The crowd was tensed for one of the biggest games of the high schoolsoftball season and the long-awaited pitching duel between Northeast's Kristy Zulka and Archbishop Spalding's Kim Sheridan.
Both teamshad completed infield drills. The pitchers were warmed up. Each teamhad given its pregame cheer, the players were psyched.
Sheridan took the mound at Upton Park last Wednesday. It was timeto see which of the two ace windmillers would keep her team among the undefeated.
But hold on.
Sheridan's catcher, Jen McKeldin, knew instantly something was wrong. The hurler was too far away from the plate, 50 feet to be exact. The pitching rubber for girls softball games, 40 feet from the plate, was nowhere to be found.
And how can you have a pitching duel without a pitching rubber on the mound?
Umpires, coaches and other assorted folks huddled around the mound and stared at the dirt.
Somebody from county Rec and Parks insistedthe pitching rubber was down there somewhere, probably just buried under the new dirt that had been put down for a new season. This wasn't the first game of the season on this field and nobody had complained about the mound.
Someone got a rake and the next thing you knew they were poking and digging, vainly searching for the missing pitching rubber.
The pitchers got cold, the crowd got restless. Still nopitching rubber.
Wait, Upton Park has three fields -- why not switch to the next field, which clearly had a suitable pitching rubber?
No can do. The county folks only lined the one field, and there wasn't enough lime to do another one.
The pitchers got colder.
Somebody finally drove to Spalding, which mercifully is a stone's throw from Upton, to get a pitching rubber.
And Sheridan faced her first batter nearly 40 minutes after the scheduled game time.
Both she and Zulka eventually warmed up again as the afternoon turned chilly, and the crowd finally got to see the heated battle between two of the finest pitchers in a county rich in pitching talent. Northeast andZulka emerged with a tough 1-0 victory.
But both aces -- not to mention the rest of the players and their fans -- deserved better.
-- Kathy Frazier