Every softball player in Norway knew who Noora Sætre was. Of course they did. She was the best pitcher in the country by a longshot. No girl had been able to hit a single one of her pitches ever since she started playing in her home country and, for all they knew, she could have been just as unstoppable when she played in Madrid. Noora had certainly honed her craft and that made the Oslo team absolutely impossible to beat because it was impossible to beat a team with a girl who pitched nothing but perfect games.
But Eva was going to do it. She was the best hitter in the league, and even people outside of Bergen knew it. Last time her team faced Noora, she was out with an ankle injury but now she was back and better than before. She was going to hit off this girl. She could feel it in her bones.
She began preparing as soon as she got on the bus, popping in earbuds to drown out Ingrid and Sara’s constant gossiping in the seat behind her. Sure, they were her friends in theory , but she wasn’t a huge fan of them. They’d turn on her in a second and she knew it. Instead, she spent her bus ride listening to her pump up jams and, when they arrived at the hotel room, she went straight to bed with the desire to rest up for the game the following morning.
When they reached the field next day, the other team had yet to arrive. She hooked her bag onto the fence in their dugout and adjusted the bright blue pre-wrap that she had transformed into a headband.
“Where are they?” Sara asked as Ingrid painted two lines of dark eye black under her eyes.
“Does it matter?” Laila, their catcher, said with a sigh. “They have the best pitcher in the league. They don’t need to watch us warm-up.”
“Well, we have a star pitcher of our own,” Ingrid said, closing the tube of eye black and lightly tapping Sara on the visor.
It wasn’t true. Sara was a mediocre pitcher at best. It was fielding and hitting that made the Bergen team a force to be contended with. Of course, that probably wouldn’t apply to the unstoppable Oslo team. Even if Eva did manage to hit one of the Sætre girl’s pitches, it wouldn’t do much at all. The Oslo team was a united front and well, the Bergen team was full of drama.
“They’re here!” Laura exclaimed, pointing to the team of girls parading into the other dugout. Oslo’s second baseman, Vilde Lien, waved at Eva and she waved back. They had made out at a party a few years back, before the other girl had started dating the Oslo baseball team’s batboy.
“Alright girls,” their coach said to get their attention. “We’re batting first, so we get first shot at warming up on the dirt. Let’s start warming up. After they kick us off, most of us will do pop flies in the outfield, except Sara and Ingrid for pitching practice.”
“Who’s batting first?” Laila asked.
Their coach clipped his clipboard to the fence and pointed to the first name on it. “Eva,” he read for the entire team to hear.
She gulped. Usually, she went fourth or fifth, but she was batting before everyone else. Eva was going to have to face Noora sooner than she thought.
They took their turn on the field and it went pretty well. Eva fielded every ball that was hit her way and caught every one that was thrown to her, which was quite a lot since she played first base.
Then, they went to the outfield and Eva spared a glance at the other team on the field, trying to catch a glimpse of what she was up against, but the pitcher’s mound was empty. Noora must have been practicing elsewhere. Or what if she wasn’t pitching? That would mean that they actually had a chance, but Eva would be robbed of her chance to prove herself as a batter.
“Eva, you’re next!” her coach called angrily. “Keep your head in the game.”
“Sorry, Coach,” she called back as he hit the ball a bit behind her, causing her to sprint to catch it.
They got back to the dugout and Eva shoved her glove deep in her bag, trading it for her batting gloves. She adjusted her helmet on her head.
Ingrid stopped by and lightly shook her by her facemask. “Good luck out there,” she said.
“You’ll need it,” Sara finished for her with a sigh. “We all will.”
Eva shook her head. “No. We can do this. She’s just another pitcher, just like all the other ones we’ve faced during out seasons together. If we watch the ball and we get the timing down, we can send the ball flying out of the park.”
“That’s the spirit, kid,” her coach said, slapping her on the back. “Get out there and take some swings while you watch how that girl moves.”
That’s when Eva got her first look at Noora. She wanted to hate her on principle, but she respected her as an athlete and, dear lord, was she beautiful.
Noora’s short blond hair was pulled back under her visor. She had beautiful bright eyes that were somewhere between blue and gray that shined out against her pale white skin. And then there were her lips, which were painted with red lipstick. Most girls avoided wearing makeup on the field, but it suited her.
