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Faster finishes — but it ain’t baseball

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A sloppily played but entertaining summer collegiate baseball game evolved into a “crapshoot” last Thursday night in Fleming Stadium.

Coastal Plain League North Division rivals Wilson and Edenton were unable to settle the outcome in the regulation nine innings, necessitating, of course, extra innings.

But these were extra innings never before seen by Tobs fans.

Both teams were involved in an extra-inning contest for the first time this season and, along with spectators, were subjected to the introduction of the CPL’s version of the international tiebreaker rule.

To start the inning, base runners are situated at first and second. Baseball as usual follows. The home team is granted equal opportunity to match or exceed the opponent’s scoring output.

Especially enjoyed Edenton head coach Russ Burroughs’ assessment of a rule that was anything but well received by Thursday night’s participants.

“Everybody knows what’s going to happen,” Burroughs explained. “The first batter is going to bunt (to advance the base runners) and the other team is going to walk the next batter to load the bases. After that, it’s just a crapshoot.”

After both teams left the bases loaded in the 10th, Burroughs’ Steamers emerged with an 8-5 victory in 11 innings.

AIN’T BASEBALL

Just saying, it ain’t baseball. It’s comparative to collegiate softball — when a base runner is stationed at second base to begin the inning.

It was pointed out the international tiebreaker rule is utilized professionally at the AAA level. A spectator could see it implemented at a Durham Bulls game.

However, as Burroughs reminded, a base runner starts the inning only at second base in AAA games, and he reasoned: “I would like that better.”

Critics — negative and positive — agree the intent is to shorten games,

“It’s some rule they put in to try to make the game faster,” said Tobs head coach Bryan Hill, who was none too talkative about the change. “I don’t think it makes the game faster. Do you?”

Added Burroughs: “I think it’s a way to get the game moving quickly. Personally, I prefer (the game) to be traditional; I’m a traditional guy. But it is (the league’s) rule and we have to abide by it.”

Tobs first baseman Jacob Dean admitted he was not aware of the rule until being invoked in the 10th inning.

“I guess it’s something they started this year,” Dean commented. “It doesn’t seem right.”

Amen — it ain’t baseball.

BIZARRE INNINGS

Admittedly, the two extra innings of a bizarre nature were drama-laden.

With the tiebreaker rule in effect, the bases are going to be frequently loaded, heightening tension and drama.

Tobs left fielder Anthony Tucker was robbed of a walk-off hit in the bottom of the 10th when Steamers left fielder Devan Gardner responded with a sensational diving catch of Tucker’s sinking liner to end the inning.

The marathon of nearly four hours finally ended when Edenton center fielder Anthony Jefferson turned his back to the infield, chased down a drive off the bat of Tobs second baseman Kevin McGowan and made a diving catch at the wall in the deepest part of center field.

Earlier in the inning, Steamers third baseman Rich Guipo possibly saved a run by stopping a smash off the bat of Tobs right fielder J.T. Stone and recovering to tag out the runner headed toward third.

Also in extra innings, Wilson pitcher Luis Acosta, the tough-luck loser, was helped out by third baseman Jacob Nester’s tumbling catch of a fouled bunt attempt.

HAD TO SEE IT

Thursday night’s game was marked by “had-to-see-it-to-believe-it” instances.

Each team scored a run via a balk. The Tobs did so in the fourth inning and Edenton tied the score at 5-5 via a balk in the sixth.

Fans witnessed a 1-3-4 putout on an Edenton bunt attempt.

Edenton hitter Tyler Jones put down a bunt that was fielded by Tobs pitcher (position No. 1) Eddie Tavarez. Tavarez lost his footing but, while falling, bounced the ball a few feet to first baseman (No. 3) Caleb Dean. Dean alertly flipped the baseball to second baseman (No. 4) Kevin McGowan, who was covering first, for the putout.

In the bottom of the eighth, Tobs base runner Nester was denied a stolen base in a most improbable fashion. Nester easily stole the base, but was instructed by the umpires to return to first when the home-plate umpire ruled Dean, the batter, deliberately allowed himself to be hit by the pitch.

Neither was Dean awarded first base but eventually got there via a walk. The Tobs failed to score as winning pitcher R.D. Lutze registered three strikeouts in the inning and left the bases loaded.

OLD NEMESIS SURFACES

The Tobs were eventually overcome by an old nemesis — too many walks.

Seven Wilson pitchers combined to issue 10 walks. Four of those who walked later scored. The Steamers survived eight walks that directly resulted in two runs.

Wilson committed four errors and Edenton was charged with three. The balks, wild pitches and passed balls took a toll.

The Tobs were shut out the last seven innings by left-hander Ben Anderson, in his Steamers debut, and right-handers Ryan Sharf and Lutze.

This “Thirsty Thursday” affair offered about everything — including excitement.

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