocket.

It's a beautiful day for a high leg kick.

It’s a beautiful day for a high leg kick.

Donny Murray, who has just been nailed by a line drive, recovers to pick up the ball and throw the batter out at first.

Donny Murray, who has just been nailed by a line drive, recovers to pick up the ball and throw the batter out at first.

Good game. Here's to many more.

Good game. Here’s to many more.

Take a bow, Toby Schwartz.

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Today was the last day of the 2014 college baseball regular season here in the Lehigh Valley, and it went out in high style on the wind-whipped field of Lafayette College.

(The wind, like Chekhov’s gun, remains in the background for now, but will emerge as significant before our tale is told and done.)

The day began, oddly enough, with a case of white guilt … but first, a little background is in order.

I like to catch games with unfamiliar visiting teams. I’ll watch anybody play baseball. But, like a birder, I prefer a rarely seen species to something familiar.

There are certain colleges that come here a lot because they’re in the same league as our local schools. For instance, Bucknell, Army and Holy Cross are in the same league as Lehigh and Lafayette, so their teams are in town pretty frequently.

Then there are teams that seemingly only come here because they’re within bus-ride range and have a free weekend.

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Lafayette’s opponent today, North Carolina Central University, was totally unknown to me. I could not recall having heard of the school before, and I looked forward to adding it to my collection of sightings.

Wikipedia tells me that North Carolina Central is a historically black university whose student body is still 85 percent African-American.

That’s probably why I’ve never heard of it.

And that embarrasses me deeply — to know there are 100-year-old public institutions of which I am completely ignorant, just because they’re not athletically prominent and my lily-white personal circles don’t include anyone who went there.

It reminded me of the way I felt about 10 years ago when I learned of the death of John H. Johnson, the founder and publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines.

It occurred to me I’d never read a complete issue of either publication — which seemed like a major blind spot in my knowledge of my country. We’re talking about the education and culture of millions of Americans, and I couldn’t know less about it.

Feeling like a cad, then, I settled in to watch the newly introduced Eagles of North Carolina Central do battle with the Leopards of Lafayette.

The fledglings flew upside-down for an inning or two. There was an errant pickoff throw to second, and an air-mailed throw to first by the shortstop, and a near-collision between two outfielders, and for a while the visitors had more errors than hits.

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NCCU rallied in the fourth inning to tie things 3-3.

Two innings later, a Lafayette batter hit a long fly ball with the wind behind it. It bounced off the top of the yellow protective ribbing on the right-field fence and skipped over for a home run. I’d never seen that happen before; it seemed like luck might be going Lafayette’s way.

It was until the eighth, when the wind rose up and bit the Leopards. Lafayette’s left fielder dropped a playable fly ball, leading to a three-run rally that put North Carolina Central up 6-4.

Last time I saw Lafayette play, they dug themselves a hole, rallied in the ninth, but fell short.

I kinda expected the same result today. So I was — still am — a little stunned by the suddenness and ferocity of the Leopards’ response. The bottom of  the ninth, play by play:

– Leadoff pinch-hit home run (to right field again); score 6-5

– Single (by senior center fielder Andrew Santomauro, one of four Leopards playing their last college game)

– Sacrifice bunt advancing the runner to second

– Two-run game-winning jack (guess where) by late-inning substitution Toby Schwartz, who was listed in the game program as a left-handed pitcher but was playing first base because … well, because fate commanded, I guess.

(Young Mr. Schwartz was an unlikely candidate for heroics. Or so I gathered from his teammates’ celebratory postgame whoops of “Fuckin’ Toby Schwartz, man!” The thought crossed my mind that Toby Bleeping Schwartz might be to North Carolina Central fans what Bucky Bleeping Dent used to be to Red Sox fans.)

Pile-on.

Pile-on.

As the saying goes, it was not the kind of game you would use to teach anybody how to play baseball.

But it was a damned entertaining game to watch, building to a wonderful climax. And next spring’s college baseball season is going to have to go a long way to beat it.

I took my usual 7,000 pictures while I was at the game. So I’ll stop frothing at the mouth and say goodbye to another season with a gallery of images. Click to see ’em larger if you want.

Lafayette honored its four graduating seniors before the game. These moments are always sweet.