The way she moved was absolutely stunning, bringing the ball down toward her stomach before bursting out and sending her right arm up and around in a circle before releasing the ball, as quick as lightning. It landed right in Chris Berg’s mitt every time.
“That’s amazing,” Eva breathed.
“I know,” said the Oslo first baseman, Sana Bakkoush. “She really has a gift for this.”
“Batter up!” the umpire called, and Eva began to make her way toward the plate. She was nervous, but she couldn’t lose hope. She was going to hit off Noora. She knew that she could.
Eva adjusted her feet and tapped the top right corner of the plate three times with her bat, before swinging it over toward her shoulder and squatting in position, patiently waiting for Noora to start her wind-up.
The other girl scanned her for a moment, as if she were sizing her up. Though, Eva could have sworn that those blue-gray eyes lingered just a moment on her ass, so maybe she was trying to be secretive about checking her out.
Noora wound up and send it spinning right down the middle. Eva didn’t hit it. She didn’t even attempt to swing. Now she knew exactly where Noora released from and was ready to hit it for real. Strike one.
The catcher threw it back to Noora and Eva repeated her routine. The blond girl wound up and threw it again. Eva swung as the ball flew toward her, missing it. She was a mere half second too late. Strike two.
Eva tapped the plate three times as the catcher returned the ball to Noora’s glove. This was going to be the pitch. Noora wound up and threw, but it was a few inches too high, which usually tripped Eva up. This time she didn’t take the bait. Ball one.
Noora looked a bit shaken as she caught the ball that Chris had thrown to her, but Eva didn’t concern herself with that. Instead, she did her normal routine and got ready for the next pitch.
Eva started her swing before the green ball even left the tip of Noora’s pale fingers, adjusting it as she went. She managed to touch the ball, but only with the tip of her bat, sending the ball over her team’s dugout and onto some poor person’s car. Foul ball. One and two.
The pitcher looked at her, seemingly outstanded that someone had touched one of the balls that she had thrown their way. Eva just winked in response and tapped the plate thrice more. The umpire handed Chris a new ball, which she tossed to Noora.
She was even more ready than before this time, but Noora must have still been a bit shaken up because the next pitch was at least a foot outside. Two balls and two strikes.
Taking a deep breath, Eva lightly tapped the plate three more times, trying to channel all of the good luck she could. This was going to be it. Noora wasn’t going to throw two balls in a row. This was going to be in the zone, and Eva was going to smack it as far as she could.
Noora scowled at her from the plate, adorably squinting her eyes. She wound up and threw the ball right toward Chris’ mitt, faster than ever.
Eva was expecting it. This time, she slammed the barrel of her bat against the ball, hitting it right in the middle, and it went flying into fair territory. Eva didn’t stop to see where it went. She lightly tossed her bat to the side and ran, as fast as her legs could carry her. Her first base coach was waving her left arm toward second, so she rounded the base perfectly, looking to her third base coach next, who kept motioning her to go, to third and then home.
She didn’t even have to slide. She ran into home plate standing and then looked out toward the team in the field. The right fielder, Mari, was panting all the way in the back and Vilde was picking up the green ball off the ground. Eva had hit it far, far enough for a home run.
Though untraditional for a leadoff homer, her team burst out of the dugout and wrapped her in a group hug. They had achieved something that no team in the league had done all year. They had not only his off stud pitcher Noora Sætre, but also scored a run off of her.
Eva grinned widely as she pulled off her helmet. She spared a glance over at Noora, who was actually smiling a little. Everyone was amazed by Eva’s hit.
They ended up losing the game. Eva hit during two of her three times at the plate, but the second hit was only a double. None of the other girls on her team hit all game. Oslo scored 5. Still, they had something to be proud of. They had fared better than most teams did against Oslo.
Per post game tradition, they went out a few hours after the game ended. And, as it always happened when they played Oslo, they ended up at the same bar as the other team. Syng was a pretty nice place and both Sara and Vilde absolutely loved karaoke, so they always ended up seeing each other there.
“Don’t get too wild,” their coach had advised before they left. “But have fun. You girls deserve it.”
So, naturally, they intended to have fun, with no care as to how wild it would get. They wouldn’t fight with the other team. They never did. On the court, they were opponents, but once the game ended, they were friends.
