“Are you game, Frazer, for a desperate fight?” asked Hugh, smiling in a way he hoped would inspire the other with confidence.
Frazer was a bit white, but he had his jaws set, and there was a promising flash in his eyes that Hugh liked to see. His Scotch blood was aroused, and he would do his level best to hold the Allandale last-year champions down to few hits. That humiliation which Frazer had suffered in asking to be taken out of the box on the preceding Saturday had burned in his soul ever since; and he was in a fit frame of mind to “pitch his head off” in order to redeem himself.
Hugh talked with him a short time. He told him all he knew about the various players on the opposing team, and in this way Frazer might be able to deceive some of the heavy batters when they came up. Unfortunately Frazer could not vary his speed and drops and curves with an occasional deceptive Matthewson “balloon ball,” so called because it seems to look as large as a toy hot-air balloon to the batter, but is advanced so slowly that he strikes before it gets within reach.
Hugh on his part had always practiced that sort of a ball, and indeed he had nothing else beside fair speed and this “floater.” But in practice, when Hugh went into the box, he had been able to fool many of his mates, and have them almost breaking their backs trying to hit a ball that was still coming. As a last resort Hugh meant to relieve Frazer, but only after the game was irrevocably lost; for he wanted to give the other every chance possible to redeem his former “fluke.”
There was not any great amount of genuine enthusiasm shown by the crowd of local rooters when Frazer walked out to take his place, though many did give him a cheer, hoping to thus hearten the poor fellow, and put some confidence in his soul.
If he had not been able to hold those boys from Mechanicsburg, who were reckoned only “half-baked” players, as some of the Scranton fans called it, what sort of a chance would Frazer have against the Champs, who had toyed with Belleville just a week back, and looked tremendously dangerous as they practiced now upon the local field, so as to become a little accustomed to its peculiarities?
Ground rules were again in vogue, owing to the great crowd. This gave Scranton a little advantage, since they were used to playing on the home grounds, and would know just where to send the ball—-providing they were able to come in contact with it, a matter in which one Big Ed Patterson meant to have considerable to say, judging from his confident manner, and the good-natured smile on his sun-burned face.
Scranton fought gamely, every one was agreed to that. They started off well, for Frazer actually got through the first without a hit being made, though twice the visitors met one of his offerings with a vicious smack that sent the ball far out in center, where the watchful and fleet-footed “K.K.” managed to capture each fly after a great run.
And in their half Scranton did a little hitting, though it was mostly through good luck that they got one run—-a Texas leaguer that fell among three players who got their signals crossed; then a poor throw down to second allowing “Just” Smith to land there in safety; a bunt that turned into a sacrifice on the part of Joe Danvers, followed by a high fly that let the runner on third come trooping home, did the business.
Owen struck out, and Hugh sent up a mighty foul over in right that was caught in a dazzling fashion by the guardian of that patch.
As the two clubs faced each other they ranged after this fashion, and it may be noticed that there was no change in Scranton's line-up except in the pitcher's box. The batting order was not the same, so it must be given as it came on either side:
Scranton High Player Position ——————————————————— “Just” Smith Left Field Joe Danvers First Base Horatio Juggins Right Field Owen Dugdale Short Stop Hugh Morgan (capt.) Third Base “K.K.” (Ken Kinkaid) Center Field Julius Hobson Second Base Frazer Pitcher Thad Stevens Catcher
Allandale High Player Position ——————————————————— Farmer Left Field Gould First Base Wright Right Field Waterman Short Stop Norris Third Base Whipple Center Field Brown Second Base Patterson Pitcher Keeler Catcher
As the game progressed it became evident that Frazer was “pitching his arm off” in the endeavor to stem the tide of defeat that inning after inning seemed bound to overtake the Scranton nine, despite their most gallant uphill fight. Allandale proved to be all their reputation had boasted, and they seemed able to work a man around the circuit nearly every inning. Splendid fielding on the part of Hugh and his mates kept the score down, but nevertheless it continued to mount, in spite of all their efforts.
Frazer was beginning to show signs of exhaustion. He had tried every trick he had in his list on the batters who faced him. They had begun to solve his delivery more and more the oftener they came up. And there was a very demoralizing way about their confident attitude that no doubt added much to poor Frazer's distress. He began to believe they were just playing with him, and at a given time would fall upon his delivery, to knock the ball at will to every part of the field.
Hugh knew it was coming, and he hardly felt able to go into the box himself to stem the rising tide; but anything was better than to have Frazer submerged under an avalanche of hits. “Big Ed” seemed to be getting better the longer he pitched, and just the reverse could be said of Frazer, who was on the verge of a total collapse.
