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Controversial call helps send Cutters to another loss

July 21, 2012 - Mitch Rupert
By MITCH RUPERT

mrupert@sungazette.com

STATE COLLEGE – The baseball clearly bounced off the leg of Jodaneli Carvajal. The State College second baseman paused briefly as the batted ball rolled up the third-base line before taking off for first.

Home plate umpire Jeff Andrews signaled it was a fair ball. Base umpire Matt Moore made no motion at all. Williamsport pitched Delvin Perez bounced off the mound and calmly made the throw to first for the apparent third out of the fifth inning of what was turning into a brilliant outing for the left-hander.

The Crosscutters ran off the field. The Spikes grabbed their gloves and prepared to take the field.

It was the defining moment of Saturday’s 5-2 win for State College at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. Neither umpire called a foul ball and Spikes manager Dave Turgeon quickly argued that the ball hit Carvajal’s leg.

With both teams still in their dugouts, Moore and Andrews got together and decided after a brief discussion the ball was foul and sent the Cutters back on the field, put Carvajal back in the box with an 0-1 count, and put runners back on first and second.

Williamsport manager Andy Tracy argued vehemently, but he wasn’t arguing that the ball wasn’t fouled off Carvajal’s leg. He was arguing that the umpires waited until everyone was in their dugout before finally making a call.

“I just didn’t like the fact that we all left the field. The play was already called,” Tracy said. “To me, if you think it’s a foul ball, you call it immediately as a field umpire. Throw up your hands. We’re off the field and ready to hit and they call us back out. It’s a weird play.”

And it’s a play that cost the Cutters their two-run lead. After receiving several warm-up pitches following a five-minute delay, Spikes runners Yhonathan Barrios and Jared Lakind pulled off a double steal. Two pitches later, Carvajal blooped a single into left field scoring both runners and tying the game, 2-2.

Williamsport never seemed to recover after the play. Offensively they sent no more than four batters to the plate against State College relievers Dalton Friend and Jordan Cooper over the last four innings.

Defensively, a ball through the legs of Mitch Walding at third base allowed a run to score in the sixth. The Spikes added two more in the eighth after a fly ball to left field fell between three Cutters players for a double. The loss was the third in a row to State College for Williamsport, who fell to 4-15 in the month of July.

“That play swung everything,” Tracy said of the foul ball.

“It was a let down, but that’s how the game goes sometimes,” Cutters left field Larry Greene Jr. said. “You have to go out there and conquer it.”

It wasn’t the only momentum swing Williamsport was a victim of last night. They were also robbed of two runs when Spikes right-fielder Tyler Gaffney fearlessly crashed into the right-field wall to take a two-run home run away from Chris Serritella in the first inning.

Serritella, who is fourth in the league with five home runs and homered in State College on Thursday, drove an 0-2 pitch to deep right-center field, just to the right of the 375-mark. Gaffney had a beat on the ball the whole way and jumped at the last second, getting his glove up over the yellow line of the wall to take away the two-run blast and end the first inning.

Gaffney was a 24th-round selection this year out of Stanford where he was going to be one part of a two-running back system in the fall for the Cardinal before signing with the Pirates.

“You act like (the wall) is not there, but you know there’s a warning track and you’re getting close,” said Gaffney, who crashed into a wall that has no padding. “You jump up like you’re not going to hit the wall. But I got the better half of the catch. Once I got to the warning track, I felt like I had a tougher play than what I thought. So I put what I had in it and caught it.”

“I think it’s an unbelievable game-changer,” Turgeon said. “It allowed our pitcher to take a deep breath. He has a clean slate.”

Greene hit one that nobody was going to rob in the top of the fourth inning, a towering moonshot to center field, just to the right of the 399-foot mark. It was his second home run of the year and second this week.

After doubling off Spikes starter Jason Creasy in the first inning, Greene got ahead 3-0 in the third and jumped all over a fastball for the home run. He’s the third Crosscutter hitter with more than one home run this year, joining Serritella (5) and Brian Pointer (3). His 17 RBIs are fourth-best on the team.

“That’s a reward for getting in a hitter’s count in the right part of the game. You learn to hit in zones there,” Tracy said of giving Greene a 3-0 green light. “That was a nice, easy swing and he didn’t pull it, really. But he can leave that part of the field. To me, the home run is great, but his pass was awesome. If it would have been a hard out, it would have been a hard out and no big deal as long as he takes a good pass and makes good contact.”

“I’m slowing down the game to my speed and seeing pitches really well and seeing the ball really well,” Greene said. “Now I’m getting good pitches to hit and I’m putting a good swing on it.”

Williamsport added another run in the top of the fifth when Logan Moore scored on a fielder’s choice grounder from Roman Quinn for a 2-0 lead. But it’s the last the Cutters would have the lead since the Spikes tied the game in the bottom of the inning after the controversial foul ball call.

The three runs Perez allowed led to his third loss of the season in what was easily his best outing. The left-hander that had walked 20 in 19 2/3 innings coming into Saturday’s game, walked just two in 5 1/3 innings, and one of those was the first batter of the game.

He threw just 40 of his 73 pitches (55 percent) for strikes. And he threw first-pitch strikes to just 10 of 20 batters he faced. But he stayed around the zone enough with a fastball that sat at 92 mph and touched 95, and got outs on a terrific change-up he had working.

Perez didn’t allow a hit until Barrett Barnes singled to left field with two outs in the fourth inning.

“I thought he pitched down and he pitched in and he worked off his fastball,” Tracy said. “I wanted him out there for the sixth. He wasn’t too deep in his pitch count. It looked like he was in command of everything. He didn’t look like he was fatiguing. His velocity still there. I think that (the foul ball call in the fifth) kind of took the win out of his sails.”

 
 

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