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CHAPTER IX.
TIED—AND UNTIED.

Now came a time, in that baseball game of Mavericks versus Rustlers, when the goose egg put itself in pronounced evidence. In the second inning Bill Overton, third baseman; Terence Tyrone, short, and a Mexican puncher named Gonzales, who played in the left meadows, came up and went down with a dismal regularity that brought sadness to the hearts of the Tin Cuppers and joy and confidence to the Bar Z men.

Then Merriwell, on his mettle, sent over the same inglorious course “Pork” Sanders, the Rustlers’ shortstop, and Tom Kinney, of the left field, and Ed Sparks, of the right.

“I reckon Merriwell’s gettin’ down ter b-i-z, biz,” remarked a Tin Cup man.

“But I sure don’t want to see no line o’ doughnuts,” spoke up another of the same following. “The way ter play ball is ter go sliding around the bases an’ gallopin’ in with the runs. I hate ter see a pitcher an’ a ketcher hog a fight like this.”

That sentiment prevailed largely. For the finer points of the game some of the cowboy fans cared not a rap. They wanted to see something going on all around the diamond.

What Merriwell was seeking more than anything else was to engender confidence in his abilities as a pitcher, especially among the Mavericks. If they had faith in him, they would give him good support; if they lacked faith, their support would be ragged and cause damage.

In the first half of the third Spuds led off with the swat stick for the Mavericks. Blunt, no doubt, knew Spuds’ eccentricities with the stick, and began angling for them. But accidents will happen in the best of regulated clubs, and Spuds smashed the third ball with a heartiness that went far to make up for his late wrestling match with Jack Lee.

The sphere rose high over Blunt’s head, and the bow legs of Bandy Harrison could be seen grating back from second. The ball dropped in Harrison’s hands, found a gap, and went through.

While the Bar Z groans went up, and the Tin Cup jeers and whoops waxed strong, Spuds bowled along to first.

Bixler, highly encouraged, went down the coaching line.

“Be on the job now, you junipers,” he shouted. “Man on first an’ no one out. Take a lead, Spuds, take a lead. Don’t be afeared of a throw to first. Blunt was never knowed to do it.”

McTurk, right fielder, was next to get in front of the Cowboy Wonder. He made a beautiful sacrifice, advancing Spuds to second.

Just then it was up to Merriwell. He had been placed at the bottom of the batting list, for Bixler was afraid to put him near the top with his hardest hitters. What would Merriwell do? This mental question was going the rounds of players and spectators. Even if he struck out there would still be a chance to tie the score, for Bixler would have another try at Blunt’s balls; and if, by fell circumstance, Bixler fanned a second time, there remained Gib Hackney, the second-best bet, to bring Spuds in. And yet, for all that, everybody wanted to see what Merriwell would do.

Then that little game of personal rivalry within the larger game for ranch championship began a second time. Barzy Blunt did his prettiest. Speed is nothing if there is not control behind it. Blunt had both.

The Wonder had also an easy, careless way of winding up and letting go which Merriwell had been studying. His balls were puzzlers, and Merry swung at two, leaving two wild ones to themselves. On one of the wild ones Spuds hustled for third. Lloyd got the ball over, and Toofers grabbed it neatly, but Spuds had slid head first and beat the ball.

Merry was expecting Blunt to give him a good ball. It came. Merry’s stick fell upon it, and the sphere plunged off along the ground between short and second. Spuds jogged home and Merry camped on second, all to the accompaniment of great rejoicing from the Maverick rooters.

Merry was expecting Blunt to give him a good ball. It came. Merry’s stick fell upon it, and the sphere plunged off along the ground between short and second. Spuds jogged home and Merry camped on second, all to the accompaniment of great rejoicing from the Maverick rooters.

“Elegant!” roared Amos Bixler, quite proud of himself, by then, for giving Snow’s shoes to Merriwell.

“One down, one run, and the Eastern kid on second! There’s where we get ahead.”

Merriwell slipped over to third while Bixler was trying to find Blunt’s tosses. But Bixler couldn’t find them, and for the second time that afternoon the mighty captain of the Mavericks struck out! If he was disgusted before, it would be difficult to describe his surging emotions now. Gib Hackney also repeated his former performance.

So Merriwell had gained his desire. Blunt had expired on third, and so did he. Honors were easy, so far. Best of all, the score was tied.

In the last half of the third the round “0” went up again to Merry’s credit.

Honors had been easy up to that time, but now Blunt had a score to settle. He was not the fellow to forget his debts, either. Wait, just wait, until Merriwell faced him again!

The little circles continued to find their place in the score book. The first half of the fourth saw Jack Lee, Gill Overton, and Terence Tyrone go forth with vigor and find a Waterloo.

The second half took Ben Jordan to first on a fumble by Overton, at third ; and then, half a minute later, Merry whipped the ball over to first and Jordan was stunned with surprise when Bixler touched him out, and Dutch Fritz supported the captain’s play.

Bandy Harrison proved to be the original “easy mark” for Frank; and Toofers was not much more difficult, for he knocked a hot one straight into Merry’s hands.

Then came the fifth. Along in here the balloon, if properly inflated, shows symptoms of rising. The score of one and one could not long endure. Something would have to give.

