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Winning despite major distractions is impressive [Commentary]

Looking at the past week in softball and baseball

BY DEWEY FOX, dfox@theaegis.com

12:33 PM EDT, April 25, 2013

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As a writer and reporter, I'm constantly making lists, taking mental notes, jotting things down on the backs of matchbooks and generally trying very hard to make sure that ideas don't slip away into the enormous black hole that is my mind. I think I had a pretty good memory before I started working at a newspaper, but with the speed of the news cycle getting increasingly faster week to week, and with journalism always having been a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately industry, one's brain tends to let go of things in order to keep up. Call it efficiency. If you remember too much, there's not going to be any room. I think in 20 years all reporters will have a working memory of about 30 minutes.

Lest this turn into a rant about the speed of life being intolerable, let's move it back to sports. As I said, I'm always making notes and lists to remind myself of nice topics for this column, and there were two things that have stuck with me since last week's edition. One was the circumstances of C. Milton Wright softball's victory Monday afternoon, and the other, though it's a bit broader of a topic, was the strangeness of the Chesapeake Division baseball race.

On Monday, the CMW girls, who can clinch the Chesapeake (upper) Division title this coming Monday with a victory over Perryville, hosted the always-dangerous Rising Sun squad. At this point in the season, every UCBAC division matchup is important, and the Mustangs have shown that they are not invincible, having lost, 9-5, to Bel Air back on April 8. So, you have a high-pressure game against a quality opponent, and the last thing you need are distractions. The Softball Gods, however, saw fit to give CMW a proper one in the form of a medical emergency. Senior right fielder and long-time starter Holli Rutkowski was struck with chest pains during the pre-game warmups, and had to be taken to Upper Chesapeake Health in an ambulance. (Holli, if you're reading this, I'm not trying to embarrass you. I too had to leave school in an ambulance once, so I know the feeling.) With that on their shoulders, and down a starting outfielder, the Mustangs went out and battled to an 11-8 victory.

What's most impressive about the CMW win, to me, is that softball and baseball are probably the sports in which its easiest for an athlete's mind to wander. I played three sports in high school, baseball, soccer and track. With the latter two, everything was put on the back burner the second the opening whistle sounded or the starting gun sounded. It's hard to think about anything, positive or negative, when your lungs feel like they're on fire and your legs are about to give out. With baseball though, even during tense games I had to make a real effort to clear my head when I walked to the batter's box. Don't think about interim reports coming out, don't think about going to the movies on Saturday night, don't think about anything but getting a good pitch to hit. I had a hard time filtering out the normal teenage anxieties, so that the Mustangs were able to buckle down and win after a teammate had been carted off in an ambulance before the game is nothing short of amazing. Well done, ladies.

As for the Chesapeake Division baseball race, I think the A-number-one reason it's strange is that there isn't a Harford County team at the head of the standings. I told you my memory is terrible, but I can't remember a time in the last six seasons when it wasn't North Harford, C. Milton Wright, Fallston or Bel Air at the top of the pile, and now you've got Rising Sun leading the way with a 7-2 record. Bel Air is a half game back at 6-2, North Harford is at 5-4 and CMW sits at 5-5 (as of Thursday morning). Adding to all this, one week ago Patterson Mill, which has a 3-5 division record, beat Bel Air by one run, and Bel Air had not lost a division game to that point. There's only a few games left, and I'm extremely curious to see how everything shakes out.