First, let me make it very clear. I am one of those who was 100% opposed to China ever being given the 2008 Olympics. The fact that China is conspicuously failing to live up to certain commitments regarding the press etc merely strengthens my opinion. However now that they're happening, I have the occasional glance.
As I type this, the Australian women's softball team is two out, scores tied, in the 8th (first tiebreaker) innings against Japan. The loser gets the bronze medal. The winner goes on to play for the gold. Incredibly thrilling stuff. This has been a game of major thrills. At the top of the seventh, Japan had Australia two out and leading by a run. Then one of the Australian team's lesser lights with the bat took the plate and belted a boomer of a home run, evening things up. The Japanese girls were just so close to taking it in their next turn at bat, only to have a runner try for home instead of holding up at third.
The Australian girls failed to score in the 8th, despite getting runners on base. So now the Japanese are back out there. A runner gets to second. A batter desperately trying to bunt their way to getting that runner around to third and in a position to score. Veteran Aussie pitcher Harding on the mound. And yes - it's a double play. And now a flyball safely caught.
Green and gold back on the plate. A runner on second. A wonderful bunt that evades three in-close fielders, fatal hesitation by the fielder with the ball and the runner gets to third. Just a few short metres short of going to the gold medal match. A foul is skied - the Japanese catcher can't get to it. My God - only the laptop literally in my lap is keeping me in my seat.
One of our most consistent hitters at the plate. Good pitching with a viscious flick of the wrist and now we're two out. A big hit is fouled out over the sideline. Wily pitching keeping the batter off balance, not letting the her get set. Another foul. The pressure really on Belinda Wright to hit safely now. Connects - and it's another fly ball. The Australian ninth innings is over and the score is still all tied up. Could the pendulum be slowly swinging towards Japan now?
What a game. Japan is the world number two, and Australia is number two. Both teams fancy themselves of being able to knock off the USA for the gold. But who is it going to be?
The tie breakers start with the last batter out automatically going to second base. Veteran pitcher Tanya Harding on the mound. Fields the expected bunt and gets the hitter out, but the runner has moved safely to third. One of the more dangerous Japanese hitters at the plate.
What must be going through Harding's mind now? A big curve ball misses the plate. Pressure now building on the batter - one strike and one out. A wild pitch from Harding off the plate. No - the batter has been walked with four balls. Runners at first and third, but it is the one at third that we have to worry about. Another time out called - check that everyone is all set, doing what they're supposed to be doing. A viscous ankle biter of a pitch. Two balls, two strikes on the batter. A wonderful pitch from Harding is fouled away. Yes - another flyball keeps the runner on third and now we have them two down. A fast pitch from Harding just misses the plate. Beautiful curve ball right over the plate for a strike. A change up delivery called a ball. A big swing and the ball is fouled away. The adrenaline must be oozing out their earholes! Another lovely rising pitch and one the best Japanese hitters fouls again. A great pitch again but no - it's called ball. Crack - fouls away again. We have to get this girl out - the next hitter is their most consistent hitter. A hit, they're running - and we get the double play. Side away, scores still all tied up at the end of the ninth innings.
An ad break. A bloody ad break. Prime Television - I'm going to kill someone for this. Oh no - a third ad. Come on you bloody lot - what the hell do you think you're doing? And a fourth. Please God - please let all the girls on both teams are taking a breather and we're not missing any play. Oh give me a break - a fifth.
Back to the game. The top of the Australian line up at the base. The expected attempted bunt. The runner at second. We're in the scoring position. A rip snorter of a pitch twists the batter around. I have an 8:30 class in the morning but there is no way that I'm going to even consider opening the books until this game is over. Chases a wide pitch and fouls it away. We just can't get that runner over to third. Great pitching keeping the batter off balance. The pitcher takes too long to deliver the next pitch and a time violation is called. Another ball is automatically added to the batters count - slowly moving slightly in our favour now? A hit and she is run out at first but Belinda Wright is now safely sitting at third base. New batter. A right hander replacing a left hander. The pitcher throws two balls in a row. Has the change of stance gotten to her? A hit - they both run. But the runner tagged out at first. Our tenth innings over and the scores STILL tied up. I desperately need to go to the toilet but can't afford to miss a thing. I now understand all those viewers of the final episode of MASH that refused to go to the loo until it was all over and then overloaded the sewer system with the resulting rush to the bog.
Bottom of the tenth - the Japanese runner tries to get away to third, but no! A bullet of a throw has run her out! A H.U.G.E out! Very next pitch and a flyball straight to the fielder. Two out in two pitches. So much pressure. The Japanese just need a score of any description. A big, safe hit, neatly bisecting the outfielders. Safely on third. That girl didn't run - she flew over the ground around the bases like missile. The next pitch and yes - another flyball safely gloved. Australia gets another chance to try and get another score on the board again.