Lafayette honored its four graduating seniors before the game. These moments are always sweet. (Arrayed in front of them, but not visible in the photo, are their teammates, lined up in front of the home dugout, giving them a round of applause.)

Dude on the right, stop yawning.

Dude on the right, stop yawning.

About five seconds after a strikeout.

About five seconds after a strikeout.

Mound conference. The Lafayette pitcher who came into the game about 30 seconds later is visible in the background, warming up in Lafayette's pine-shaded bullpen.

Mound conference. The Lafayette pitcher who came into the game about 30 seconds later is visible in the background, warming up in Lafayette’s pine-shaded bullpen.

Apparently knowing of my fondness for sidearmers, Lafayette's manager made sure to bring in a real sidearmer, Connor McMahon, to pitch. (He ended up getting the win.)

Apparently knowing of my fondness for funky arm angles, Lafayette’s manager made sure to bring in a real sidearmer, Connor McMahon, to pitch. (He ended up getting the win.)

One of the great things about college ball is how close the players are. (From time to time they even wander into the public bathroom.) In this pic, two prospective Lehigh pinch-hitters have wandered into the public area near the stands to loosen up their swings.

One of the great things about college ball is how close the players are. (From time to time they even wander into the public bathroom.) In this pic, two prospective Lafayette pinch-hitters have wandered into the public area near the stands to loosen up their swings.

Also spotted in the public area: Legend-in-waiting Toby Schwartz, warming up to enter the game at first base.

Also spotted in a public area: Legend-in-waiting Toby Schwartz, warming up to come in at first base.

Left fielder Matthew Lawrence, who dropped a fly ball in the top of the eighth, has just been thrown out in the bottom of the inning trying to take an extra base. I was standing right behind third when he was tagged out, and I can still see his expression as he popped up out of his slide -- the wide-eyed grimace of a man who has awoken from one nightmare to find himself in another.

Left fielder Matt Lawrence, who dropped the fly ball in the top of the eighth, has just been thrown out in the bottom of the inning trying to take an extra base. I was standing right behind third when he was tagged out, and I can still see his expression as he popped up out of his slide — the wide-eyed grimace of a man who has awoken from one nightmare to find himself in another.

Toby Schwartz settles into the batter's box ...

Bottom of the ninth. Toby Schwartz settles into the batter’s box …

... swings for the fences ...

… swings for the fences …

... game over.

… game over.

I love this shot. The Lafayette players are practically dancing with glee, while the North Carolina Central players ... well, the bus is waiting.

I love this shot. The Lafayette players are practically dancing with glee, while the North Carolina Central players … well, the bus is waiting.

I like this one too. Toby Schwartz's batting helmet lies abandoned in the foreground; after all, he won't be needing it.

I like this one too. Toby Schwartz’s helmet lies abandoned in the foreground; he won’t be needing it.

See you next spring.

See you next spring.

 

What Easter means to me, Part 2.

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Today was a nice day — windy, sunny, mid-60s — so I spent several hours of my Easter Sunday watching college baseball.

It was a thriller, too. The Leopards of Lafayette College dug themselves a 5-1 hole against the Bison of Bucknell University. Going into the bottom of the seventh, Lafayette had only three hits. (This being a doubleheader, the first game was only seven innings.)

Then Bucknell’s manager left his starting pitcher in too long. And hit by hit, walk by walk, Lafayette improbably chipped away until it was 5-4, with the bases loaded and only one out.

It died there. The next hitter struck out, and the final hitter flied out down the right-field line. The Lafayette fans felt disappointed; not being that loyal to the Leopards, I was perfectly content.

As always, I took bunches and bunches of pictures with my little point-and-shoot. And you get to see the “best” of them. Click to see ’em larger, if you want:

The throw has pulled Lafayette's first baseman off the bag, and Bucknell's runner is diving to avoid a tag. He was safe.

The throw has pulled Lafayette’s first baseman off the bag, and Bucknell’s runner is diving to avoid a tag. He was safe.

Sweet play by Bucknell's third baseman on a slow roller.

Sweet play by Bucknell’s third baseman on a slow roller.

Way too many pajama pants on the field, but there were a few proper pairs of stirrups to be seen.

Way too many pajama pants on the field, but there were a few proper pairs of stirrups to be seen.

All eyes are on this guy 'cause he's just gone deep.

