7. The Great Baseball Game
 

"Some crowd, this!"

"Well, I should say so! Say, this is the biggest crowd we ever had at any game."

"And look at the new grandstand, all decked out in flags and banners!"

"And look at the automobiles! We'll have to hurry up, or all the parking space will be gone."

"Hurrah, Brill! Come down here to see us defeat you, eh?" And a merry looking student, wearing the colors of Roxley on his cap, and waving a Roxley banner in his hand, grinned broadly at Tom and the others.

"No, we came to bury you," retorted Sam. "It's all over but the shouting." And then he took up one of the horns he had brought, and sounded it loudly.

"Better let me take the car to the other end of the grounds," suggested Songbird. "You fellows will want to get into your uniforms and into practice."

"Oh, we want to get good seats for the girls first," broke in Tom. "It won't take long to park the machine."

In a moment more, they found themselves in a perfect jam of touring cars, motor cycles, and carriages. Finding a suitable spot, Tom brought the touring car to a standstill, turned off the power, and placed the starting plug in his pocket. Then the entire party made its way as rapidly as possible to the grandstand, one-half of which had been reserved for the students of Brill and their friends. Here Songbird took charge of matters.

"Just leave it all to me," he said. "You fellows go in and win."

"Yes, you must win, by all means, Tom!" cried Nellie. "Just remember that I've got my eye on you."

"Yes, we all want you to win," came from Minnie Sanderson. "I am going to root-- isn't that the right word?-- for all I know how."

"That's the word!" cried Sam. "I declare, before you get through, you'll be a regular baseball fan!" And at this sally there was a general laugh.

Tom and Sam would have liked it had they been able to stay with the girls longer, but the other members of the team were already in the dressing room, donning their uniforms, and thither the Rovers made their way. A short while later, the word was passed around, and the Brill team marched out on the grounds for practice; even Sam, as a substitute, taking part. Evidently, the outsiders living in that vicinity were of the opinion that the game would be well worth seeing, for long after the grandstand and the bleachers were filled, the crowd kept coming in the several gates.

"My, but this is going to be the banner game so far as attendance goes," remarked Sam to Bob.

"Yes, and it will bring us in a neat bit of money," returned the Brill captain.

"How are they going to divide this year?"

"One-third and two-thirds," returned Bob; meaning thereby that the winning team would take two-thirds of the receipts, and the losing team the remaining third. This money, of course, did not go to the individual players, but was put into the general athletic fund of each college.

Roxley won the toss, and as a consequence, Brill went to bat first. As the first man took his position, there were cries of all sorts, mingled with the tooting of many horns and the sounds of numerous rattles.

"Now then, Brill, show 'em what you can do!"

"Knock a home run first thing!"

"Don't let 'em see first, Roxley! Kill 'em at the plate!"

The Roxley pitcher took his position, wound up; and the ball came in quickly.

"Ball one."

"That's right! Make him give you a good one."

Again the ball came in, and this time, as it was a fairly good one, the batter swung for it, and missed.

"Strike one."

"That's the talk, give him another like that, Carson!"

Again the ball came whizzing over the plate. The batsman struck it fairly, and it sailed down toward second base. The runner was off like a shot, but it availed him nothing. The second baseman caught the fly with ease.

"Hurray! One down! Now for the other two!"

The second man at the bat went out in one-two-three order. Then the third player up knocked a short fly to first.

"Three out. That's the way to do it, Roxley!"

"Now, for a few runs!"

It must be confessed that Tom was a trifle nervous when he took the ball and walked down to the box. The eyes of over twelve hundred spectators were on him, and those included the eyes of the girl he thought the dearest in all the world. He gave a short sigh, and then suddenly braced up. "I've got to do it," he muttered to himself. "I've simply got to!"

As was to be expected, Roxley had its best batters on the top of the list. The first fellow to face Tom was a hitter well-known for his prowess. As Tom had heard that this man loved a low ball, he purposely sent in the sphere rather high.

"One ball."

"That's right, Clink! Make him give you what you want."

The next ball was intended for an out-curve, but, somehow, Tom missed it, and it came in fairly over the plate. Crack! The bat connected with it, and away the sphere sailed to center field.

"Run, run!" The cry echoed from all sides, and, almost in a twinkling, Clink was down to first, and racing for second. Then, feeling that he had time to go further, he bounded onward, and slid safely to third.

"That's the way to do it! Look, a three-bagger!"

"Hurray! We've got them on the run; keep it up, boys!" And then the air was rent with the noise of horns and rattles.

"Steady, Tom, steady," whispered Bob, as he walked toward the pitcher. "Don't let them rattle you; take your time."

"They are not going to rattle me," returned Tom, and set his teeth hard. He faced the new batsman, and then, of a sudden, twirled around and sent the ball whizzing to third.

"Look out! look out!" yelled the coach at third, and Clink dropped and grabbed the sack just in the nick of time. Then Tom went for the batter. One strike was called, and then two balls, and then another strike, and a ball.

"Don't walk him, Tom, whatever you do," said Spud, as he came down to consult with the pitcher.

"All right. What do you think I ought to give him?"

"Try him on an in-shoot."

Once again, Tom sent the ball over to third, almost catching Clink napping as before. Then, the instant he had the sphere once more in his possession, he sent it swiftly in over the plate.

