STOVERSTOWN — It's not easy for any team to rebound after a critical call goes against it.
Such calls take on added significance when they occur in showdown games between the top two teams in a league.
That was the case Tuesday evening, Aug. 1, in the Central League baseball battle between Manchester and Stoverstown.
A disputed call that went against the Tigers to end the fourth inning proved pivotal. While the Tigers battled back to draw within two runs in the sixth, the call against Brandon Warner at first base with two outs and the bases loaded in the fourth certainly did Stoverstown no favors.
Especially when it appeared to many that Warner was safe. A photo of the play also appeared to show Warner's foot hitting the bag before the ball reached the first baseman's mitt.
A bad break for one side, however, is a great break for the other. To Manchester’s credit, the visitors took full advantage of the opportunity in a 7-5 victory.
The Tigers (22-9-0, 66 points) still lead the Central League standings with four games remaining, but the Indians (20-10-1, 61 points) clawed to within five points of the leaders after winning their eighth-straight contest.
Defending champion Jefferson (19-9-1, 58 points) also picked up ground on Stoverstown after claiming a 5-3 victory over Pleasureville Tuesday, Aug. 1. The Titans, who have six games left, are just eight points back.
“We’re just coming out every night, playing one game at a time here,” Manchester manager Dave Miller. “Whoever steps up that night and does the job, that’s the way we go.”
Tuesday night, it was Austin Allison and Trey McWilliams who stepped up. Allison collected two hits and drove in three runs, while Williams, who tripled, also brought in three runs, helping the Indians rally back from an early 2-0 deficit.
Pivotal call aids Manchester: Leading 7-2, the Indians appeared to be in a bit of jam in the bottom of the fourth. A one-out single by Austin Rickrode, a hit batsman and a single loaded the bases for Warner.
Warner hit a grounder to short and appeared to beat the throw that would have turned the lineup over to the top of the order. The Stoverstown shortstop was called out by the umpire, however, which drew loud protests from the Stoverstown dugout and coaches.
Even Miller, who has seen more than a few calls go awry over his years, knew the call was wrong.
“That one went our way,” Miller said. “There’s no doubt about it.”
Stoverstown manager Tim Thoman refused to completely blame the loss on that one unfortunate call. While he accepted the call afterward, that doesn’t mean that Thoman was happy about it.
“That was a pretty big play,” Thoman said. “That could have changed everything, but, you know, it’s just one of those nights.”
The sailing likely would have been smoother for the visitors had their defense lived up to expectations. A couple of fielding miscues helped the Tigers score three runs over the fifth and sixth innings to pull with 7-5.
Manchester starter Michael Houseal, however, battled through some sticky situations to go six innings while allowing just two earned runs.
“Michael just came back from Hawaii after 10 days,” Miller said. “So his arm was rested, but he was a little jet-lagged and stuff. But he said he’d be ready to go (tonight) and he did everything that he could.”
Kenny Kopp earned the save after yielding just a one-out single in the seventh.
Rickrode and Austin Botts led Stoverstown with two hits each. Botts collected three RBIs with a two-run single in the first and a single in the fifth.
Jefferson 5, Pleasureville 3: At Pleasureville, the visitors plated three runs in the top of the seventh to take the lead and went on to the victory. Sam Crater led the visitors with a homer, a double, two RBIs and one run scored. Also for Jefferson, Jordan Witmer went 2 for 4, Jordan Higgins went 1 for 2 with two runs scored, Kurt Seiders doubled, Scott Trail homered with two RBIs and starting pitcher Brian Bossom threw six innings, striking out six and walking three, while allowing three hits and no earned runs to pick up the win. For Pleasureville, Scott Ream hit a two-run double, while starting pitcher Mike Davis threw six innings, striking out four and walking three, while allowing five hits and two runs in a no-decision.
Mount Wolf 9, Dillsburg 2: At Dillsburg, Tyler Page led the visitors by going 2 for 3, including a double, with two runs scored and two RBIs. Also for the Wolves, Ryan Wentzel went 2 for 4 with two RBIs, Dustin Kuhn doubled with two runs scored, two walks and two stolen bases and Steve Pokopec doubled with one run scored and one RBI. For Dillsburg, Jeremy Gilbert had two doubles and one RBI.Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.