Gonzales, swarthy and supple, went to bat. Spuds, the next man on the schedule, began swinging a couple of clubs to put himself in trim for another round of the sacks.

Gonzales lined out a hot one, surprising everybody. It was so hot that it burned the hands of Ben Jordan, and he dropped it like a hot branding iron. Before Jordan could gather in the ball, Gonzales had a foot on the sack.
Spuds bunted loyally, was thrown out at first, but had the pleasure of seeing the Mexican roosting on second. This was pretty good, and the balloon threatened to break loose when Blunt hit McTurk on the thigh and Dutch Fritz told him to “Take your base mit dot.”

McTurk, secretly delighted, feigned great anguish as he crawled along the path to Ben Jordan's station. There was now a man on first and another on second, and mighty Merriwell was coming to bat!

McTurk, secretly delighted, feigned great anguish as he crawled along the path to Ben Jordan’s station. There was now a man on first and another on second, and mighty Merriwell was coming to bat!

Blunt, it seemed to Merriwell, was losing his grip on himself. If he became rattled, at that stage of proceedings, there was no telling what the Mavericks might not do to the Rustlers.

Two balls went so far to the east that Merriwell could not have reached out with the stick and have come within a foot of them. With dismal regularity Dutch Fritz called the balls. The third one Merriwell swatted, ‘way, ‘way out into deep center.

Gonzales romped home; and McTurk would have romped home, too, if he hadn’t thought discretion the better part of valor, and hung to the third sack in spite of the coacher, his teammates, and all the Tin Cup spectators. By staying on third, McTurk kept Merriwell
on second.

For a third time Bixler went to bat. He hit the ball this time, but Blunt made a star catch, and then a quick throw to third that wound up McTurk and retired the side.

There had been a chance for a number of runs, but the chance had gone glimmering. However, the Tin Cup men were satisfied. There were now in the lead.

In the last half of this inning Merry took the scalp of Ben Jordan with comparative ease. An inshoot and an outcurve followed by a jump ball that flashed by like a comet did the business for Jordan.

Bandy Harrison then braced his bow legs at the plate and touched off a grounder that should have been Merriwell’s, but which Bixler insisted on trying to take aboard. He got it, finally, but he couldn’t get back to his base ahead of Bandy.

Toofers was next. Why he was called “Toofers” Merriwell did not know, but he made a reason for it that time at bat. He struck twice, handing, at the second blow, an easy fly to Jack Lee on second. Bandy, badly coached, started to run, thinking Lee had returned the ball to Merriwell. As a matter of fact, Lee had the ball under his’ arm and was yelling to Merry to “Throw it back, pard!” Then Lee met Bandy a yard off second and touched him out.

The score was still two to one, in favor of the visiting team, and Merriwell was proving himself both a batter and a pitcher of much renown.

The welkin—whatever that is—began to ring with the vociferous approval of the Tin Cuppers. The score was still two to one, in favor of the visiting team, and Merriwell was proving himself both a batter and a pitcher of much renown.

The sixth inning opened auspiciously for the Mavericks. Gib Hackney got a hit right at the beginning, was advanced by Jack Lee on a sacrifice, and sent to third by a hit by Overton. Terence Tyrone began spoiling it all by striking out with dizzy regularity, and then the Mexican polished the thing off by being thrown out at first before Hackney could put his score over.

Frank had the goose egg pretty well under his thumb during the last half of this round, and Blunt got back into form again during the first half of the round that followed. Nobody scored.

The seventh was a repetition of the sixth; and while matters looked promising for the Mavericks in the first of the eighth, the side was retired with nothing accomplished. The cowboys were getting restive. They wanted to see more members of the team at work. In the last half of the eighth they had their wish, for there was work for all the Mavericks.

Ben Jordan got to Merriwell for a clean single. Hackney, while Harrison was at bat, tried to catch Jordan with a throw across the diamond to second. The ball missed Jack Lee by a yard, and Jordan went to third. Spuds, coming in from center, got the ball and, by a mistake of judgment, rushed it after Jordan to third. The throw fell short, and Tyrone grabbed the ball and—just why, Heaven knows!—threw it to Bixler.

There was no one running, and Tyrone must have been having dreams. While Bixler was juggling the ball Jordan got in with a tally. Harrison and Toofer struck out, for which Merry was thankful; then, owing to defective vision on the part of Dutch Fritz—he admitted it after the game—Pork Sanders “walked.” Merry was indignant, but put the clamps firmly on his temper. Tom Kinney, following Sanders, knocked a little insignificant fly which Tyrone, just to show he was still only half awake, muffed miserably. Ed Sparks knocked out another fly, and Sanders made the most of it and got home with another score. Then Merry took the matter in hand, threw out Kinney at third, and Overton followed suit by throwing out Sparks at second.

The score had been tied for a long time, but now the last inning for the Mavericks was at hand and found the Rustlers a run in the lead.

Could the Mavericks overhaul their rivals and gain a score on them? The nerves of the Tin Cup men were drawn to tightest tension. The first man up in the ninth for the Mavericks was Spuds, then came McTurk, and then—the only hope—Merriwell! As the Tin Cup crowd had turned away from Merry in the first, so now they turned to him in the last. If he failed them, the championship was lost to the Mavericks!

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