"Three strikes! Batter out!"

"Good for you, Rover! That's the way to do it!"

"Now kill the other two, Tom!"

But to "kill the other two" was not so easy. The next man went out on a pop fly to third, which held Clink where he was. Following that came a safe hit which took the batter to first and allowed Clink to slide in with the first run. For the moment pandemonium seemed to break loose. The Roxley cohorts cheered wildly and sounded their horns and rattles. Brill, of course, had nothing to say.

"Oh, Songbird, they got in a run!" remarked Nellie, much dismayed.

"Well, the game is young yet," returned the Brill student. Nevertheless, he felt much crestfallen to think that Roxley had scored first.

With one run in, and a man on first, Roxley went to the bat with more confidence than ever. But it availed nothing, for Tom finished the inning with the Roxley runner getting no further than second.

"Now, boys, we've got to do something," said the Brill captain, when the nine came in. "Two runs at least, and three if we can possibly get them."

"What's the matter with half a dozen, while we are at it?" laughed the second baseman.

"All right. As many as you please," returned Bob.

But it was not to be. With all her efforts, Brill managed, during this inning, to get no further than third. Tom came in for a try at the bat, but the best he could do was to send up a little pop fly that the rival pitcher gathered in with ease. Then Roxley came in once more, and added another run to her credit.

"Hurrah for Roxley! That makes it two to nothing!"

There were looks of grim determination on the faces of the Brill players when they went to the plate for the third time. The first man up was struck out, but the second sent a clean drive to left field that was good for two bases. Then came a sacrifice hit by Spud, that advanced the runner to third, and on another one-base hit, this run came in amid a wild cheering by the Brill followers.

"Hurrah! One run in! Now, boys, you've broken the ice, keep it up!" And then the horns and rattles of the Brillites sounded as loudly as had those of the Roxley followers a short while before.

But, alas! for the hopes of our friends! The only other run made that inning was a third by Roxley!

During the fourth inning, Roxley added another run to her score. Brill did nothing, so that the score now stood 4 to 1 in favor of Roxley. The fifth inning was a stand-off, neither side scoring. Then came the sixth, in which Frank Holden, the first baseman, distinguished himself by rapping out a three-bagger, coming in a few seconds later on a hit by the man following him.

"Up-hill work, and no mistake!" said the Brill captain, when the team had come in for the seventh inning.

"See here, Bob, if you think you would rather try some of the other pitchers---- " began Tom.

"Nothing of the sort, old man. You are doing very well. I don't consider four runs against two any great lead. And you haven't walked as many men as their pitcher."

The seventh inning brought no change in the score. But in the eighth, Roxley added another run, bringing her total up to five.

"Looks kind of bad," said Sam, to another substitute on the bench. "Five to two, and the ninth inning. We've got to play some if we want to beat them."

"Sam, I want you!" cried Bob, coming up. "Felder has twisted his foot, and you will have to take his place in left field,"

"Am I to bat in his place?" questioned the youngest Rover.

"Yes."

"All right. I'll do the best I can."

There was silence around the grounds when the Brill team came to the bat. With the score 5 to 2 in favor of Roxley, it looked rather dubious for the visitors. Some of the onlookers, thinking the game practically over, started towards the gates, and the carriages and automobiles. The first man up was the captain, and he walked to the plate with a "do or die" look on his face.

"Now, Bob, lam it out for all you are worth!" shouted one of his admirers.

The first ball sent in was too low, and Bob let it pass him; but the second was just where he wanted it. The bat swung around like lightning, and, following a loud crack, the sphere sailed off towards left field.

"Run, Bob, run!" yelled a great number of his friends, and the captain let go all the speed that was in him. When the ball finally reached the diamond, it found Bob safe on third.

"That's the way to open up! Now, then, bring him in!"

This was not so easy. The batter up tried a sacrifice hit, but the ball rolled down well towards the pitcher, who landed it at first in a twinkling. Bob attempted to get home, but then thought better of it, and slid back to third. The next batter up was Sam. He had with him his favorite ash stick, and, as he stepped behind the plate, he gritted his teeth and eyed the pitcher closely.

Carson had been practicing on what he called a fadeaway ball, and now he thought this would be just the right thing to offer Sam. He wound up with a great flourish, and sent the sphere in.

Sam was on his guard, and calculated just right. His bat came around in a clean sweep, and on the instant the ball was flying down towards deep center.

"My! look at that!"

"Run, Rover, run!"

No sooner had the ball connected with the bat, than Bob, at third, was on his way home. He reached the plate before Sam touched first. Then Sam, skirting the initial bag, tore straight for second, and then for third. In the meantime, the fielder was still running after the ball. As Sam started for home, the fielder managed to capture the sphere, and threw it with all his skill to the second baseman.

"Run, Sam, run!" yelled Tom, fairly dancing up and down in his anxiety. "Leg it, old man, leg it!"

And certainly Sam did "leg it" as he never had before. Straight for the home plate he came, and slid in amid a cloud of dust, just before the ball came up from the field.

"Hurrah! hurrah! a home run!"

"Now, boys, we've started the ball rolling," cried out Bob. "Remember, only one more run ties the score."