Baseball is a enigma nestled in a diamond.
The big stuff is obvious: the dominant pitching performance, the towering shot, the base hit that whistles, the diving catch.
But some many games are decided by the little things, beneath the clouds of dust.
Little stings become big wounds.
Inches become miles.
The University of Arkansas won its opener in the Southeastern Conference tournament on a walkoff wild pitch. The Razorbacks lost a run earlier because a hard-hit ball happened to hit a baserunner.
The University of Central Arkansas lost its opener in the Southland Conference tournament because an infielder just missed an RBI hit by inches — barely under the glove.
Big innings are often set up by walks, wild pitches and passed balls. The Razorbacks upset Baylor in the NCAA Super Regional last year on a walkoff hit batsman.
And the subtleties doesn’t just rest with the amateurs.
During a recent Arkansas Travelers game, the key play was the breakdown of a maxim taught to players at youth league level: Always keep the play in front of you.
The Travelers trailed Springfield by one run with runners and first and second in the eighth. Antonyt Benboom laced a single that drove in the tying run.
Then, he got in a rundown between first and second. It required multiple pitch and catch. The Springfield Cardinals got so consumed by the dynamics of the rundown, they lost sight of the most important thing — the runner at third who headed home with what proved to be the winning run.
If one of the Cardinals had surrendered second and first to Benboom, then ran toward home to keep the runner at third, a .123 hitter was up next with two outs.
Instead, the Cardinals won the rundown — but lost the game on the lapse.
Five home runs were hit in that game.
A basic play without the bat decided it.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org)