Read CHAPTER XV - BASEBALL of The Rover Boys at Big Horn Ranch The Cowboys' Double Round-Up , free online book, by Edward Stratemeyer, on ReadCentral.com.

Soon the three companies of the Colby Hall battalion were in a long line in front of the moving picture theater.  At once a crowd began to gather until several hundred people were assembled.  Then the cadets were put through the manual of arms, after which followed some fancy evolutions in the street in front of the show house.

“Very good!  Very good, indeed!” shouted Felix Falstein, who was present.

His face was beaming and he clapped his hands loudly, and, taking this hint, the crowd applauded with vigor.  Then the march through Haven Point was resumed and soon the cadets came in sight of Clearwater Hall.

They had good reason to feel proud of what those at the girls’ school had done in their honor.  The big flag was flying from the flagstaff on the campus and other flags were displayed from the front of the building.  In addition to this the classes had been dismissed for the time being and nearly all the girls were out at the front of the school, many carrying small flags which they waved vigorously as the cadets approached.

“Oh, don’t they look grand!” cried Mary.

“Superb!” added Martha ecstatically.

“I do believe Jack has a brand new uniform,” came from Ruth, and then she began to cheer and all the girls joined in.

The cadets had been cautioned to preserve true military discipline, and they did their best not to smile and make eyes at their admirers.  But it was hard work, and many a face broke into a grin impossible to control.

Opposite the school the command came to a halt, and then Miss Garwood and a number of her teachers came forward to greet the cadets and those with them and invite them to the campus.  Here another drill was given, the girls applauding louder than ever as each movement was executed with a precision that would have done credit to the cadets at West Point.

“I’m sure that’s as good as our fathers did at Putnam Hall,” declared Mary to her cousin.

Colonel Colby had come along with Captain Dale, and during the drilling had been in earnest conversation with Miss Garwood.  Then came a surprise as the cadets were asked to march into the dining hall of the girls’ school.  Here they found generous plates of cake and ice-cream, as well as glasses of refreshing lemonade, awaiting them.

“Gee, this is the best ever!” declared Andy, smacking his lips.

“Yes.  And what a surprise!” returned Randy.

“Some day we’ll have to return this compliment,” came from Jack.  “My, wouldn’t it be a lark to have the girls in our mess hall and treat them?”

“I suppose we’d have to give ’em regular soldiers fare,” was Andy’s dry comment.  “Salt pork and baked beans and things like that,” and he grinned.

“Nothing doing!” declared Fred.  “We’ll feed ’em toasted marshmallows and angel cake,” and at this sally there was a laugh.

Following the refreshments the cadets were allowed fifteen minutes in which to walk around the school campus and mingle with the girl students.  Jack, of course, at once sought out Ruth to tell her personally how much he appreciated the letter she had sent.

“I hope, Jack, you haven’t had any more trouble with Lester Bangs,” the girl said anxiously.

“Oh, he’s growling around a little, but that’s all,” answered the young major.  “I’m not paying any attention to him, Ruth.  I’m mighty glad that you didn’t accept his invitation,” and he gave her a warm glance.

“It was awful for him to get up that report about another party,” answered the girl.  “Of course I didn’t think it was true - that is, not what he said about you and your cousins.”

“Suppose we let the whole matter drop, Ruth, and forget Brassy Bangs and his crowd.”

“I’m sure I’m willing to do that, Jack.”  And then the girl added quickly:  “You’ve had some terrible doings over at the Hall, so I have been told.”

“You mean the robbery, I suppose?”

“Yes.  Have they discovered anything?”

“Not a thing.  It certainly is a mystery.”

When the gathering of boys and girls broke up nearly every one was in the best of humor, the only exceptions being Brassy Bangs and Paul Halliday.  These two unworthies had done their best to get on friendly terms with some of the girls, but had been snubbed in such a manner that it made them much crestfallen.

“I’ll be glad when we start back,” grumbled Brassy to his crony.

“Come on, let’s take a walk outside,” answered Halliday, and thereupon the pair left the school grounds.

“What about baseball this spring, Jack?” questioned his sister just before the cadets were ready to start.

“I’ll be out of that this year.  There is a new ruling that officers must step aside and let the other cadets have a chance on the baseball nine and the football eleven, as well as have a chance in the rowing and other contests.  Colonel Colby has an idea that not enough cadets have filled these various places in the past.  He wants to give every fellow a chance if possible.”

“Well, you can’t blame him for that.”

“Not at all, Martha.  I’m quite content to step aside so far as baseball is concerned, and so is Fred. We want to do our best as officers and also do our best with our studies.  You know the folks at home are expecting us to make real records in the classrooms.”

“I know that only too well, Jack.  Mary and I are working day and night on our lessons here.  We’re going to do our best to come out either at the head of our classes or very near to it.”

“How is Ruth making out?”

“She’s doing very well.  Of course, she had a hard struggle to catch up on account of the time lost because of her eyesight.”

