Report from Herts Baseball Newswire Correspondent, DAVE HAMILTON
Controversy ruled in Southampton on Sunday as, after hours of uncompromising baseball in blazing sunshine, manager Dave Westfallen led his Eagles team from the field in protest with the score still tied 8-8 in extra innings. It was a sad end to a game where Herts had fought off everything the Mustangs could throw at them but a very competitive match-up was ruined by a string of umpiring decisions which seemed to consistently favour the home side.
It was probably appropriate that the hottest day of the season would produce the most heated confrontation to date although no one could have anticipated the sudden and acrimonious end, which occurred when the umpire (who was one of the Southampton players) tried to eject the Eagles' manager from the game. This was the final straw for the visitors who had been frustrated throughout at the umpire's lack of neutrality and after several unproductive conversations between the two managers and the umpire to try and resolve the problem, the Eagles agreed they could not overcome this obstacle any longer and followed their catcher off the diamond. The game, which despite (or perhaps because of) the umpiring problems was still on a knife-edge, was therefore abandoned.
After a lacklustre display in game 1, the Herts Eagles had come out much more fired-up in game 2, scoring three first innings runs to take an early advantage. Trouble arose as early as the second inning of the contest though when the stand-in umpire's strike zone seemed to narrow, with a number of borderline pitches not being given as strikes. Two of the home side drew walks as a result and both came round to score, giving the Southampton Mustangs a 4-3 advantage.
Louis Hare scored on a single by shortstop Pete Kikel to tie the score in the third inning before the Mustangs edged ahead once more and then extended their lead to 7-4 after four innings. With the umpire viewing many of pitcher Hare's curveballs as being outside the strike zone, the 21 year old right hander was being forced to throw a lot of extra pitches in the scorching heat, as well as being unable to use his full variations that had proved so successful in recent weeks at keeping hitters off balance. However, when a belt high fastball over the middle of the plate was called a 'ball' the Eagles knew they were in for a long afternoon.
After a scoreless fifth inning the Eagles fought back in the sixth inning and some aggressive baserunning forced two throwing errors from the home side's otherwise solid defence. This allowed three runs to score on a single by first baseman John Oliver, who then scored on Hare's third hit of the game to give Herts an 8-7 lead.
Unfortunately the Eagles couldn't keep the lead for long, but a tag at home plate meant they held the score to 8-8 entering the final inning. With the tension mounting, both teams managed to get a runner to third base but were unable to come up with the crucial hit to score the run, and the game was forced into extra innings.
It seemed likely that the Eagles would draw first blood in extra innings as they managed to get runners onto second and third base with only one out. However, Kal Dimitrov was then caught in a run-down between third and home on a failed squeeze play. The Eagles claimed interference as, with a number of Mustangs players involved in the attempt to tag the runner, Dimitrov had dodge at least one player on the baseline who didn't have the ball. Such an unusual call would be difficult for any umpire, not least at such a crucial point in the game, but given the troubles of earlier innings it was no surprise that the home team were given the benefit of the doubt and the 8-8 scoreline was retained.
Despite their growing frustration, and with the game becoming increasingly bad tempered, Herts once again held firm in defence to force a second extra inning, but were unable to break the deadlock in their half of the inning. The sense of injustice increased when catcher Dave Westfallen was called out on strikes on a pitch high in the strike zone and when with one out in the bottom half of the inning the same pitch was then called a ball for the Mustangs batter, the irate Eagles manager couldn't help but comment, leading to his ejection from the game and the unsavoury halt to proceedings.
Earlier in the day, the Mustangs had run out comfortable 11-1 winners in game 1. Unfortunately the Eagles' bats were unable to generate any offence for pitcher Mike Wakelam on his return from injury. It should be noted that this game was very well, and fairly, umpired by a different Mustangs player.