More ads. Who gives a flying fruitbat's fundament about Dancing With The Bloody Stars? Just get us back to the game for heaven's sake.
The top of the eleventh in this marathon epic. Swings away. Run out. Runner held at second. A very wide ball. The girl at the plate with such a determined look on her face. A biiig swing, hit high and fouled away. What a pearler of a pitch, sneaking inside for a strike. Another big hit fouled away. But that's two fouls in three pitches. Surely she is getting a measure of the pitcher? A clever change up, a hit straight to glove and our runner is still stuck at second while we're two down. This Japanese pitcher deserves a medal for the way that she just keeps shutting us out of things. Ouch - a big swing edged straight down into the batter's ankle. Been there, down that - it hurts.
Wow - that pitch was so wide it should have been called twice! YEEESSSSSS - a safe hit by captain Natalie Ward - she's on second - and the runner has scored! We still have one more batter in hand. Can we score a second time, bringing Ward home? Not the way that Weno is pitching at the moment - low, fast and wide. Clever pitch - right back inside crowding the battrer - but it's another ball. A big hit - travelling..travelling...travelling - and centrefield safely gloves it right on the fence. So close to a home run and a three run lead. But at the end of the innings, we are one run up.
The opposing batters are up to the challenge - an answering score straight away. Another bunt and another runner at second. One of the biggest hitters in the competition now at the plate. This is danger time. Tanya Harding working her bum off, winding up pitching - right over the edge of the plate! No - the ump calls it a ball. C'mon ump! The count up to three balls and a strike. Shit. The Aussies go for discretion and deliberately walk this dangerous individual. Two runners in position on first and second - getting stuck into the new batter at the plate. She is standing right back from the plate and Harding whizzes one over the outside edge of the plate. The batter getting desparate to get wood on the ball. Reaches for it and fouls. Pulls at it and fouls again. This game is still teetering on a knife blade. Batter plays a pull shot that would do Ricky Ponting proud, but it's fouled off again. Crunch - a bottom edge into her shin guard. One ball, two strikes, two outs. A flyball fouled off, holding up, two players in position to take it, one calls for it - and drops it! She fluffed it! A big, rising pitch zips out of Harding's hand and another strike out. Whew! That blunder in the field hasn't cost us anything.
I cannot believe that this game is still going. It looks hot as buggery over there. The pressure must be incredible on both sides. God help the USA regardless of which of these two teams comes up against them. The top of the twelfth - the fifth tie-breaking innings. Ooooh - a cunning pitch sneaks past the Australian bat. Another time violation against the Japanese pitcher - her third for the game. Surely she is getting tired now. A fast, dropping pitch trying to con the batter into a swing but it is safely seen away. And a fourth ball. We have runners on first and second, scores still all tied up.
The reliable Belinda Wright back on the plate. The expected bunt - gets the runner into third. We're in a great position - only one out, a runner at plate and we're back to the top of our batting line up. Foul. A hit - but run out at first. Two down. Kerrie Wyborn back at the plate - the hero of the seventh innings with a big home run. Can she repeat? Pitcher Weno throwing at over 100kph. A big swing and a second strike. A hit and run out. Scoreless yet again. Still tied up. Back to the Japanese to try and finish things.
An ad for the rugby World Cup. Sorry folks - ain't interested at the moment. Get back to our girls on the diamond! Now one from the Liberal party promising the Canberra voters everything for the coming ACT election. Sod off! What's this? An ad for more egocentric aspiring supermodels. That looks like Jennifer Hawkins having something to do with the program. Hmm might look that up eventually. But for the love of all that's holy, get back to the *&^%ing game.
Harding back on the mound. She is good at ripping out these fast, rising pitches that get batters in so much trouble but must be tiring as they're becoming more erratic. A hit and another runner gets to first, and the runner safely at third ready to pounce. Bunt - one out. Runner at second and third. Absolutely no space for the slightest error by our girls now. Harding must be feeling the weight of the entire game resting on her shoulders now. A big hitter at the plate - and our girls go for an intentional walk. That will load the bases but will set up a possible double play. No - the bat connects! High - wide - and safe!
It's over at last. Japan have won. We have another bronze medal. By hell our girls can be bloody proud of themselves. They stuck it and stuck it to the world number two, after taking out the Canadian pretenders earlier in the day. Our opponents are rightly ecstatic, and who could blame them? One hell of a game. I hope for their sakes that the Seppo's were paying close attention because this Japanese team is going to give them a real fight for the gold.
And, at long last, I can safely go to the bog.