Eagles cry foul on umps’ calls in baseball tourney loss to Hodgson

MIDDLETOWN — The loss stung, but the Smyrna High baseball team left Middletown High Saturday more confused than anything else.

A series of controversial calls highlighted an extra-inning defeat for the Eagles, who fell to Hodgson 4-3 in eight innings in a first-round DIAA state baseball tournament contest.

Hodgson won the game with one out in the bottom of the eighth on a double down the left field line by Matthew Willard. The winning run came around from second to score.

But a few of the Smyrna players thought the runner had missed third base. As soon as the ball came into the plate, the Eagles motioned they wanted to appeal and threw the ball back toward third.

There was no umpire left at third base, however, so some Smyrna players ran to alert the three-man crew of their wish to appeal. The umpires never went back to third base, though.

It led to a bizarre scene with some Smyrna players shouting, “You have to at least let us check,” with the umpires leaving the field behind the first base dugout.

And that was not even the most controversial call of the day.

Hodgson scored its third run when Smyrna thought it had caught a runner stealing for the final out of the third inning. There were runners on the corners and the throw to second beat the potential base-stealer by a wide margin.

But the second-base umpire called the runner safe. Most of the Smyrna infielders assumed the call was out and were on their way off the field.

It left home uncovered and the Hodgson runner at third raced down the line to score. The runner from second almost made it all the way home too, but the ball was retrieved in time to make a tag at the plate for the final out of the inning.

While the Smyrna staff disagreed with the safe call, the coaches contended the biggest problem with the play was the delay in making the call, which led to the infielders leaving the field too early.

Still, the Eagles rallied from a 3-0 deficit to force extra innings.

They were down to their final out down 3-2 in the top of the seventh when Caden Naylor tied the game with a RBI-single. Naylor also doubled in the fourth inning while Max Lattomus and Dylan Leaguer each had base hits to drive in a run.

“We’re used to it,” said Smyrna coach Mike Henderson. “We’re not a big offensive team and then when you don’t get calls that you should get, that doesn’t help you trying to score runs. But the guys battled.”

In the theme of the day, Smyrna had another rally killed by what the Eagles thought was another wrong call in the top of the third. They thought they had the first two men reach after a dropped throw at second base on a short hop.

But the second-base umpire said the ball fell out on a transfer, not on the short hop while the Smyrna staff pointed out the Hodgson player was not attempting a throw to first.

The loss overshadowed a gutsy performance on the mound by Smyrna sophomore Garrett Casey.

Nolan Henderson, playing with a broken hand (his non-pitching hand), started and went two inning allowing one earned run and one unearned run. Casey relieved him and struck out seven while keeping Hodgson off the board.

Casey’s best work came in the bottom of the seventh when Hodgson loaded the bases with no outs. The sophomore escaped with back-to-back strikeouts before inducing a flyout to end the threat.

“For as young as he is, it’s ridiculous how he stepped up for us,” Henderson said. “He had a shaky start of the year but he’s been awesome for us recently. So he’s been doing that for a while. When I sit back and think about it, I shouldn’t be surprised how big he came up for us. He’s a big time pitcher and only in 10th grade.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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