Vilde ran up to Eva and wrapped her in a hug as soon as they walked inside. She was followed by a blond boy that just kind of stood there awkwardly, sipping a beer. “Eva, oh my goodness, your home run was amazing!” she exclaimed.
“Thanks, Vilde,” she said with a smile. “That triple you hit in the third was pretty awesome too, though. I swear that Laura just about peed herself in left field.”
“Thank you,” Vilde giggled.
“Who’s this?” she asked, gesturing toward the boy.
“This is my boyfriend, Magnus!” she chirped. “Isn’t he the most lovely boy that you’ve ever met?”
“Sure,” Eva laughed as she shook Magnus’ hand.
Vilde peeked over her shoulder. “Oh my god, we have to say hi to Sara. Come on.”
She dragged her boyfriend toward Sara, who didn’t much like Vilde at all but Eva couldn’t break that to her.
Eva moved deeper into the crowd, where she ran into Chris and Sana. “Hey, girls!”
“Hey!” Chris greeted, smacking a wet kiss on Eva’s cheek, which made her giggle.
“Hi, Eva,” Sana said with a smile before giving her a quick hug.
“Your team is so good. It’s like the all-star team versus a little league team out there, I swear,” Eva told them.
“Yet another reason that you should just join us. You’re an all-star too,” Sana pointed out. It had been an ongoing thing. Eva’s friends were, for the most part, on the Oslo team, but she played in Bergen. They had been trying to get her to work out a deal with the coaches to switch, but Eva wasn’t quite ready to leave her team behind.
“I need to give at least one team a chance against you monsters,” she joked. “I mean you were pretty unstoppable before but now with that new pitcher, there’s no hope for the rest of us.”
“She’s fucking outstanding,” Chris agreed. “We lucked out. Who knew that a random girl was going to appear from Madrid and suddenly make us undefeated.”
“You should talk to her,” Sana suggested, nodding toward the bar.
Eva bit her lip. “Are you sure that wouldn’t be like, rubbing my home run in her face?”
“Noora is chill,” Sana promised. “I actually think that the two of you would really get along.”
With a nod, Eva walked away from them and toward the bar, where Noora was sitting on a stool and sipping from a bottle of water.
“So, you’re the famous Noora Sætre,” Eva said as she sat on the stool next to her. “I have to say, you’re truly an amazing pitcher.”
“But it seems that I’ve met my match,” Noora replied eyes flickering up and down Eva’s face, “the lovely Miss Eva Kviig Mohn.”
“I only hit off you two times out of three,” Eva pointed out. “You’re still that ace pitcher we’re all heard so much about.”
“I’m not ace, though I fully support people that are,” Noora replied jokingly. “I’m pan, both in romantic and sexual attraction.”
“And you’re very forward,” Eva laughed.
“I can’t waste any time,” she reasoned. “You’re super cute and you’ll be on a bus back to Bergen in the morning.”
“I wish,” Eva sighed. “The bus is headed right on up to Trondheim for our next game. Gotta love away games.”
Noora chuckled. “Regardless, you’re leaving and I’m stuck here for a bit. I’m not going to waste my only chance.”
“You’re just really turned on by tough competition, aren’t you,” she teased.
“My team has been telling me about you all season. They told me I’d like you,” Noora explained. “But, I guess that’s a bit of a perk.”
“Damn, they must have searched you out as a method of getting me to switch to Oslo,” Eva joked. “Are you sure they didn’t kidnap you right out of the heart of Spain?”
“If they did, then maybe I wouldn’t mind it so much,” Noora replied.
“So it seems glaringly obvious that we like one another,” Eva said. “So, what are we going to do with that.”
“Well, the season ends in two weeks and then we have a week off before playoffs,” Noora said. “So, come out here for a date night then?”
“That sounds lovely,” Eva said with a smile. “And then once that’s over, I guess I’ll see you in the championship.”
“Don’t think I’ll go soft on you when we play again. Sure, you’re cute, but I can’t be manipulated by that,” Noora warned.
“I wouldn’t want you too. On that field, we’re enemies. And off it, I guess we’ll have to see where that date takes us,” Eva replied.
Noora grinned and held out her right hand. “You’re on.”
Eva grabbed it and shook. The prospect of going on a date with Noora was almost as exciting as the idea of facing her again and Eva was lucky enough that she would probably get both.