Thursday, July 14, 2011

9 Reasons to Follow College Baseball: Friday Night Lights

This is part 5 of our weekly series on 9 reasons to follow College Baseball.

Friday Night Lights: Best Game of the Week

Saturday is the big tailgating day. Sunday's crowd tends to be sleepy, soaking in the relaxed atmosphere of the ballpark. Mid-week means people trickling into the park throughout the first few innings, coming from work or class or a quick supper.

But Friday night is the night to be at a college baseball game.
  • Unlike the big leagues, where the staff ace throws every 5th day no matter what day it falls on, in college ball you can almost always be sure the #1 pitcher is going to be on the mound on Friday night. And the opponents' #1 guy is also going to be throwing on Friday.

  • Some of the most explosive offensive games I've ever seen have taken place on Friday nights at Simmons Field. The atmosphere seems to pump up the hitters and when they start getting on a roll, anything can happen.

  • Friday is the night the students come out to the ballpark. They're loud, they're ready to release pent-up energy from the week, they heckle, they stomp their feet, they do stupid student stuff. And the ballpark gets to rocking. The show in the stands matches the show on the field.

  • Baseball under the lights takes on a whole different feeling. It's like every player and pitcher, every play and every swing, every heckler is performing under a spotlight. And there's a point in every night game, when the sky has stealthily switched from twilight to night, that I look out onto that field under the lights and a chill goes through me.
Some of the greatest games I've ever seen happened at Taylor Stadium on a Friday night:
  • April 20, 1996: Missouri welcomed Oklahoma State into pre-Taylor-Stadium Simmons Field on a windy Friday night toward the end of the final Big 8 season. Missouir trailed 9-0 after 1-1/2 innings. By the end of 6 innings, MU led 20-11. Going into the bottom of the 9th, the Tigers trailed 23-19. But the Tigers scored 4 in the bottom of the 9th and won the game, 24-23.

  • April 30, 2004: A huge crowd came to Taylor Stadium to see former Helias star Sam Lecure pitch for the Texas Longhorns against Mizzou. Lecure, who had not yet lost a game in his college career, was supposed to pitch the Saturday game, but got the Friday start when XXX was a late scratch. And MU pitcher Danny Hill went to the mound for the Tigers and battled pitch for pitch, handing LeCure his first loss. Cody Ehlers hit a timely 2-run homer off Lecure and Mark Alexander, "The Barbarian", came in and shut down the Longhorns in front of a rowdy and loud Friday night crowd to close out the win.

  • April 1, 2005: Max Scherzer and Michael Cole combined for a no-hitter, while the Tiger offense exploded for a 25-0 trouncing of Texas Tech. The Red Raiders coach blamed the lights.

  • April 12, 2008: The Friday crowd was pumped up, eager to see Aaron Crow set a new D-1 record for consecutive shutout innings pitched. Instead, they watched an epic meltdown on the mound as Crow surrendered 9 quick runs to the Texas hitters. The crowd was quiet, stunned. And then the Mizzou offense came alive, led by Jake Priday, and battered the Longhorns to their worst loss ever, 31-12. Priday himself hit 4 home runs and drove in 9 runs.
If it's a Friday night in March, April or May, there's no better place to be than at a college ballpark. Bring some friends, buy some hot dogs and Cokes, settle into a great seat. And get ready for baseball at its best.

No comments:

Post a Comment