“Better take me out before I go to the wall, Hugh,” begged the other, after the sixth frame showed the score to be six to two, with more runs looming up in the “lucky seventh” in prospect. “I'm ashamed to say I've lost my nerve. Those fellows mean to get at me in the seventh and it will be a Waterloo. I just feel it in my bones they've been waiting to lambast my offerings then, for I've seen them talking together, and laughing, as though they had a game laid out. You go in and feed them those teasers of yours. The boys will take a brace in batting, if you can hold Allandale; and in the end it may not be such a terrible calamity after all.”
Hugh knew it must be. Frazer had gone to the wall, and would pitch poorly if allowed to go in the box in the next inning.
“I hate to do it, Frazer,” he told the other, feeling sorry for him; “but any port in a storm; and it may be possible these sluggers will trip up on that balloon ball of mine, though I haven't much else to offer them.”
That inning the locals did a little batting on their own account, with the result that the score looked a shade better, for it was three to six when once more Scranton went into the field.
When it was seen that Hugh walked to the box some of the local rooters cheered lustily, for Hugh was a great favorite. Cat-calls also greeted his appearance, coming principally from Nick Lang and his followers; though they were frowned upon by a crowd of Scranton boys, who threatened to hustle them off the grounds unless they mended their ways.
As Hugh left third one of the substitutes, named Hastings, was placed on that sack. Thad gave Hugh a queer look on discovering this, and followed it with a peculiarly suggestive grin; so that Hugh understood how his chum was thinking of another Hastings with whose name they had taken undue liberties.
Allandale seemed pleased to know that there was to be a change of slab artists.
“All pitchers look alike to us when we've got our batting clothes on!” one of them sang out blithely, as he swung a couple of bats around, being the next man up, and desirous of making himself feel that he held a willow wand in his hands when throwing one aside and wielding the other.
He was mistaken.
Hugh started in without delay feeding them some of what the boys were pleased to denominate his “teasers.” He soon had them hitting at thin air with might and main, and looking surprised because they failed to connect.
One man, then two, went out on strikes, and neither had touched the elusive “fade-away” ball made famous by Christy Matthewson in his prime.
The crowd sat up and began to take notice. What did it mean? If Hugh could only keep up his good work by varying his offerings, so as to keep those slugging Allandale fellows guessing, and Scranton began to knock the ball around a little on their own account, why, there might be something like a good game yet.
The third man got a hit which should really have been an out, for “K.K.,” reliable “K.K.,” out in deep center, misjudged the blow, and started to run back, when he should have shot forward instantly. He could have scooped it up three feet from the ground had he done so; and while he did manage to keep the ball from getting past, the batter gained first.
However, he died there, for Hugh deceived the next fellow as he had done two previous batters, and the side was out. When the eighth inning ended the score was four to six, not so very bad. The local rooters got busy, and gave Hugh a round of hearty cheers when he toed the mark in the box again.
Allandale did get a run in this frame, but still Hugh struck two men out. And in their half of the eighth Scranton also tallied, making the score read four to seven. Then came the last inning. Hugh exerted himself to the utmost. One batter failed to connect, but the next got in a blow that netted him two bases.
Hugh kept cool and managed to deceive the next one. Then came a mighty heave and when Juggins in far right was seen running like mad it looked as if Allandale had clinched another brace of runs then and there. But Horatio proved himself to be a hero, for he gobbled that drive, and the side was extinguished with no damage done.
Scranton tried with might and main to do something wonderful in their last half of the final inning. Indeed, with two out and three on bases it looked as if there might be a fair chance, since a wallop would mean three runs to tie the score, and if Joe Danvers could only get in one of his occasional “homers” it would break up the game in favor of the local team.
Joe did connect and drove out a great hit, but alas! for the eccentricities of baseball, Whipple over in right had seen fit to play far back, and after quite a gallop he managed to clutch the ball and hold it.
Of course that gave Allandale the game. The Scranton boys seemed pretty “sore” over their first defeat, but considering the hard luck that had been their portion, they felt that they had not done so badly after all.
“Just wait!” they told the laughing Allandale fellows, “there's another day coming when you'll have to face Alan Tyree; and the chances are two to one you'll not find that boy such easy picking. You're in great luck today, Allandale; so make the most of it. He laughs longest who laughs last; and Scranton is wagering dollars to doughnuts that it'll be our turn next!”
read more: Donald Ferguson > The Chums of Scranton High Out for the Pennant > CHAPTER XIII. HUGH TRIES HIS “FADE-AWAY” BALL