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Authors: Matt Christopher

Supercharged Infield

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Copyright

TEXT COPYRIGHT
© 1985
BY MATTHEW F. CHRISTOPHER

ILLUSTRATIONS COPYRIGHT © 1985 BY LITTLE, BROWN AND COMPANY

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO PART OF THIS BOOK MAY BE REPRODUCED
IN ANY FORM OR BY ANY ELECTRONIC OR MECHANICAL MEANS INCLUDING
INFORMATION STORAGE AND RETRIEVAL SYSTEMS WITHOUT
PERMISSION IN WRITING FROM THE PUBLISHER, EXCEPT BY A REVIEWER
WHO MAY QUOTE BRIEF PASSAGES IN A REVIEW.

Hachette Book Group

237 Park Avenue

New York, NY 10017

Visit our website at
www.HachetteBookGroup.com

First eBook Edition: December 2009

ISBN: 978-0-316-09499-3

Contents

Copyright

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Eleven

Twelve

Thirteen

Fourteen

How many of these Matt Christopher sports classics have you read?

to Erin, Shannon, Kelly, Pat, and Mike

ONE

F
IRST IT WAS
S
HARI.
Now it was Karen.

Who was going to be next?

Something very strange had happened to those girls, and Penny Farrell, captain of the Hawks softball team, wondered if anybody
else was aware of it.

Shari Chung, the plump, dark-eyed catcher for the Hawks, had
never
hit a ball into deep left field before, yet moments ago she had knocked it some twenty feet over the fence. It was her third
consecutive hit, including the two from the previous game against the Gray Wings.

Now, with the score 4 to 3 in the Owls’
favor, and the Hawks batting in the top of the second inning, Karen Keech had just lambasted a pitch out between left field
and left center field for a stand-up double, scoring Gloria Johnson, the team’s right center fielder. The hit was Karen’s
second one in the game — her first was a single — and the crowd was cheering her like crazy.

But what was so strange about it, besides the girls’ getting the hits, was their
attitude
. Shari had not seemed surprised or impressed at all by her long home run, and neither had Karen by her hits. They acted as
if getting such hits was routine, no big deal.

There was something else, too. Something that Penny couldn’t quite put her finger on.

Pausing in the on-deck circle before going to the plate to bat, Penny turned and looked at the slender girl with the round
face and large black eyes standing behind her. Maybe she would know.

“Kim Soo, what’s with Karen, anyway? Is she mad at somebody?”

Kim Soo Hong, her bright yellow uniform about a size too large for her, squinted
at Penny from under the wide brim of her cap and shrugged.

“I don’t think so,” she said. “Why?”

Penny looked across the infield at the tall, statuesque Karen standing with one foot on the second-base sack, the other on
the reddish ground, and shrugged, too. “I’m not sure. But there’s something . . .”

“Get up there, Penny!” Coach Mike Parker’s voice floated to her from the third-base coaching box. “Bring her in!”

Penny glanced at him, caught his wide smile, and hurried toward the plate. In her haste she stubbed her toe and almost went
sprawling on her face, but she quickly regained her balance and went on to the plate, her cheeks turning a brick red. Surely
every soul in that crowd of some three hundred must have seen her stumble. Knowing the crowd was watching her made her wish
she were taller for her twelve years and had wavy hair instead of that dark, straight mop that hung down the sides of her
oval face. But she knew she had lovely hazel eyes and long lashes. You can’t have everything, she told herself.

Alice Higgins, the Owls’ left-handed
pitcher, sailed one in underhand that missed the outside of the plate by inches.

“Ball!” boomed the umpire, standing tall behind the catcher with his cap reversed and his mask on.

Penny glanced across the diamond at Karen on second base, thinking that if Karen could do it, so could she. If her memory
served her right, Karen’s two hits were the first she had gotten since she had rapped out two singles in their game against
the Comets last Friday.

The pitch came in again.. Penny swung and drove a hot grounder down to short. The Owls shortstop caught it and snapped it
to third to try to get Karen, who was running there as fast as she could. But the throw was wild, and Karen scored. Penny
went on to second base.

Loud applause rose and echoed from the Hawks’ rooters sitting in the small grandstand behind the backstop screen and the bleachers
behind third base. Penny smiled weakly and doffed her cap. After all, the hit — even though the Owls shortstop had erred on
it — had knocked in a run, making the score 5 to 3 in the Hawks’ favor.

“Hit it out, Kim Soo!” Penny yelled at the girl following her at bat. “Blast it!”

Kim Soo didn’t waste any time. She cracked a single through short and Penny scooted to third, holding up there as she saw
Coach Parker raising his hands high into the air. “Hold it, Penny! Hold it!” he shouted.

Penny looked at him as he stood tall and broad-shouldered, his straight blond hair sticking out from beneath his Atlanta Braves
baseball cap like wheat stalks. He had once had a tryout with the Braves but wasn’t good enough to make the team. Wearing
the cap, Penny figured, might help him remember those bygone days.

Sophie Kowalski walked, filling the bases. Now the chances really looked good for the Hawks to get their much needed insurance
runs. But Jean Zacks struck out, ending the half-inning, and every Hawks’ fan in the place let out a disappointed groan.

Penny got her glove and ran out to her position near the third-base sack, shooting a glance at the girl playing next to her,
Karen Keech.

“Nice hit, Karen,” Penny said, wondering what reply she would receive.