Following the parade to Clearwater Hall the cadets settled down to the usual routine of drills and studies.  But soon there came a call for aspirants to the baseball team, and then talk of the coming matches with Columbus Academy, Hixley High, and Longley Academy filled the air.

“Gee! it makes my hands tingle to think about baseball,” sighed Fred, when talking the matter over with Jack.

“I feel the same way,” answered the young major.  “But remember, Fred, we can’t have everything in this world, and I’d rather be major of the school battalion - at least, for one term.”

“Of course!  And I’d rather be captain of Company C.”

“Gif tells me there are going to be a number of important changes on the nine,” went on Jack.  “A lot of new fellows are clamoring to get on.  They’re going to have their try-outs in a day or two.”

What Jack said was true, and the following Saturday afternoon a somewhat patched-up first team played a scrub team.  On the scrub, somewhat to the Rovers’ surprise, were Brassy Bangs and Paul Halliday.

“They both claim to know a whole lot about the game,” explained Gif.  “So I’m bound to give them a try-out.”

“Why, I thought Brassy Bangs came from a ranch in the West?”

“So he does.  But he told me they frequently played baseball on the ranch and that some of the cowboys were really good players.  He said one of the fellows had once played on one of the Midwest Leagues.”

“Gee! there’s no telling what an up-to-date cowboy will do these days,” remarked Andy.  “Playing baseball, going into the movies and into vaudeville, and I don’t know what else!”

“I guess he finds more money in the doing of those things than he does in the herding of cows,” answered his twin.

The game between the patched-up first nine and the scrub nine resulted in a tie, 7 to 7.  Jack and his cousins watched the game and had to admit that Brassy Bangs and Paul Halliday did quite well - in fact, much better than had been expected.

After that the practice was continued, Gif, as head of the athletic association, trying out one player after another.  Then came the final selection of the regular club to represent Colby Hall, and Brassy Bangs was given the position of third baseman while Paul Halliday went to center field.

“I think I ought to be allowed to pitch,” grumbled Brassy.  “I’m sure I can send ’em in just as good as any of those other fellows.”

“You pitch a pretty swift ball, I admit,” returned Gif.  “But your delivery is rather erratic.  You put them over the catcher’s head several times.  If you did that when the bases were full, it would mean just so many runs coming in.”  And after that Brassy said no more about pitching.

The first game to be played was on the grounds of Longley Academy.  The cadets journeyed to the place in carriages and automobiles and on bicycles, and were joined by quite a number of the girls from Clearwater Hall.

“Do you suppose Tommy Flanders will pitch?” questioned Randy.

“No.  They tell me that last game we had over here was too much for Flanders and he has given up the nine entirely.  I think they’ll put in that new left-hander that they tried at the end of that game,” answered Jack.  And in this surmise he was correct.

When the first man came to the bat it was easy to be seen that both nines were on their mettle.  It was a Colby Hall player who had the stick, and the left-handed twirler for Longley Academy struck him out in one-two-three order.

“Hurrah!  That’s the way to do it!” yelled one of the Longley students.  “Now make it three straight!”

“Gee! that was Nevins, one of our best batters,” whispered Randy to his cousin Mary.

“Never mind that, Colby Hall!” shouted Jack.  “You’ve got to encourage ’em a little bit!” and at this there was a smile.

The next man to the bat got a hit and on a wild pitch managed to reach third.  But that was all that could be done, and Colby Hall retired without scoring.

During their half of the inning Longley Academy managed to make two runs, and this was increased by two more at the end of the fourth inning.  In the meantime the best Colby Hall could do was to get two hits and bring in one run.

“Hurrah!  Four to one in favor of Longley!” shouted one of the students from that academy.

“You’ve got to tighten up, boys!” called out Fred to the members of his school team.  “Tighten up and show ’em what you can do!”

The fifth inning passed without a run, and so did the sixth.  Then in the seventh Colby Hall managed to pass the home plate twice while Longley Academy scored once.  This made the score, Longley Academy 5, Colby Hall 3.

“Oh, Jack, it looks as if Colby Hall might be beaten!” said Ruth anxiously.

“I think they might have a better fellow than Brassy Bangs on third,” put in Fred.  “He could have put out that last runner with ease.  That run wasn’t deserved at all.”  And a number of others who heard this remark agreed with the young captain of Company C.

In the eighth inning Colby Hall made one more run.  Then Longley Academy came once more to the bat, and with two men on first and second and two out, the batsman knocked a high fly to center field.

“Scoop it in, Halliday!”

“It’s a dead easy fly!”

“They won’t get any runs this inning!”

So the shouts from the Colby Hall boys went on.

In the meanwhile Paul Halliday stepped back a few paces and got directly under the descending sphere.  Down it came, striking his finger tips and bouncing over his head.

“He’s muffed it!  He’s muffed it!” yelled several of the Longley Academy contingent gleefully.  “Run, boys, run!”

And how the runners did streak from base to base!  And before the ball could be recovered by the bewildered Halliday the three runs had been scored.