Luke “Wizard” Wallace, Oak Grove center fielder
A ballfield’s the best medicine I know.
I’ve been sick as a dog since last night.
I had to run out of class third period.
I didn’t even stop to get the teacher’s permission, because I thought I was going to throw up right there at my desk.
Talk about embarrassing!
Luckily, I didn’t.
Anyway, the minute I stepped onto the field this afternoon, I felt a lot better.
And now this. This is what I live for: bottom of the seventh, our last at-bats.
Tying run on third, winning run on second.
Hitting against Kyle Dawkins, the hardest thrower in our conference.
He’s a senior now. He’s fast but wild.
Last year as a sophomore, I swung against him, and I couldn’t touch his heat.
I might as well have been batting with a toothpick.
The Compton coach just came out to talk to Dawkins.
I can guess what he told him.
They don’t want to risk walking me.
Dawkins’s control is shaky; the last thing they want is to have the bases loaded. I’ve already pulled an inside pitch for a double, so the smart play is for him to curve me outside.
I’ll be ready for it.
I’ll poke it to right, and the game will be ours.
Last week we won a game with defense in the final inning.
Today we’ve got a chance to win with our bats.
Andy Keller, Oak Grove backup infielder
The Wizard’s the guy you want up in a situation like this.
Gordie’s on deck. He’s our best hitter, both for average and power.
But in a clutch situation, Luke’s the guy I want up there.
For some reason—I can’t explain it— the pressure never seems to bother him.
You might think I’m biased, since Luke’s my best friend.
But I could fill a book with all the times he’s come through in the clutch.
In fact, I can hardly remember a time he’s failed.
Sure, Dawkins might get him out; he’s got the stuff to do it.
But if I were going to bet, I’d put my money on the Wizard.
Red Bradington, Compton coach
This is one hell of a situation to be in.
Their best hitter’s on deck, so we can’t walk Wallace.
Wallace has already hammered Dawkins’s fastball, so the best bet is to bust him inside one time.
That’ll move him off the plate.
Then we’ll curve him away.
Dawkins’s wildness doesn’t give us much margin for error.
I wish I could bring somebody else in, but he’s still the best I’ve got.
Pete Preston, Compton catcher
Coach just told Kyle to brush Wallace back.
You kidding me?
Kyle’s already walked two this inning.
We can’t afford another walk.
Coach wants us to waste a pitch?
He’s an idiot.
But we’re still ahead 3-2, in spite of him.
I just hope Kyle has enough sense to ignore anything Bradington says.
I’m going to give him a target in the middle of the plate.
I hope he tries to hit it. Even right down the gut, Kyle’s got good enough stuff to get anybody out.
Tim Burchard, umpire
It’s the worst sound I’ve ever heard in all my years of umping. Oh, I’ve heard plenty of pitches hit a helmet. But this . . . this fastball, up and in.
This one hit bone, right in the face.
Not even a scream or grunt from the kid.
He went down like he was shot.
I know him.
I’ve umped and reffed maybe a dozen of his games.
Not just baseball— football and basketball, too.
The kid’s a great athlete, a natural.
That’s why it was such a shock to see him go down like that.
The screams come from everywhere: bleachers, dugouts, infield, mound.
Even from me.