Ben's Babbles: When the improbable happens

March 24, 2012

Everybody could see what was coming. Or at least thought they could.

With the bases loaded and one out against Reynolds Thursday afternoon, HRV leadoff hitter Erika Enriquez stepped to the plate.

Enriquez readily admits she is no power hitter. Her strategy at the plate involves getting a running start, chopping the ball on the ground and then putting pressure on the infield through her speed. Unless she is bunting, it is what she does every time she is at the plate, and it had worked perfectly in getting her an infield single to start the game.

The Raiders coach knew Enriquez would not be bunting. So he brought his infield in as he tried to stop the Eagles from completely blowing the game open.

The odds were overwhelming that Enriquez would slap the ball on the ground. In the best case scenario for Reynolds she would hit it to the first or third baseman, who could practically reach out and touch her from where they stood. That would allow a throw home for a force-out, and if everything went right, a double play to end the inning. Worst case for the Raiders, she would hit to a middle infielder, who would still get a force at second, but allow a run.

Enriquez delivered a whole new worst-case scenario for the Raiders: The HRV leftfielder, nicknamed "Little E" by her teammates, looked like she was going to slap the ball the first few pitches. On the next one she squared up and smashed a line drive down the left field line. The outfielder made a diving effort but it rolled past her to the fence. Three runs score; Enriquez winds up standing at third base, game over on the 10-run rule.

"She been working on how to hit in all situations," HRV coach Eric Keller said. "And now she got a three-run triple out of it."

I'm a big numbers guy when it comes to sports. You can look at a scenario and figure out what is most probable to happen, and in many cases, extremely probable to happen.

But I live for the moments where the improbable happens.

Like Enriquez's game-ending triple.

Or last Friday when Lehigh, a little school I had never even heard of, knocked off perennial power Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

It was only the second time in the last 15 years in which Duke has lost its first-round game in the tournament, and just the sixth time the history of the entire tournament that a No. 15 seed beat a No. 2.

Even more improbably it was the second time that day, after Norfolk State, another school I had never heard of, beat Missouri earlier that day.

I also live for stuff like Jamie Moyer, a 49-year-old pitcher, likely making the opening day roster for the Colorado Rockies this year.

Moyer's entire career has been one long improbability.

He hit the major leagues in 1986, just three years after I was born. Over the next decade he would pitch for six teams. He should have been washed up several times, but somehow kept getting another chance.

In his second decade in the big leagues he found new life, using his incredibly slow change-up, which makes his 80-mile-an-hour fastball look like its coming in at triple digits, to notch a pair of 20 win seasons for the Seattle Mariners.

From ages 44-46, he won a total of 42 games over three seasons for the Philadelphia Phillies.

He has missed the last year and a half after having major arm surgery. His baseball-reference page even cites his last game as July 20, 2010.

If he had called it quits then, there would have been no shame. A junk-ball pitcher churning out a 24-year career.

Yet here he is, in spring training camp with Colorado Rockies, looking like he has a decent chance to make the starting rotation of spring training.

An interesting fact I learned while researching his career: Moyer pitched in 141 games before his team even existed.

Now that's an improbably long pitching career. Not only is Moyer defying the odds, he's defying Father Time as well.

I love being able to figure out the probabilities and statistics in sports. But in addition to sports I also love Star Wars.

So naturally, I can't help but love it when a team or player goes and says to the world, in the words of the immortal Han Solo, "Never tell me the odds."

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