8. How The Game Ended
 

The next batter up was plainly nervous. He had two strikes called on him, and then he knocked a small foul, which was quickly gathered in by the third baseman. Then Tom came to the bat, and was lucky enough to make a clean one-base hit. After that, came several base hits in rapid succession. These brought in not only Tom, but also the man behind him. Then came a bad fumble on the part of the Roxley shortstop, and, as a result, another run was put up to the credit of Brill.

"Seven runs. That's going some!"

"I guess this is Brill's game, after all."

"Make it a round dozen while you're at it, boys."

But this was not to be. The hits for Brill had evidently come to an end, and the side retired with seven runs to its credit.

"Now, Tom, hold them down if you possibly can," said Bob, as his team took the field.

"I'll do my level best, Bob," was the reply.

With the score five to seven against them, Roxley put in a pinch,hitter by the name of Bixby. This player certainly made good, getting a three-base hit with apparent ease. Then followed an out, and then another base hit, bringing in Bixby's run. Then followed some ragged play on the part of Bob and his second and third basemen, which put out one man, but evened up the score, 7 to 7.

With two men out, and the score a tie, it was certainly a delicate position for Tom.

"Tom, hold them! please hold them!" pleaded Bob, as he came up. "Don't let them get as far as first if you can help it."

The batter to face Tom was a fairly good one, but the young pitcher remembered that this fellow had always struck at balls which were both high and far out. Accordingly, he fed him only those which were low and well in, "One strike!"

"That's it, Tom! Keep it up!"

Again Tom wound up, and the ball shot over the plate. This time the batsman swung for it, but failed to connect.

"Strike two!"

"Good boy, Tom, that's the way to do it!"

"Be careful, Billy, make him give you just what you want!"

Once again Tom wound up, and this time sent the ball in with all the speed that was left to him. Again the bat came around.

"Strike three! Batter out!"

A wild yell arose. Here was the end of the ninth inning, and the game was a tie!

"Oh, Songbird! do you think Brill will win?" exclaimed Grace, anxiously.

"I certainly hope so. We've pulled up pretty well. We had only two runs when they had five, remember."

"Hasn't Tom pitched pretty well?" questioned Minnie.

"Sure, he has! Those Roxley fellows are great batters. More than once they have knocked a pitcher clean out of the box."

"Oh, I certainly hope Brill wins," murmured Nellie.

There was an intense silence when the tenth inning opened. Frank came to the bat first, and knocked a little one, but managed to reach first. Then, on a sacrifice hit, he advanced to second. Following that, came a wild throw by the Roxley pitcher, and Frank dusted as fast as he could for third.

"Now, Carson, hold him!" yelled a number of the Roxley followers to their pitcher. "Don't let him get in!"

Carson did his best, but with two strikes called on the batter, there came a neat little one-base hit, and, amid a wild cheering and a grand tooting of horns and sounding of rattles, Frank slid in to the home plate.

"Hurrah! hurrah! that makes the score eight to seven!"

"Keep it up, boys! You've got 'em going."

But that was the end of the run making for Brill. The next man was put out with ease, and the side retired with the score reading: Roxley-- 7, Brill-- 8.

"Now, if we can only hold them," was Spud's comment, as he glanced at Bob and then at Tom. "How about it?" he demanded, of the pitcher.

"I'll do what I can," was Tom's simple answer.

Nearly all the spectators in the grandstand and on the bleachers were now on their feet. All sorts of cries and suggestions rent the air. Amid this great hubbub, the Brill nine took their positions, Sam going down to left field as directed by Bob.

Tom was a trifle pale as he faced the first batter, but, if he was nervous, the Roxley player was evidently more so. Almost before either of them knew it, two strikes had been called. Then, however, came a short hit to third, which the baseman fumbled, and the batter got safely to first.

"That's the way! Now, keep it up!"

"We only want two runs to win."

The next batter was one that Tom, fortunately, had studied closely. This man usually waited all he could in the hope of having balls called on the pitcher. As a consequence, Tom fed him several straight ones over the plate, and so quickly that two strikes were called almost before the baseman realized what was occurring. Then, as he swung at a low one, the third strike was called, and he was declared out. In the meantime, however, the runner on first had made second. Then came another out, and then a drive to second, which landed the batsman on first, but kept the man on second where he was.

"Two men on base!"

"Bring 'em in, Landy! Bang it out for all you are worth!"

"Careful, Tom, careful!" pleaded Bob; and even Spud came down to interview the pitcher.

"I'm doing all I can," returned Tom.

It must be admitted that Tom's blood was surging wildly. A miss-- and the game would either become a tie or be won by Roxley.

In came the ball, and the Roxley player swung at it viciously.

"Strike one!"

"Good boy, Tom, keep it up!"

"Strike him out, old man!"

Again Tom twirled the ball and sent it in. Just the instant before it left his hand, his foot slipped, and the sphere came in, not on a curve as the young pitcher had intended, but straight. Crack! went the bat, and in a twinkling the sphere was sailing high in the air toward left field.

