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The Aegis
Harford County

What can a baseball box score tell you all on its own? [Column]

What can be deciphered from simply viewing final score of an athletic contest? As with most matters in life, it depends on how much background information you have. Take, for instance, a scoring line of 23-21. On first glance, that would signify a pretty exciting football game, or a very conservatively played, boring high school basketball game, or a knock-down, drag-out lacrosse matchup, or the highest-scoring soccer contest you're ever likely to hear about (Though I haven't seen anything close to that in a lifetime of playing and watching soccer).

When a result of 23-21 is attached to the box score of a baseball game, it might cause some people to do a double take. I certainly did when I was emailed the recap for Tuesday's matchup between Patterson Mill and C. Milton Wright. The second line of the email read, "CMW – 23, Pmill – 21." The email's first line, a note from Patterson Mill skipper Matt Roseland, read "this is not a typo!" I'm glad he included that, because in my career I've been made to look dumb a few times when I jumped the gun on badly transcribed recaps, and I'm terribly paranoid about getting scores wrong, or reversed (which is what happened a several years ago, when CMW boys basketball ended Aberdeen's long winning streak, and I wrote my article with Aberdeen as the winning team).

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But, the 23-21 final score for that baseball game was absolutely correct. CMW came back from a 13-3 deficit to win the 44-run epic by two. Both teams scored seven runs in the sixth inning. I've seen teams, very good ones that went on to win regional titles, go an entire week without scoring seven runs, but that was just a side dish for the two squads involved in Tuesday's game.

Viewed out of context, a 23-21 baseball game is not that interesting, not to me anyway (I've documented my love of strong pitching and low-scoring games dozens of times in the column). It says to me that there were two mediocre teams with bad pitching and strong lineups, and that everyone on both sides was having a good day at the plate. That's a lot of assumptions to make, but I've probably watched and written about more baseball games than 99 percent of the population, so I'm entitled to a few of them.

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The thing is, the assumptions I just listed are mostly wrong. Patterson Mill and CMW are not mediocre teams, at all. Over the previous four seasons the Mustangs and Huskies have combined for three regional titles, two appearances in the state finals and one Maryland championship (won by that undefeated CMW team back in 2010). Neither team has what I'd consider "bad" pitching, and both of their lineups were held to less than two runs on Wednesday.

What, then, can we gather from a 44-run game when we have a little background information? In my opinion, the final score of the game in question was a result of the horrid weather everyone has had to deal with over the last month, which I've written about a few times recently. When baseball and softball teams are forced to practice inside the entire preseason, they're a step behind when the regular-season schedule starts. Speaking from experience, there is no substitute for throwing pitches from a dirt mound, or for fielding grounders coming at you on a dirt and grass infield. The first few weeks of the season are always a bit hairy, and when you add in the fact that everyone was forced into a gymnasium for most of March, you get outliers like Tuesday's 23-21 contest.

Of course, I might be thinking about this too hard. If you've got another theory, let me know.


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