After an impromptu conversation with my roommate Enrique on the night after my latest outing, the wheels in my head began spinning. It was during this late night conversation that he urged me to get back to square one and to do whatever I had done to be a successful pitcher before coming to Puerto Rico. With his words, my mentality shifted to where it should have originally been. He subliminally boosted my self-confidence by saying that I was undoubtedly a good pitcher, but I needed to relax and play MY game both on and off the field. That was all I needed to hear.
For the upcoming weekend, we were scheduled to play in a small tournament with a few local teams being hosted at the Estadio Francisco Pagan. It was a three-day tournament to be played Friday, Saturday and Sunday. After the PRIBL Turistas won the initial game on Friday against the Cafeteros de Yauco, I was slated to pitch the semifinal game on Saturday against the Navegantes (Navigators) de Aguada at 12:30 p.m.
Once the team got to the stadium, we realized that one of our three scheduled pitchers had not shown up. So, it was up to Rico Espinosa, a 25-year-old from Texas, and I to hold it down on the mound.
Our bats came out on fire, as we scored three runs in the second and third innings. By throwing an abundance of strikes with his fastball and incorporating a nasty splitter to keep the hitters off balance, Rico started the game and shut down the Navegantes through five innings to potentially earn the win. His final stat line was five innings, four hits, two walks, two strikeouts and zero runs.
As I ran out to the mound from the bullpen in the sixth inning, I felt very relaxed, and I cannot remember thinking about anything in particular. I knew I was there to do a job that I had done hundreds of times before.
After a few warm-up pitches, I came out throwing strike after strike. Enrique was catching me again, and we were on the same page with what pitches we wanted to throw. I did not shake him off once, and I attribute much of my success to a great game called by him.
Since we were up 9-0 when I entered the game, I knew my main goal was to throw strikes and let my defense do the work. I was able to accomplish this, and my fielders were superb playing unblemished defense. We ended up winning the semifinal match-up 10-0 to advance to the championship game the next day. Much to my surprise, the pitching coach told me that I had gone perfect for the last four innings of the game by not allowing a baserunner.
Although I thankfully did not pitch that Sunday in the championship, the PRIBL Turistas ended up winning the chip by beating the Patrulleros de San Sebastian 7-4. It was rewarding to have won the final game of the tournament and have contributed, and the team celebrated with a Medalla shower.