First Impressions


Last night’s 1-0 Virginia win over Florida in the College World Series was, for me, anyway, an exercise in the power of first impressions, and the value of keeping score.

Florida’s offense had looked scary the whole post-season, winning games with 19, 11, 13, and 8 runs.  Their only close game was in the regionals, the 2-1 clincher over Florida Atlantic.

So when Brandon (don’t call me “Rube“) Waddell opened up with a 20-pitch first inning, including an opening out that was a couple of feet short of a home run, a walk, and a hit batter, it stayed with me the whole game.  The impression was one of a starting pitcher who got rattled by that first batter almost taking him deep, and took a while to settle down.  It was reinforced by a lead-off infield single in the second, and aided by the ungodly amount of time he was taking between pitches.

He was certainly throwing hard, but he wasn’t striking guys out.  And because Virginia only put up the one run, and because its pitching had been shaky (Waddell’s own stats this year haven’t been world-beating), and because college baseball is still shaking off its decades-long reputation of having beer-league softball scores, it didn’t feel dominant, it felt like Waddell was tiptoeing on the edge of disaster.

Had I been keeping score, I would have seen how much he was owning the Gators.  His line until the 8th – when he left with nobody out and runners at the corners – really was dominant.  From the 2nd through the 7th, Waddell faced only one batter over the minimum, and had only two baserunners in all.  He averaged something line 10 pitches an inning during that span, but it wasn’t until the 7th that I looked up and realized the Florida pitcher, Puk, had thrown 10 more pitches than Waddell had.  But because of that shaky first inning, where appeared not to have the confidence to pitch to the batters, I spent the better portion of the game not realizing that he had settled into a lineup-killing rhythm.

The lesson?  Bring a scorecard.

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