"Hurrah, that's the way to do it!"

"Run, everybody run!"

"Get it, Sam, get it!"

The ball was high in the air and well over Sam's head. The youngest Rover was running with might and main down left field. The eyes of all the spectators were on him. On and on, and still on, he sped, with the ball curving lower, and lower toward the field. Then, just as the sphere was coming down, Sam made a wild clutch with his left hand and caught it.

"Batter out!"

"My, what a catch!"

"Wasn't it a beauty!"

"Brill wins the game!"

Such a riot as ensued! Hats and canes were thrown up into the air, horns tooted loudly, and the noise of the rattles was incessant. The Brill students fairly danced for joy, and their friends, including the ladies, were almost equally demonstrative.

"Sam, that's the best catch I ever saw in my life!" cried Bob, as' he ran forward to grab the young left-fielder by the hand.

"It certainly was, Sam; and you pulled me out of a big hole," came from Tom. "When I saw that fellow hit the ball, I thought it was all up with us."

"Some catch, that!" broke in Spud. And all the others on the nine, and many of Sam's friends, said the same.

Of course, Roxley was tremendously disappointed at the outcome of the struggle. Nevertheless, as was usual, she cheered her opponent, and was cheered in return. Then the two teams broke and ran for the dressing rooms, and the great crowd of spectators began to slowly disappear.

"Oh, Sam, that catch was too lovely for anything!" cried Grace, when the two Rover boys had managed to break away from the rest of the team and their numerous friends, and had rejoined the girls and Songbird. "Why, do you know, I was on pins and needles when I saw that ball coming down and you running after it. I was so afraid you wouldn't get there in time!"

"Well, I just got it, and no more," returned Sam, modestly.

"He pulled me out of a hole," broke in Tom. "If it hadn't been for Sam, Roxley would have won the game."

"But you did well, Tom,-- better than our other pitchers would have done," replied his brother, loyally. "Everybody says so. Why, four or five of those Roxley hitters can knock the ordinary pitcher clean out of the box."

"Believe me, there will be some celebration to-night!" vouchsafed Songbird, as his eyes lit up in expectation. "Bonfires, speeches, parades, and all that."

"Don't I wish I was a college boy, to be there!" returned Minnie, wistfully.

"Too bad! but no girls are allowed," returned Sam. "Just the same, I don't think we'll have to get back to the college very early."

It had already been arranged that the Rovers and Songbird and the three girls should go off on a little automobile trip after the game. Grace and Nellie had received permission to be absent from Hope during the supper hour, and Tom had telephoned to the hotel at Cliffwood, about twenty miles away, asking the proprietor to reserve a table for them and prepare dinner for six.

Sam was now at the wheel, and as he could handle the car as well as his brother, the run to Cliffwood did not take long. At the hotel, the young folks encountered several other parties from Brill and Hope, and the gathering was, consequently, quite a merry one. Tom had ordered flowers for the table, and also small bouquets for each of the girls.

"Oh, how perfectly lovely, Tom!" cried Nellie, on catching sight of the flowers.

"I think the gentlemen ought to have button-hole bouquets," said Grace.

"All right, I'm willing," returned Sam quickly, and thereupon some of the flowers from the larger bouquet were speedily transferred to three coat buttonholes.

It was a lively time all around, for between the courses that were served, the young folks insisted upon singing some of the Brill and Hope songs. As it happened, there were no outside guests present, so the students and their friends could do pretty much as they pleased.

"Sorry, but we've got to start back," said Tom, presently, as he looked at his watch. "Not but what I'd rather stay here than go to Brill for the celebration!" and he looked fondly at Nellie.

"What's the matter with my driving the car?" suggested Songbird, who was well able to perform that service. "You've both had a whack at it; it seems to me it's my turn now."

Both of the Rovers were willing, and a short time later, with Songbird at the wheel and Minnie beside him, and the Rovers and the Laning girls in the tonneau, the touring car left the hotel and started on the way to the Sanderson cottage and the seminary.

"What's the matter with a song?" cried Sam, as the car sped along.

"Right you are!" returned his brother. "Girls, what shall it be?"

Instead of replying, Nellie started up an old favorite at the college, sung to the tune of "Camping on the Old Camp Ground." Instantly all of the others joined in.

"Some song!" exclaimed Tom, after the first verse had come to an end. "Now then, altogether!" and he waved his hand like a band leader. The voices of the young people arose sweetly on the evening air, but hardly had they sung two lines of the second verse, when there came an unexpected interruption.

Bang! The sound came from below them. Then the touring car suddenly swerved to the side of the road. Almost as quickly Songbird threw out the clutch and applied both brakes. They came to a standstill in the middle of the roadway.

"Oh, Tom! what's the matter?" gasped Nellie "I don't know, but I'm afraid it's a blowout," was the serious reply.