Wolves take in history at Nationals Park

Happy Sunday to you all! A week ago today I witnessed one of the most exciting and Dayton campus pictureriveting baseball games of my entire life…and I’ve watched baseball my entire life. The only problem is, I was watching on my computer from my dorm room in Dayton, Ohio, where, by the way, resides a lovely Catholic university (pictured on the right) that two Nationals pitchers call home. And had this been last year when I was still a senior at JP, I probably would have attended this game myself. But this isn’t about me. This is about the lucky and patient fans who actually got to witness this game in person and were gracious enough to share with me their experiences.

The hyper-linked words in the following story will open up new tabs with other articles and pictures about related events. Some reads are fascinating so make sure to check them out.

THE SETTING

The day was Sunday, September 28. The location was Nationals Park. The mission? Nationals Park from aboveOctober.

After having already clinched the top spot in the National League moving into the playoffs, the Washington Nationals were looking for some momentum at the end of their season. With just one game left against the lowly Miami Marlins, the Nats hoped to send their faithful off for the regular season in the right way.

Among those faithful were members of the JP community, including senior sports writer Paul Fritschner. Dismayed that he had missed the bobble head giveaway the previous game, Paul would soon be thankful he chose to attend on Sunday.

“We chose the 28th because it was the last game of the season,”  Paul explained, “and since we went to Opening Day at Nats Park, we thought it would be cool to bookend the year.”

Becky and me at an August Nats gameSenior Becky Boak has been a Nats fan “since day one,” and attended the game at a last-minute decision. “A friend of mine, who is also an avid Nationals fan, texted me and asked if I wanted to go with her,” Becky reminisced, “so of course I said yes.”

JP History teacher Mr. Marich was also in attendance. “I wanted to catch one more game before the end of the regular season, to cheer on the NL East champs,” he said. “I decided that if I finished all my grading at the end of the school week, I’d treat myself to a game over the weekend.”

THE GAME

The game started off as so many of the matchups do between these two talented squads—quick innings with little offense. Nationals’ shortstop Ian Desmond provided the sole bit of power either club showcased—a solo home run in the second inning. Little did Jordan Last Game of the Season 043Zimmermann and the Nationals know at that time, it would be all the club needed for victory.

After cruising through four innings without allowing a base runner, Nationals announcer Bob Carpenter remarked that there was no offense for Miami yet and then said, “Hmm…” as if to suggest the possibility of something special.

“At the beginning of the fifth inning, when I saw there were no hits, and realized that it was still a perfect game,” Mr. Marich remembered. A perfect game is when a pitcher does not allow a single base runner to the opposing squad. A no hitter occurs when a team surrenders no hits, regardless of how many opponents reach base as the result of walks, errors, etc. In the fifth inning, the perfect game was broken up with a walk, but the Marlins still had no hits to show.

“My friend and I were sitting underneath the scoreboard so we couldn’t see the big zero in the hits column,” Becky explained. But she said that the intense attention by fellow fans clued her in that something special was going on.

Paul had the foresight to take a myriad of pictures, so be sure to check out the photo gallery here.

THE FANS

During the regular season, Nationals Park is not an especially electric place. When the Last Game of the Season 067Nats are winning, it’s as exciting as one might expect, but nothing exceptional as compared to parks of other elite baseball clubs. Fans generally start streaming out of the stadium during the seventh and eighth innings if the games seem to be decided already. However, that was not the case on Sunday.

“Fans stayed in place…nobody was leaving early,” Marich said. A packed house for the final pitch of a game is almost unheard of outside of the postseason.

“It was the last game of the regular season, so that added to it,” Becky proposed. “The only other time I witnessed a similar atmosphere at Nats Park was game 3 of the NLDS back in 2012.”

“The crowd held its collective breath as each out was recorded when the game got closer to its finale,” Paul said. “I don’t think anything compares to what I witnessed on Sunday.”

THE CATCH

In the top of the ninth inning, with just three outs to go, manager Matt Williams placed rookie Steven Souza Jr. in left field—a routine defensive substitution. But in a few short minutes the move would be proven pivotal.

Zimmermann sent down the first two Marlins with ease. One out to go.

Christian Yelich, one of the better pure hitters in the National League, strutted to the plate. Yelich powered a pitch into the left-center field gap.

Last Game of the Season 072“From where I was sitting in [section] 319, I had a pretty good view of the ball traveling to the outfield. Off the bat I thought it was catchable, but as it kept flying, I became nervous” Paul said.

Mr. Marich experienced similar feelings. “I kept tapping my feet against the concrete, worrying that history may end at any minute…especially as that fly ball went to left field.”

Steven Souza and center fielder Michael Taylor converged as the ball descended. Then Souza commenced a deliberate but desperate dive with his back turning away from the infield. The ball disappeared into his glove as he hit the ground and tumbled over. Spectacularly, Souza had made the catch to seal the victory as well as the first no hitter in Nationals history.

“Everyone just broke out in screaming and shouting,” Becky said. “It was awesome.”

“As a die-hard Nats fan, it’s a memory that I will carry for a long, long, long, time,” Paul told me, “to say that I was at the first no-hitter in Nationals history.”

THE CONTEXT

For anyone interested, Jordan Zimmermann’s no hitter was officially the 287th such feat in Major League Baseball history. Five no-hitters occurred during the 2014 season including a combined no hitter by four Philadelphia Phillies pitchers on September 1.

While Zimmermann’s was the first for the Washington Nationals club, the Montreal Expos threw four during their history before they moved to Washington in 2005. Ironically, the announcer for the Expos during all four of those games was Dave Van Horne. Van Horne is a current radio commentator for Miami, and was sitting in the press box on Sunday.

Adding to the irony, Zimmermann’s counterpart in the game was Marlins’ ace Henderson Alvarez. On the final day of 2013, Alvarez no hit the Detroit Tigers in an absolute thriller. Alvarez actually completed nine no hit innings before the Marlins scored a run, meaning he had to wait to celebrate his accomplishment. Luckily for Miami, they scored a run on a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth to seal the game.

All-in-all, Zimmermann’s accomplishment seemed more impressive due to his brisk work. He completed the game in two hours and one minute. This season, the average baseball game was just over three hours long.

“It was truly an unforgettable day,” Paul said. He writes a blog on the Nationals and has a comprehensive recap of his day at the Park. So be sure to check out the previous link.

“The Nats played like a World Series caliber team,” Mr. Marich remarked. “The no-hitter topped it off!”

If you watched the no hitter either in person or on TV, or have anything to say about it at all, be sure to leave a comment down below. Or you can go to Paul’s site and comment there. We’d love to hear about it!

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About Steve Miller

Steve Miller has been baseball blogging since 2011. He served as the Sports Editor at the University of Dayton's Flyer News for two years. Email: h2rsteve@gmail.com
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