All eyes are on this guy ’cause he’s just gone deep.

Action in the Lafayette pen, which is partially set off from the field by a small grove of pines.

Action in the Lafayette pen, which is partially set off from the field by a small grove of pines.

Second-base ump called a balk; the pitcher is protesting that the home-plate ump had called time. He had.

Second-base ump called a balk. The pitcher is protesting that the home-plate ump had called time. He had.

Two away, top of the seventh.

Two away, top of the seventh.

Lafayette's last pitcher of the day sported high-cut stirrups -- an unusual look in local college ball. Usually it's either stripes or pajamas.

Lafayette’s last pitcher of the day sported high-cut stirrups — an unusual look in local college ball. Usually it’s either stripes or pajamas.

I've said in the past I always take pix of submarine-style pitchers. This guy isn't a proper submariner -- he's more of a Tony Fossas-style thrower, somewhere between sidearm and three-quarters. I took his pic anyway. Funky arm angles rule.

I’ve said in the past I always take pix of submarine-style pitchers. This guy isn’t a proper submariner — he’s more of a Tony Fossas-style thrower, somewhere between sidearm and three-quarters. I took his pic anyway. Funky arm angles rule.

While the funky sidearmer was warming up, this prospective Lafayette pinch-hitter came out of the dugout for a sneak preview.

While the funky sidearmer was warming up, this prospective Lafayette pinch-hitter came out of the dugout for a sneak preview.

The last-ditch bid to win one for Hilton Rahn '51 comes up just short.

The last-ditch bid to win one for Hilton Rahn ’51 comes up just short.

Spring at last.

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Still holding out for at least one more comment on my latest music trivia quiz before I publish the answers. Anybody?

My three regular readers know I thirst for the annual start of college baseball.

Even in the most clement of years, the arrival of live baseball pretty much signals the start of spring.

And this past winter has hardly been clement. I’ve waited an extra fortnight for the first local college ball: Two weeks’ worth of local games have been cancelled because the fields were in such poor shape. (Moravian College posted photos online of its players shoveling snow off the infield, trying in vain to get their field ready for play.)

I love college baseball because it’s so frill-free. Only within the past two or three years have the biggest colleges in my area started playing walk-up music for batters, for example.

The ceaseless, breathless promotions that drive me nuts at the local minor-league ballpark are nowhere to be found at Lehigh or Lafayette or Moravian or Muhlenberg. There’s just … baseball. People warming up in bullpens and turning double plays and dropping fly balls.

It’s a tonic for the soul.

And, as of today, it’s back.

I dragged the rest of my family to Lehigh University’s humble ball field this afternoon for the first game of a doubleheader against Mount St. Mary’s University.

The home team had apparently been saving some hits for the occasion: Lehigh put up five runs in the first and last innings, beating Mount St. Mary’s 14-1 in a seven-inning game.

(I don’t think it was a mercy-rule thing — I think the first game of college doubleheaders is usually seven innings. Though I think Lehigh wasn’t trying all that hard to put up any more runs after it got to 10 or 11.)

Of course I brought my camera. And of course I’m going to inflict some pix on you. Click to make ’em larger if you want.

Lehigh's shortstop up with the grounder and throws to first.

Lehigh’s shortstop up with the warmup grounder and throws to first. Note the striped stirrups: Very, very stylish. Now that’s what ballplayers look like.

When your school name (Mount St. Mary's) and your team name (Mountaineers) are both too long to fit across a jersey, what do you put on it? "Mount," apparently.

When your school name (Mount St. Mary’s) and your team name (Mountaineers) are both too long to fit across a jersey, what do you put on it? “Mount,” apparently.

The lads in the Mount St. Mary's bullpen -- shown here in a rare moment of repose -- don't much seem to like getting their picture taken.

The yeggs in the Mount St. Mary’s bullpen — shown here in a rare moment of repose — don’t much seem to like getting their picture taken.

Not sure Lehigh's Joe Abeln agreed with the umpire's call on this one.

Not sure Lehigh’s Joe Abeln agreed with the umpire’s call on this one.

 

I love how close the players and fans are at college games. Not to mention the players and animals.

I love how close the players and fans are at college games. Not to mention the players and animals.

Pretty sure Lehigh's starter went the distance. He didn't have much trouble.

