There are levels of degeneracy.
Betting on regular season baseball? That’s nothing.
Preseason football? Child’s play.
Until you’re betting on Little League World Series qualification elimination games, don’t talk to me about degeneracy.
Friday’s are my favorite day — lather on an extra layer of deodorant in the morning and get ready to sweat from dawn to dusk.
So when I got a tip that Rhode Island (around -230 moneyline and -155 on the run line) was a “lock” against New Hampshire in the New England Regional, I slammed it.
The game ticked all my boxes: early on a Friday afternoon, a bona fide can’t miss play, and the opportunity to expand the breadth of my gambling repertoire.
Put me down for 5 units.
I got the first text at lunch: “1-0 New Hampshire.” No problem. Baseball’s a long game. Still eight innings to go!
“Five innings to go. It’s Little League, they only play six.”
Oh, uh, learn something new every day.
New Hampshire tacked on another in the second. Its ace was dealing. In the office, we decided that Will Perkowski would inevitably win a Cy Young one day.
In the fourth, the floodgates opened. New Hampshire added three runs in the top half of the inning, including a back-breaking fifth run that squeaked across on a staple play in Little League baseball: send the runner from first, wait for the throw down to second, send the guy on third.
I pulled that play off dozens of times when I was 12; now it was burning a hole in my bankroll.
Perkowski cruised through the fourth and fifth — all told he’d only allowed two hits when he entered the bottom of the sixth, up 5-0.
In the office, we were despondent. Most attention had already turned to the more professional afternoon baseball in Chicago. The interns voted to forgo their afternoon coffee run. I marked my bet-tracking-spreadsheet with a big fat “L.”
And then … a single.
And then another single.
And then a two-run triple!
Rhode Island was on the board at 5-2. Suddenly Perkowski wasn’t a Cy Young candidate, he was just another 12-year-old in danger of crying on national television as his coach asked for the ball.
In came Cam Hujsak, who after surrendering a single up the middle to make it 5-3, quickly got two pop-ups to put Rhode Island down to its last out.
But Rhode Island wasn’t going down quietly.
A walk after a lengthy battle from the No. 8 hitter.
A single up the middle from the No. 9 hitter Dylan Mourao, who twisted his ankle rounding first.
Now it was the top of the order (they might not have nine innings in Little League, but they sure do have nine batters).
Hujsak jumped out to a 1-2 lead on Tyler Simon, and twice thought he’d struck out Rhode Island’s No. 1 hitter. But Simon fouled off pitch after pitch before working a bases-loaded walk to make the score 5-4.
Hujsak got the hook, tears streaming down his face, because again, these kids are 12 and on national television.
Isaac Morin came in. Steve The Intern, who had gotten the office on this LLWS kick in the first place, audibly groaned. “This kid is throwing gas.” And he was — the catcher’s glove made a distinctly different sound when this kid was pounding the zone.
It mattered not. Tommy Turner ripped the first pitch he saw up the middle. The runner on third scampered home. The centerfielder bobbled the ball. And Dylan Mourao, who but five minutes earlier had been barely able to walk, was right on his heels.
He beat the throw and the tag to give Rhode Island an improbable 6-5 walk-off win.
Here in New York, the office exploded. Drinks were spilled. Someone might have almost knocked over an entire shelf of bobbleheads in celebration.
The intern’s afternoon coffee run was back on.
And I sheepishly changed the “L” in my tracking spreadsheet to a “W.”
The boys from Coventry, Rhode Island are back in action Saturday at 1 p.m. ET against Pittsfield, Massachusetts, on ESPN.
You can bet I’ll be tuning in.