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Pitch This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

It was the final inning of the championship game. My team was in the lead by twenty. It was obvious we had the game in the bag. My teammates and I grinned at each other. All we had to do was keep them from scoring and we would win the game. It would be easy I thought as I stepped onto the pitcher’s mound. Finally after three years, I was going to have my moment. We would be victorious.

The other team looked defeated as their batters practiced their swings. My heart was racing with a mix of excitement and adrenaline. My teammate took her position behind home plate, ready for me at any time. I took a deep breathe of the murky air and slowly pulled my arm back. I launch the ball in the air, and it arced perfectly right on to the mat. It was as natural as breathing.

It was not always this easy. The moment my coach announced to my team that we had to pitch to each other was a frightening idea. Having that much control over a game, that much responsibility, was enough to make us sweat where we stood. Scanning through my teammates, my coach asked if there were anyone wanted to be a pitcher. The team was silent; I could hear the wind pushing its way in between us as we stood on the field. Belatedly, I remembered my neighbor Zach. Every day he would come over asking if I wanted to play football or baseball with him. Football was pretty easy, but when we played baseball he would get frustrated with my poor pitching skills. He claimed that it was no fun to bat when he had to pitch the ball to himself. Thinking about how a boy two years younger than me was complaining about my lack of talent in baseball made my blood boil. Before I knew it, my hand was raised high in the air. “I’ll become a pitcher!” I exclaimed. My coach was bewildered at my interest but nevertheless he took two of my teammates and I aside to teach us the fundamentals of pitching. I laughed at the mound as I stretched my arm between warm up pitches. I really had grown as the girl that could not throw a ball straight to an ace pitcher.

Finally the batter stepped up to the plate, it was show time. I pulled my arm back and like a catapult I swung my arm ahead of myself, releasing the ball. The batter swings, “Strike,” called the empire. I was ecstatic. This will be easy, I thought, I’ll be home before dinner. The catcher returned the ball and I prepared to throw my next pitch. The batter narrowed her eyes at me, focused on my next pitch. I pulled back my arm once more, releasing the ball I prepared for a hit. To my dismay I heard the empire call, “Ball!” The batter did not swing nor did my pitch hit the mat. I threw another pitch, another, and finally one more. I had walked the batter.

Now I've been frustrated with my pitching before. I remember my hoarse breath, the sweat dripping down my brow, and the encouragement from my teammates. My heart was racing in my chest, my first game. Nothing seemed to go right; my pitches no longer hit the mat. I wanted to cry, my big debut as a pitcher only to begin in failure, it was the end of world. Feeling discouraged, I slumped my way to the mound. I faced the batter and froze. She was smirking. She knew if she just sat back and watched my pitches go by, she would be around the bases in no time. My body stiffened, my hand shook useless at my sides. I was ready to give up but from the sidelines I heard my coach yell, “Get in your zone!” I turned to him and nodded. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, my hands floated up and slowly I lowered them as I meditated in the middle of the field. I open my eyes and stared at the batter before me with a new determination. My body forgot my nervousness and, with grace, my arm pulled back and pushed forward and I finally saw the ball hit the mat. My excitement drowned out the empire’s call, but I knew I had my groove back.

I only wished it would return as I continued to pitch the championship game, but I continued to watch as the opponent’s score went up point by point. I could feel my team’s frustration at my back, it was my fault they were catching up. Because of me, we might lose. From the sidelines my coach called for a timeout. My teammates and I gathered around. I could not bear to look at their disappointed expressions. My coach stood in front of us and asked, “Who wants to sub in pitching?” My heart sank, tears welled in my eyes. I was not good enough. I glimpsed at the other pitchers on my team, they were shaking their heads. The girl beside me whispered, “I think Allison should continue pitching.” What I thought was consolation was really a quiet plea that resounded throughout the entire team. Encouragement echoed throughout the field, “I believe in Allison,” “Allison can do it,” “I trust Allison.” The coach turned to me and asked, “Can you do it?” I nodded with confidence that I could fulfill my team’s dream.

Stepping out onto the field the crowd went wild; they were ready to see us make a comeback. See me make a comeback. I closed my eyes once more and imagined my zone. I called upon my inner Buddha once last time and I took my stance at the mound. I narrowed my eyes focusing all my energy on the mat. I took a deep breath and released my arm, pulling it back and pushing it forward, tightening the muscles in my arm, propelling the ball to go straight. “Strike!” calls the empire. I froze. I did it. I DID IT. I can do this. I put my all into the following pitches and two strikes later, she is out. My teammates cheered, “one down three to go.” The next batter swings and knocks the ball into the outfield, I was sure that my teammates would catch it, and they did not disappoint. All we needed was one more out. I took one last deep breath and I released the ball. Strike. Ball. Ball. Strike. Ball. My heart raced; in one pitch I could end this game. In one pitch, we could win. I released the pitch and held my breath. I watched as the batter relaxed and take a step back and the ball landed halfway on the mat and halfway off of it. I start to sweat, my confidence fading away from me while each millisecond passed. The empire finally looked up and with a fist in the air he announced, “STRIKE!” My team started wildly cheering, releasing all the stress, the relief, and the happiness they held within themselves. After three long games and one excruciatingly long inning, we finally did it. We were the champions.



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