YOU'VE HEARD OF those baseball days when every flyball is an adventure.
Well, it was so windy yesterday - how windy was it??!! - at Northeast High for a Public League quarterfinal, every pitch was an adventure.
At least when Lance Lempert was doing the hurling.
Lempert, a junior righthander at Northeast, stands 5-8. So far, so normal. His weight is 125 pounds. So far, so frustratingly slender.
"I eat a lot," Lempert said. "I eat healthy otherwise, but I do eat a lot of cheesesteaks. Nothing seems to work. People don't believe I'm 125, but that's the truth."
So is this: Lempert had a very interesting afternoon as the Vikings jumped to a 7-0, first-inning lead against Girard Academic Music Program and then had to hold on to win, 8-5.
Put "Stu Miller" and "wind" and "Candlestick Park" into a search engine and you will see what almost happened to Lempert, oh, about 50 times. The wind, pretty much throughout the game, was blowing a gale toward left-center.
Eventually, Lempert had to care about its effect on outfielders. But his concern through the first five-plus innings was how it was affecting his slender frame and pitches.
"I thought I was throwing pretty well," he said. "The wind kept forcing my pitches down [out of the strike zone]. I was getting a lot of movement on my fastballs, but they were dipping too much. It was weird."
Then came the sixth . . .
After surrendering a pair of no-out singles, Lempert was lifted in favor of third baseman A.J. Logan. Lance trotted to left and Mike Stampone moved in to play third.
Joe Coppola pounded into a forceout, Anthony DiVincenzo fired an RBI single to center, drawing GAMP within 8-5, and Nick Coppola, Joe's cousin, sent a deep fly to left. A deep, sailing, troubling-for-Lempert fly to left.
Somehow, he caught it. And after falling on his butt, he scrambled up, whipped a strike to relay-man Jose Delgado, the shortstop, and Delgado proceeded to double J. Coppola at third.
"Oh, that was nerve-racking," Lempert said, laughing. "While that ball was in the air, it seemed like it was going in slow motion. At first I thought it was over my head. I guess my speed helped out. I finally put my glove out and got it.
"When I did put it out, I wasn't sure what was going to happen. When I fell, my teammates guided me right to the cutoff man. They were yelling, 'Throw it in! Throw it in!' "
When Lempert arrived at Northeast's bench, a spectator asked of him, "How close was that to the fence?" Lempert held up his thumb and index finger about a half-inch apart. OK, so he playfully exaggerated. A little.
The outfield drama wasn't over. We move on to the seventh . . .
Bases loaded. Just one away. Ron Malandro, previously 2-for-3 with great contact in all three at-bats, popped out to Stampone. Freshman Dom Raia, who suffered the loss, then cracked a sailing line drive to right.
Sophomore Dario Perez, who had to deal with sun and wind, made the game-ending catch.
"I loved seeing that," Lempert said. He wasn't alone. Perez, not part of the batting order and the only non-junior in the Vikings' lineup, was appropriately engulfed as he reached the bench area.
Lempert, who lives within footsteps of Northeast, allowed nine hits while striking out four. Among the down moments was a two-run homer by Eugene Aversa that received major help from the wind.
"Couldn't let it get to me," Lempert said. "I just thought, 'Pitch, pitch, pitch.' "
The highlight of Northeast's first-inning outburst was Delgado's capping, three-run triple. Tim Freiling earlier blooped an RBI single while Logan and Chad O'Malley drew walks to force in runs.
Among the witnesses - coaching at first base, in fact - was Lance's fraternal twin, Seth, a sophomore who's younger by 1 minute. "I like being a twin. You always have a best friend," Lance said.
You don't forever have a locker mate, though.
All last year and for the first part of this year, Lance let Seth share his.
"But it got to the point where there was more of his stuff than mine," he said, laughing. "Had to kick him out." *