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Wineka column from Fargo: Not time to fly south just yet

FARGO, N.D. ó At 12:15 p.m. CDT Saturday, a jet rose in a takeoff from Hector International Airport and headed south, passing over the edge of Newman Outdoor Field.
I feared it was a symbol of the Rowan County American Legion team’s going south, too. Going home even.
Festus (Mo.), the Rowan team’s first-round opponent, had loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the ninth, trailing 5-4.
Surely, Festus would at least tie the game and probably win, I thought, watching from the stands in right field.
But Rowan relief pitcher Preston Troutman retired the next batter on a pop fly to left. No one could advance.
Troutman struck out the next batter, and what looked so dire when that jet took off had a different feel to it.
Festus hitter Ryan Yuengel then lifted a soft fly toward right, the ball hanging and drifting toward the line. As the Festus runners flew around the bases, right fielder Zach Smith, first baseman Trey Holmes and second baseman Ethan Fisher each seemed to have a bead on the ball, yet each also looked to be desperately short a stride.
As you know by now, the ball dropped in, Festus celebrated a victory and a gut-wrenching, three-hour game delivered one of the most bitter of endings for Rowan County.
One more loss, and they would be going back home, unable to scratch in the 2009 American Legion World Series.
I must say, I didn’t hold out much hope for the Rowan boys going into the 8:15 night game Saturday against Mount Airy, Md. How could a team rebound from that kind of loss?
When Rowan County started the night game in a 2-0 hole after Mount Airy’s first at bat, my instincts appeared to be correct, and I was wondering if I should start making arrangements for an early flight back to North Carolina.
But then I found Katie Veal.
She keeps score for every game her sons Billy (a Rowan Legion player) and Clint (not Legion age) play.
I settled down in a seat close to Katie Veal as Rowan pitcher Forrest Buchanan was making quick work of Mount Airy in the second inning.
“Nine-pitch inning, we’ll take that,” she announced.
Katie, who works at the Hefner VA Medical Center in Salisbury, N.C., keeps a pitch count along with her scoring. Her husband, Calvin, said it has come in handy over the years, especially with Billy, in making sure his arm didn’t fall off from pitching too much.
His wife also is a tough scorer. If the official scorer in the stadium says a pitcher threw a wild pitch, and she thinks it was a passed ball, with some consensus from the fans around her, she puts it down as “PB,” for passed ball.
“It’s my book,” she explained.
Why does she keep score for every game?
“It’s wonderful for my memory, which I have very little of anymore,” she said.
I can relate.
I was starting to feel good karma by sitting with Katie and her family, which included Clint and stepsons Mitch and Kit from Kansas. Mitch and Kit had driven more than 10 hours due north to see the Rowan boys play in Fargo.
Rowan County’s whole World Series turned around with a big four-run second inning when it took the lead for good.
Here’s how it translated in Katie’s scorebook across from the various players’ names and in the appropriate boxes.
E6, PB, HBP, 1B, BB, DP (4-6), WP, E6, E7, HBP and K.
That’s code for good news.
A Yankee fan, Katie Veal keeps her old scorebooks in stacks at home, and she said it hasn’t been unusual for her to use them as reference, when family conversations turn to certain games of the past.
While she scored Saturday night, Veal had a giant Coke within reach in a cupholder. Sometimes she propped up her sandaled feet on the empty seatback in front of her as she scribbled down her important information and shouted out encouragement.
If she ever has to leave her seat for the bathroom, for example, she will entrust the scorebook to Calvin until her return.
But remember, it’s her book.
Before I left, I asked Katie Veal if she took the morning loss hard. She did, she acknowledged, and she wasn’t able to move on until about an hour before the second game.
How about the kids, I asked.
“This team, they get over it quickly,” she said.
Katie Veal makes a note to the side of her scorebook that records the result of each game. In the margins Saturday night, she wrote “W, 8-3.”
The jet leaving Fargo just turned around.

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