Controversy, weather delay, defeat: ‘Hoos drop Game 1 of Super Regionals, 6-5

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Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

A controversial replay reversal helped quell an eighth inning Virginia rally, and Dallas Baptist held on after a lengthy weather delay for a 6-5 win in Game 1 of the teams’ Super Regional series on Saturday.

To set the situation for the play of the game, UVA left fielder Alex Tappen had a 3-2 count with one out and runners on first and second in the top of the eight. A big, sweeping curveball from DBU reliever Peyton Sherlin would then hit Tappen on his inner right thigh, a couple of inches above the knee.

Home plate umpire Eddie Newsome awarded Tappen first base, but Dallas Baptist coach Dan Heefner requested a review, and after a quick look-see, Newsome reversed his original call, ruling that Tappen had leaned into the pitch, which was out of the strike zone, and would have been a ball four anyway.

But, aha, you’d think ball four, anyway, and you’d be wrong, because the guiding rule – Rule 8.2d.1, specifically, updated in the NCAA rule book in 2019 – commands the crew “to penalize the batter with a strike and not award first base if, in the judgement of the umpire, the batter makes an intentional movement to be hit by a pitch, regardless of where the pitch is located.”

The updated section further clarifies that “‘freezing’ by a batter is not considered making an intentional movement. A batter who freezes inside the batter’s box and who is hit by a pitch shall be awarded first base.”

Which is to say, Newsome had to go beyond determining that Tappen had just “frozen” in the box to allow the ball to hit him, and instead read intent on the part of Tappen to actively try to get hit by the pitch.

To clear up a lot of confusing chatter online, it’s not an automatic out if the umpire determines that the batter “makes an intentional movement to be hit by a pitch,” just a strike – it just happened to be a two-strike count, the strike resulting from the “intentional movement to be hit by a pitch” resulting in strike three.

Also to clarify: the decision to overturn the original call was, like the original call, a judgment call.

A similar situation had occurred just a half-inning earlier, in the bottom of the seventh, when Zach Messinger hit DBU right fielder Ryan Wrobleski with a 3-2 pitch that it appeared Wrobleski had leaned into, with no review and no reversal.

As with the decision on the play involving Tappen, the decision not to review and reverse the Wrobleski HBP was a judgment call.

In any event, the sum effect was, instead of batting with the bases loaded and one out, the next hitter, Jake Gelof, came up with two on and two out, and his fly ball to the warning track in center that would have tied the game was a loud out number three to end the inning.

After presumptive Game 2 starter Mike Vasil pitched a scoreless eighth, the game would go into a weather delay in the top of the ninth, for what turned into nearly four hours, beginning at 3:19 p.m., with the teams returning to the field around 6:45 p.m., and the action resuming at 7:15 p.m.

DBU reliever Zane Russell walked Logan Michaels to lead off the top of the ninth. Chris Newell bunted pinch-runner Jimmy Sullivan to second, and Zack Gelof hit a long fly ball to right center that River Town hauled in on the warning track for out number two, with Sullivan tagging and getting to third.

Max Cotier worked a 2-2 count, fouled off a pitch, then hit a screamer down the first base line.

Andres Sosa, playing no-doubles defense, hugging the line, had to range to his right, and made a diving, leaping catch to rob Cotier and seal the game.

Andrew Abbott went five-plus for UVA, giving up four runs, all earned, on eight hits, striking out eight and walking one.

Messinger (3-2, 4.47 ERA) took the loss, giving up two runs – on a pair of homers, a two-run shot by Sosa that tied the game at 5 in the sixth, after Messinger had relieved Abbott, and then a tie-breaking solo shot in the seventh to third baseman Andrew Benefield.

Virginia scored all of its runs in the fifth off Dallas Baptist starter Dominic Hamel, on back-to-back solo homers by Tappen and Jack Gelof to lead off the inning, and a two-out, three-run double by Devin Ortiz.

The DBU bullpen – Ryan Gaither, then Sherlin and Russell – would hold Virginia scoreless over the final four innings, allowing two hits, walking one, and striking out six.

Game 2 is set for Sunday at noon.

Story by Chris Graham


Augusta Health Augusta Free Press Kris McMackin CPA
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