GLOVER COLUMN: Bad call costs DHS the game

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Last week the Demopolis High School baseball team lost its playoff game to Spanish Fort 6-3. Though the score might not suggest it the Tigers were competitive in the game, even leading with momentum pushing them towards victory during the early stages.

The team stopped the first two Spanish Fort at bats pretty convincingly and then followed up the solid defense in the bottom of the second with a single from pitcher David Kent, with two outs and two on base. A miss read by a Spanish Fort outfielder caused an error and allowed Kent and the two runners, Palmer O’Neal and Jacob Kerby, to come across the plate and secure a 3-0 lead.

At this point in the game I was pretty confident that the Demopolis team, bolstered by its new found lead and good defensive play against the No. 3 team in the state, could hold onto the lead, maybe add a few more, and holdout their opponent.

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I couldn’t have been more wrong.

But the changes that would occur a mere two innings away were unforeseeable, unthinkable. The team again went out after their obtaining their newfound lead and took care of defensive business. They returned to bat and couldn’t get a man in, which was no big deal with their three-point safety net.

Spanish Fort took the field at the top of the fourth. The Demopolis defense racked up two outs and had one runner on when things went south. A Spanish Fort batter popped up a ball in the in field and the Demopolis pitcher and second base followed it, with Kent planting himself under where the ball would inevitably descend &045; right on the line to first base.

As he waited, eyes to the sky in eager anticipation of an easy out and end of the Spanish Fort fourth inning it happened. The Spanish Fort batter, instead of taking the runner’s lane to the outside to avoid interfering with the fielder’s play, gathered speed running at Kent and, in a scene reminiscent of a player trying to run over a catcher to get to home, charged Kent, forearm brandished.

Kent not expecting the charge, nor completely aware of the player’s approach due to his upward lifted gaze, was leveled and sent to the ground. As the Spanish Fort hitter continued on to first seemingly unperturbed by the collision, the ball landed a foot and a half away from the dazed pitcher.

The umpires made no interference call. Demopolis Coach James Moody was livid and rightfully so.

Moody berated the home plate umpire, still no call was made in the obviously unsportsmanlike behavior. Spanish Fort had a runner score on the play and an obviously shaken Tiger team allowed another runner on base before a mishandled ball, resulting in an error, scored two more from Fort before the team could close the inning, 3-3.

At the Tigers next at bat the first base coach asked the umpire next to him why he or the plate umpire didn’t make the call. The reply was that neither knew who exactly was entitled to make the call. In other words, to save face from being labeled as an umpire that makes a call they are not entitled to they allowed poor sportsmanship to undermine the performance of an underdog team that had rightfully closed the inning.

I have to concur with Moody on the call, it was a poor umpire decision. While I usually err on the side of agreeing with officials, largely because I was a soccer referee for several years, I cannot agree with any decision so poor that it inevitable changes the out come of a game. Say what you will, but by those umps staying mum they handed the game to a team that displayed a lack of character and, from the views of the coach and players of Spanish Fort I saw, no remorse.

I would like to say to Demopolis players you deserve better. And to officials out there, you have to make the call.