BRISTOL - The ball bounced.
No doubt about it says … well … says just about everybody backing the Bristol Blues organization who stayed until the ninth inning Tuesday night.
Trailing the North Shore Navigators 4-2 with one out and runners on the corners, left-handed hitter Will Reiner lifted an 0-2 pitch to shallow right field that hurtled closer and closer to the grass as Navigators right fielder Kade Kretzchmar converged on the dying ball.
Kretzchmar then dove, extending his entire body to make a sensational catch for the second out of the inning, chasing Zeke Diamond back from about 80 feet down the third-base line all the way back to the bag and making John Orzechowski scurry back to first.
Six pitches later, Griffin Schneider was put down swinging, and the Blues were sent packing up their cleats after a fourth straight loss. All because of an incredibly athletic catch by Kretzchmar. Or was it so?
“That ball was down,” Reiner said. “You’ve gotta play by the ump’s rules, and we had a lot of chances before that. But it just sucks when you know something happened, and it just didn’t go your way. It’s just tough because you’re running down to first, and you see it’s down. And you’re like, ‘Oh my God, I’m a hero.’”
Certainly, most at Muzzy Field believed it was a hit, a contingent headlined by Blues manager Ronnie Palmer, who exploded out of the dugout and ran to confront field umpire Bill Pompa near the second-base bag.
The two got into a heated exchange that lasted more than two minutes, as Pompa allowed Palmer to voice, well, scream his frustration, and home plate umpire Scott Pellerin was forced to walk out and get between the two. Palmer even threw his helmet onto the ground, but he was never ejected from the game. If the call had been incorrect, would the umpires have let Palmer continue to argue for so long without throwing him from the game?
“That’s what I said,” Palmer said. “Usually I’m a pretty even-keeled coach as far as that’s concerned. But the fact that he let me stay out there as long as I did, and I even chucked my helmet and he still didn’t throw me? As soon as I got over to third base, I said to the home-plate umpire, ‘I’m assuming that you’re agreeing with me since you’re letting me stay, and [Pompa] let me stay.’ He really didn’t say anything.
“I thought the ball bounced. My first-base coach, Nick Rascati, thought the ball bounced. You go out, and you let the umpire know what you thought. Everything is magnified because it’s the ninth, but all the opportunities we missed throughout the course of the game were tough.”
If Reiner’s fly ball had been ruled to have dropped, the Blues would have then had a one-run deficit with runners on first and second with one out. Schneider would have been at the dish, and he would have been followed by the league’s third-leading hitter Austin White (who has a .423 batting average and finished Tuesday’s game 2-for-4) assuming no double play occurred. Instead, it was another Blues loss, as their record dropped to 3-7.
“We had a lot of chances, and we didn’t capitalize,” Reiner said. “It just sucks that it had to come down to that [call].”
Of course, what Reiner touches on is another of the game’s most important stats: The Blues left 16 men on base. The second inning was the lone inning in which the FCBL-leading Navigators (8-3) did not have to get out of a jam with a runner on base.
“I didn’t think we played really well tonight,” Palmer said. “Offensively, we really struggled. We didn’t capitalize early in the game with runners on base.”
After the teams traded single runs in the third, North Shore took the lead for good on RBI singles by Andrew Olszak and Ben Malgeri.
The Blues responded on Brandon Miller’s (2-for-3) RBI single in the sixth, but the Navigators plated an insurance run in the ninth.
Bristol loaded the bases in the first and third innings, put runners on first and second base in the fourth, seventh and eighth innings and put a runner on first base in the fourth and fifth innings, in addition to runners on first and second in the final inning.
Every inning ended in a swinging strikeout.
“I know I can just think, off the top of my head, a number of innings where we left runners on second and third, or third,” Palmer said. “We had guys up in the order who usually put the ball in play, but we didn’t put the ball in play. When we hit pop-ups or fly balls, it was never in the right opportunity where we could advance the guy.”
Zack Carpenter can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or email@example.com