Karen glanced at her. “Thanks,” she said, and looked away. Smileless. Cheerless. Anybody else would have been thrilled about
the hit and shown it. But not Karen.

Maybe she doesn’t feel well, Penny thought. I’ll have to ask Jonny.

Jonny was Karen’s tall, husky thirteen-year-old brother, who Penny wished would at least give some hint to show he was aware
of her existence. Maybe asking him about Karen would break down the barrier between them.

Rose Ramirez led off the bottom of the second inning for the Owls with a long clout to center field. Kim Soo, playing left
center, rushed over, got behind it, and made the catch easily.

Janet Potter, the Owls catcher, batted next and drove a sizzling grounder through the pitcher’s box. It looked to Penny as
if it were going for a hit — until she saw Karen sprinting after it, trapping it in the pocket of her glove, and then whipping
it to first base for the putout.

Penny stared at Karen as the Hawks’ fans gave the shortstop the loudest cheer she had ever received. In
any
game. I can’t believe
it, Penny thought. Karen’s
never
played like that before in her life!

The ball was thrown around the infield, Penny catching it finally and tossing it to Mary Ann Dru, the pitcher. The Owls’ next
batter cracked out a single over second base, and the next flied out to Melanie in right field, ending the half-inning.

Penny waited for Karen so she could run off the field with her, but Karen sprinted on by, totally ignoring her.

“Karen!” Penny called, the word spilling impulsively from her lips.

Karen slowed down, turned, and looked at her. “Yes?”

Penny ran up beside her, her eyes meeting Karen’s, holding on to them. Where was that smile? That cheerful look any player
would show after making a terrific play?

“That was a fantastic catch,” Penny said. She wanted to say more, but just couldn’t think of anything else.

“Thank you,” Karen said. Even then she didn’t smile, but turned away and continued on to the dugout.

Weird, Penny thought, as she found a space in the dugout and sat down, too. That’s the
only way I can describe it. Weird, weird.

Mary Ann led off the top half of the third inning with a single between first and second, but died on first base as the next
three batters flied out. Shari Chung’s long clout
was
close to going over the fence, but it was too high and not deep enough, giving the Owls right center fielder plenty of time
to get under it.

Shari and Karen, Penny reflected. They both have been playing much,
much
better softball than they have ever played before. What had they been doing? Practicing at night? Penny doubted it. They
didn’t practice any more than any of the other players.

Then what was it?
What had made them so good?

The Owls went scoreless during their turn at bat. Then Gloria started off the top of the fourth with a single over first,
bringing up the top of the batting order again, Karen.

“Sock it out, Karen!” a fan yelled from the stands behind the backstop screen, and Penny recognized Jonny’s voice. She smiled
as she saw him sitting there among his buddies, cheering for his sister.

The first pitch came in, and Karen
did
sock it out. The ball sailed over the center-field fence for a whopping home run.

Penny hardly noticed the team leaping out of the dugout, pushing past her, and going to the plate to congratulate Karen. She
was too stunned by the magnitude of that home run. Karen wasn’t a very strong girl. Where had she gotten all that power?

“It’s hard to believe, isn’t it?” a low, drawling voice said beside her.

Penny turned and saw Harold Dempsey, the team’s scorekeeper, smiling at her.

“It sure is,” Penny answered, then snapped out of her confusion and went to offer Karen her congratulations, too.

TWO

K
AREN

S TWO-RUN HOMER
put the Hawks ahead of the Owls by three runs, 7 to 4. But the Owls rallied during their turn at bat and tied the score.

In spite of the Owls’ rally, however, Penny was sure that other members of the Hawks team, especially Coach Parker, must have
noticed how well Shari and Karen were shining at bat and in the infield. Shari was catching Mary Ann’s pitches and returning
them as if she’d been born behind the plate. And she had already knocked out a home run. Everyone could see that Karen was
playing far above her normal ability, too. Those hits
she had banged out were not accidental. They were solidly hit.

“If the rest of us played half as well as Shari and Karen, we should win this game. And, boy, do we need another win!” exclaimed
Faye Marsh, swinging a bat in the on-deck circle.

Penny, standing at the side of the dugout, took her gaze away from the leadoff batter, Mary Ann, and looked at her red-haired
friend. “The way Shari and Karen are playing, we might not have to play half as well,” she said soberly.

“Right,” Faye agreed. She stopped swinging her bat for a minute to rub her nose. “Remember the game against the Gray Wings?
Shari got a homer and a couple of singles in that. Now she’s already got a homer in this game. Where did she get all that
energy, anyway?”

“Good question,” answered Penny. “And she
was
hitting pretty lousy in the games before that, wasn’t she?”

“Lousy is right,” said Faye.

Penny sighed. “I don’t know,” she said, turning her attention back to Mary Ann. “She and Karen are doing something right,
that’s for sure.”

The words had barely left her mouth, when Mary Ann swung at a high pitch and slammed it to shallow center field. Pauline Case
ran in about a half a dozen steps, reached down, and caught it.

“Tough luck, Mary Ann,” Penny cried. “Okay, Faye. Get a hit.”

Faye did: a sharp double to deep left center field. Penny smiled, then watched as Melanie strode to the plate, carrying a
bat across her right shoulder.

Short, blond, and just slightly chubby, Melanie stood in the batting box, took a called ball and a strike, then cracked a
sharp grounder to deep short. The shortstop fielded it perfectly and winged it to first, but Melanie beat the throw by half
a step.

BOOK: Supercharged Infield
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