A New York high school baseball team learned Saturday that you play until the final out is registered, and perhaps they need to brush up on the rule book.
Palmyra-Macedon High School was facing Hornell in the Section V Class B1 Championship game, and were down 2 runs with a two-strike count on the batter at the plate. Hornell, the underdog, had already won on two last inning walk-offs to reach the title game against the 2 seed Palmyra-Macedon.
Hornell raced out to a 5-1 lead over the favored team, and appeared to have the game in hand. By the last of the 7th, Palmyra-Macedon had trimmed the lead to 5-4 and had two runners on base before the fateful play that swung the game and left Hornell and their fans stunned.
The Hornell Sun recapped the action:
To set the scene: Hornell, the No, 4 seed, who already won on TWO last-inning walk-offs to reach the title game, had a 5-1 lead on No. 2 Pal-Mac. The lead dwindled to 5-4 with two runners on and two outs in the seventh inning. Hornell star lefty pitcher Gates Miller was at the pitch limit, meaning this was his last batter no matter what. His strike three pitch appeared to be a curve in the dirt. The batter didn’t swing. The umpire signaled out. The catcher from Hornell picked the ball up. Even though there was a runner on first, with two outs the ball has to be secured. You have to catch it or tag the runner out. With less than two outs, it’s simply an out. Confusing? Yes. But that’s baseball.
Since the ball has to be secured, even though it was a called third strike, when the ball hit the dirt either the batter had to be tagged, or thrown out at first. The catcher appeared to make an attempt to tag the batter, but his back was turned as the umpire gave a safe call.
Fundamental baseball would dictate that the catcher would reflexively throw the ball to first when the third strike is dropped or in the dirt. However, in the confusion and excitement of the moment, the catcher and most of the infielders forgot the rules.
The second baseman can be seen furiously trying to get his teammate’s attention, but to no avail. To their credit, the runners on base calmly trotted home without making themselves too obvious, and the game was over.
Hornell coach Joe Flint had this to say: “I blame myself a little, maybe I could have gone out and argued it was a dead ball and kept the runner on third and said, ‘Hey it’s tied now, put the runner on third and make them beat us.’ But we can’t blame the umpires, everyone is running on the field and I’m not sure they knew how to handle it either. I’m not sure what else happened because I haven’t watched the video. Maybe I should have called for a conference and protested. I blame myself on that piece of it, maybe I could have done a better job.”
To his credit, Flint has kept his cool, and also did so on the field after the umps made the final call. Flint has been counseling his players individually: “The kids have been talking about it. I’m giving them the best advice I can,” Flint said. “They are hanging in there … the catcher is certainly not doing that great. But there’s only so much you can do. People are going to say things, but time will heal it. This won’t go away, I told them 20 years from now it’s going to bother you, but the sun will come up tomorrow and other things in life will happen that are better. But we will remember it, we have to own it and always have each other’s back.”
It was a wild finish that has caught national attention. Hopefully the team and kids use this as a teachable moment going forward. In sports, like in real life, you must never give up, and you compete until the end because you never know what kind of weird scenario is going to take place.
Featured image screenshot from embedded YouTube video
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