The Top ten games in Baseball Ireland History (number 8)
Game: Ireland v Slocum Baseball Club RI
Tournament: Rhode Island Tour 2001
Game type: Friendly/Exhibition game
Venue: Slocum, Rhode Island
Irish starter: Bill Beglane
The final game of the wildly successful 'Rhode Island' and New England tour the Irish National Baseball team undertook in August 2001. Mike Kindle and Mick Manning forged a strong friendship with Slocum Baseball Club of RI and from there the plans were set and the team travelled to the States for two weeks of baseball, a trip which increased the teams skill and experience levels ten fold. The games were hard fought and competitive, and going into the final game against Slocum themselves Ireland were 2-3 in the win/loss column. Going home with 2 wins wouldn't have been a total disaster but a third win would make the trip that little bit sweeter.
An excerpt from my book on Irish Baseball:
''The trip was slowly starting to wind down. We still had the big rescheduled showdown between ourselves and Slocum to come. That had been previously rained out but was rescheduled for the Thursday.
Slocum v Ireland, part two showed just how far the Irish team had come since the opening game of the tour. The hitting was better, the pitching was improving fast and the defence was totally unrecognisable from the start of the tour.
Slocum had handled us easily in our first meeting, right at the start of the tournament, 6-0, but in our defence, we were practically just off the plane, a little travel weary and not exactly firing on all cylinders. The final game of the tour brought out a big crowd and a beautiful sunny day, far different to the originally scheduled game day where it rained heavier than we would see at home in Dublin.
Slocum had home field advantage, they had previously beaten us and we were starting to have injuries catch up on us. However, the Irish Baseball team has always brought its game to another level when backed up against the wall. Be it our first win over then Yugoslavia at Hull in '96 or the sensational win over Hungary in Croatia in 200o, write us off at your peril. Bill Beglane took the hill and pitched his heart out.
Our pitching was thin for the trip, Bill, myself and hard throwing Ken Murphy threw until our arms fell off. Bill and myself started all six of the 'competitive' games, and between us pitched 35 of the total of 52 innings of Irish pitching in those six games. Basically our arms were ready to separate from our shoulders. Bill threw everything but the kitchen sink at the young, talented Slocum lineup but the innings started to catch up on him as Slocum jumped out to an early 4-0 lead. Mike took control and sent myself and Ken into the bullpen, while visiting Bill and catcher Sean Mitchell on the mound a couple of times, nurturing every last quality pitch he could out of Bill's right arm.
Come the fourth inning Slocum put two on with no outs. I got the call and, heart pounding, managed to get the first two outs. The final out of the inning came on a nerve wracking long fly ball to deep centre field that Captain John Dillon had to fairly sprint after to gobble up. He grabbed it none the less and my visions of a heart attack in my twenties were abated briefly.
Be it the fantastic weather, the power-surge of throwing off the mound wearing the beautiful Irish jersey, or the great plays being turned in behind me, I managed to settle in nicely and kept zeros on the board while, as always, Ireland began chipping away at the Slocum lead.
Gordon Ireland started it off, smashing a two run double with his big bat. Being the home team Slocum had no shortage of fresh young arms, and they brought them all out attempting to secure this final win against Ireland. This makes what happened next even more dramatic. JD spanked a late single to score another two runs and suddenly Ireland were tied, 4-4.
Come the eight inning, cometh the hour, cometh the man. With two runners on Sean Mitchell launched a huge two run double into the power alley in right, putting Ireland in the lead 6-4. Sheer adrenaline took over and the defence started giving up its limbs in an effort to close out the win.
In the bottom of the eight Slocum got a man on through a walk, and after battling their stud first baseman for 12 pitches he hit a single up the middle. Two on, two out. Mike came out to the mound and said 'Don't lie to me Cormy, are you done?' to which I just kept nodding, 'I'm ok, I'm ok, I'm ok' desperate to stay out there with those guys behind me, desperate to finish the game. Mike gave me one more chance, and I managed to get another Slocum batter to fly out to JD.
The final out made, Brian Connolly touches the first base bag to end the game, Gordon Ireland heads off to buy a keg and I, well, I don't know what I am doing there, god only knows!
That was all Slocum had. They went in order in the 9th inning, and once again Ireland had come back from the dead at the end of a tournament/tour and had won a big game, this time 6-4, 3,500 miles from home, hot, sweaty and tired but ready to party.''
Coming soon! Game number 7!
8. Ireland v Slocum RI tour 2001
9. Ireland v Lithuania Sweden 2002
10. Ireland v Serbia Montenegro European Championships 2004
More on the Irish baseball team @ 'Pitching in - ten years on the Irish baseball team'