Pretty sure Lehigh’s starter went the distance. He didn’t have much trouble.

No. 13 seemed to get an especially heartfelt congrats after reaching base. He's not on the online roster, and I'm kinda hoping he was a walk-on who just got his first hit. But I don't know for sure.

No. 13 seemed to get an especially heartfelt congrats after reaching base. He’s not on the online roster, and I’m kinda hoping he was a walk-on who just got his first hit. But I don’t know for sure.

No. 49, whose replacement is just steps away from arrival, is either remarkably happy or totally incredulous at being yanked.

No. 49, whose replacement is just steps away from arrival, is either remarkably happy or totally incredulous at being yanked.

I will always take pictures of a sidearmer. Always. It's a rule.

I will always take pictures of a sidearmer. Always. It’s a rule.

Spring may be here, but the scars of winter linger.

Spring may be here, but the scars of winter linger.

 

 

First ups.

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Spring has returned to eastern Pennsylvania. And somewhere northwest of here, there’s a bunch of 19-year-olds celebrating its arrival with a victory pizza or three.

I always try to hit the very first live college baseball game in the Lehigh Valley each year — or at least the first game on a weekend, since I can’t get to games on work days.

Lehigh Carbon Community College and Penn State Schuylkill did the honors this year, starting at noon today.

And this season opener was more special than most.

According to the school’s athletics website, Penn State Schuylkill (it’s a regional satellite campus of the University JoePa Built) just added intercollegiate baseball this year. And the noon game, the first of a doubleheader, was their first of the year.

So this wasn’t just the birth of a new season; it was the birth of a new program, a new team. You don’t see that every day.

The starting pitcher for Penn State Schuylkill's first game walks in from his warmups. No pressure or nothin', kid.

The starting pitcher for Penn State Schuylkill’s first game walks in from his pregame warmups. No pressure or nothin’, kid.

The newcomers’ uniforms — white trimmed with gray and dark blue — reminded me a little bit of the ones once worn by the Toronto Blue Jays, which reinforced my image of Penn State Schuylkill as a sort of underdog expansion team.

Pre-game.

Pre-game.

Of course this narrative is romanticized crap, to some degree.

Since LCCC is a community college, its baseball roster completely turns over every two or three years as well. The LCCC team was scarcely an established juggernaut; it was testing its sinews and learning to play together today, just as much as its new-formed opponent.

Still, the circumstances lent every aspect of the game a tinge of novelty.

And Schuykill encouraged my narrative by coming out of the gate like an expansion team. They were down 4-0 after a half-inning, thanks to a couple of walks, a hit batsman, a deeply hit double that wasn’t far short of a grand slam, and some other slop.

The LCCC runner was safe.

The LCCC runner was safe. It looks like the guys on the Schuylkill bench know that.

But then they settled down. Their pitcher started consistently getting his offspeed pitches over for strikes. He worked his way through the second inning without a run. Same with the third, and the fourth.

Dealing.

Dealing.

As the pitcher settled down, the bats came alive. Schuylkill scored four runs to tie it in the top of the third.

This poorly photographed young gent is collecting the first base hit in Penn State Schuylkill history...

This poorly photographed young gent is collecting the first base hit in Penn State Schuylkill history…

... and, a couple minutes later, here he is celebrating their first run.

… and, a couple minutes later, here he is celebrating their first run.

And, just for historical interest, here is the first manager-umpire dispute in Penn State Schuylkill history. Didn't last long.

And, just for historical interest, here is the first manager-umpire dispute in Penn State Schuylkill history. Didn’t last long.

Once they broke through, Schuylkill began adding more runs. First one at a time, then by the bunch. They were up 8-4 or 9-4 when I left, and their website tells me they eventually won 14-4.

They lost the second game. But still, that’s not a bad way to break in, and I hope they’re pleased with the day’s efforts.

It was a gorgeous day, too. Full of sunshine and baseball sounds and baseball sights — like the father (grandpa?) and son beyond the left-field fence who alternated playing long-toss and watching the game from their distant perch.

"Next time let's get better seats, Dad."

“Next time let’s get better seats, Dad.”

I’m sure the other games I see this year won’t be historic in any way, shape or form. But if they are half as pleasant as today’s game was, it will be a good spring and summer.