STOVERSTOWN – It seems like every time that Stoverstown and Jefferson get together on the baseball diamond, something interesting happens in the late innings.
Nearly a month ago, the Titans rallied to claim a win with a last-inning barrage. Jefferson did it again Tuesday, Aug. 22, in Game 1 of the Central League playoff championship series, although this time there was a lot more drama, and controversy, involved.
After falling behind in the bottom of the sixth, 4-3, the Titans scored three runs in the top of the seventh to take a two-run lead, 6-4.
That’s when things got really interesting.
After a dropped foul ball gave the Tigers some extra life, the home team loaded the bases with one out. Another error allowed one run to score before reliever Sam Crater got an inning-ending double-play ball to close out a 6-5 victory.
The Titans lead the best-of-three series, 1-0, with Game 2 scheduled to be played at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 23 at Jefferson.
“Second time we did it to them,” Titans manager Pat Schultz said. “And they tried to do it to us there.”
Tigers manager not happy: While Schultz was relieved that his team pulled out a victory moments before a storm struck the area, Stoverstown manager Tim Thoman was understandably upset.
Thoman’s gripe was that the umpires allowed the seventh inning to be played to begin with. Dark clouds were already looming over the right-field fence before the final inning began, which is why Thoman felt that the contest should have been called at that point.
He also felt strongly that the game should have been called in the bottom of the seventh even with his team at bat with the bases loaded and one out.
“That last inning should have never been played,” Thoman said sternly afterwards. “This is a working-man’s league and, I’m sorry, but that inning should have never been played. It should have reverted back to the sixth and we would have won.”
There was some debate as to how league rules would have been applied in this situation. In the regular season, a contest can be called a tie to avoid having to resume contests. In the playoffs, Thoman said, the rules remain the same.
“It was not yet an official inning,” Thoman said. “There are no more suspended games in this league. It would have reverted back to the previous inning. That’s the rule.”
Jefferson rally: Thoman’s complaints notwithstanding, the Stoverstown manager couldn’t have been pleased to see his team give up a late lead to Jefferson once again. A leadoff walk to Tyler Troxel — one of his three walks for the contest — started the Titans' rally. After a sacrifice bunt moved pinch-runner Derek Sheckard to second, a single by Jordan Higgins put runners and first and third.
After Jordan Witmer, who pinch ran for Higgins, stole second, the Tigers elected to intentionally walk Sam Crater to load the bases. Scott Trail followed with a single that tied the game, with Witmer coming around the score when the right-fielder booted the ball.
Jordan Watkins followed with another single that scored Crater before Stoverstown reliever Levi Krause retired the final two batters of the inning.
Stoverstown rally: Krause, who got a second life after a foul ball near the Tigers dugout was dropped, singled to start the bottom of the seventh against Jefferson reliever Kody Smith. After a fly out to center, Nick Todero singled.
Schultz made a pitching change to bring in Crater at the time, which also prompted the home plate umpire to discuss ending the contest at that point. Both managers made their case and play was allowed to resume.
Crater walked Austin Rickrode to load the bases, but then got J.W. Besore to hit a chopper to first. Instead of taking the out at first, however, first baseman Sheckard’s throw hit Besore, allowing a run to score.
With the bases still loaded, Crater got Ryan Kehr to hit a grounder to short that resulted in a double play to end the contest.
“The umpire wanted to call the game,” Schultz said. “He said he was having trouble seeing. So I said ‘why would we even start the seventh to give us a chance’ and he said he thought we could probably get it in. I said ‘if you thought we were just going to make three quick outs, you were wrong.'
“And (the umpire) said he thought he had to call the game and Tim’s saying he’s fine with that because he said it would revert back. I don’t think we were 100 percent sure of what the rule was, whether the game would revert or if we would have to pick up tomorrow where we left off, and I couldn’t allow the game to end that way just in case Tim was right.”
Fortunately for Schultz, Crater got the double-play ball just in time. About 15 minutes later, the sky was pitch dark with lightning surrounding the field as the team’s prepared to leave.
Zach Schuler, who hit a double and triple, and Todero led Stoverstown with two hits each. Watkins finished with three hits — half of his team’s total for the game — to lead the Titans
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.