I should also add that in a league which often depends on regular players to stand in as umpires, we support and value the efforts of these individuals who often sacrifice their own playing time to help ensure the games can proceed. We all understand that as stand in officials, mistakes will be made, particularly on some of the finer elements of the rule book. However, it's important for everyone that the umpire is consistent for both teams in his treatment of the strike zone and the calls he makes. Without this the enjoyment, which is crucial to a Sunday afternoon league, is rapidly lost and frustrations inevitably boil over.
|Herts Eagles at Sothampton Mustangs|
|Score By Innings||1||2||3||4||5||R||H||E|
|Sothampton Mustangs 11, Herts Eagles 1|
|Sothampton Mustangs||Herts Eagles|
|Lean 3b||2||2||0||0||Nick Russell rf||3||0||0||0|
|Ralph p||1||2||0||0||John Oliver 1b||3||0||0||0|
|Urbanscons cf||3||1||1||2||Ade Orioye lf||2||0||0||0|
|Johnson 2b-lf-ss||7||5||2||3||Louis Hare 2b||2||0||0||0|
|Wrighty c||3||0||0||1||Dave Westfallen c-ss||2||1||1||0|
|Barnes 1b||2||1||1||0||Peter Kikel 3b||1||0||0||0|
|Taylor rf||1||0||0||0||Mike Wakelam p||2||0||2||1|
|Dave Hamilton cf||2||0||0||0|
|Jake Kikel c||2||0||1||0|
|(b5) Kal Dimitrov c||0||0||0||0|
|TEAM TOTALS||19||11||4||6||TEAM TOTALS||19||1||4||1|
|E: Barnes, Dave Hamilton, Dave Westfallen, Peter Kikel, Mike Wakelam, Kal Dimitrov.
LOB: Sothampton Mustangs 1, Herts Eagles 4. 3B: Johnson. SB: Johnson(6), Lean(3),
Ralph(2), Urbanscons, Dave Westfallen.
|Mike Wakelam L||4.33||4||11||5||4||4|
|HBP: by Mike Wakelam (Johnson). . . , by Mike Wakelam (Taylor). . WP: Ralph, Mike
Wakelam(2). T: 2:02. A: 30.
|Herts Eagles at Southampton Mustangs|
|Score By Innings||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||8||9||R||H||E|
|Herts Eagles 8, Southampton Mustangs 8|
|Herts Eagles||Southampton Mustangs|
|John Oliver 1b||4||2||3||3||Lean ss||5||3||3||1|
|Nick Russell lf-ss||4||0||0||0||Ralph 3b||4||0||2||3|
|Rodney Naghar 2b||4||1||0||0||Urbanschlier p||5||1||3||0|
|Louis Hare p||5||2||3||2||Johnson 2b||5||0||2||1|
|Dave Westfallen c||3||0||0||0||Cooper lf||5||1||1||0|
|Peter Kikel ss-3b||5||0||2||3||Baines 1b||4||1||0||0|
|Mike Wakelam 3b||3||1||0||0||Taylor cf||3||1||1||0|
|(b6) Ade Orioye lf||1||0||0||0||Arieta rf||4||0||2||1|
|Dave Hamilton cf||3||1||1||0||Davis c||4||1||0||1|
|Kal Dimitrov rf||1||1||0||0|
|TEAM TOTALS||33||8||9||8||TEAM TOTALS||39||8||14||7|
|E: John Oliver, Rodney Naghar, Ralph, Urbanschlier. DP: Southampton Mustangs 1. LOB:
Herts Eagles 7, Southampton Mustangs 8. 2B: Urbanschlier, Arieta. SB: Louis Hare(3),
John Oliver(2), Kal Dimitrov(2), Ade Orioye(2), Dave Westfallen, Peter Kikel, Rodney
Naghar, Urbanschlier(3), Lean(2), Cooper(2), Johnson, Baines, Ralph. CS: Kal
Dimitrov. SB: Nick Russell.
|HBP: by Urbanschlier (Kal Dimitrov). . . . PB: Dave Westfallen, Davis. T: 2:51. A: 30|