Having to fight off lightning and storms, as well as questionable officiating from local umpires, and Little League Headquarters, appeared to be just a bit too much for a tough, resilient and valiant group of boys from Shore Youth Little League. After losing both games Sunday at Azalea Sports Complex in Norfolk, Shore was eliminated from the District championships.
The outlook was brighter on Saturday. Shore batters were zeroing in Green Run’s starting pitchers, and Shore’s ace, Seth Johnson was shutting down the opposing lineup. Then the rain and thunderstorms rolled in, and with a 2-0 lead at the top of 3rd, the game was postponed until Sunday at 1:00.
When the teams arrived at the field to resume play, it had been determined that, since Johnson had pitched 31 pitches the day before, even though play had been suspended, he would be ineligible to pitch at all Sunday. Shore manager Pete Williams argued the point, and demanded a ruling from Little League in Williamsport. Williams’ case was that Seth Johnson could have pitched a full game, had it not been for postponement due to weather stopping play. Given he only had a pitch count of 31, he should be allowed to resume and finish the effort. After close to two hours on the phone with Williamsport, the somewhat murky ruling was that if he had been at 29, instead of 31, he could have continued. But since he was over thirty, the day of rest rule for pitchers was in effect, and the Shore Ace had to leave the mound.
Note: According to the Little League Rule Book, Tournament Play section: “h. In a game suspended by darkness, weather, or other causes and resumed the following calendar day, the
pitcher of record at the time the game was halted may continue to the extent of his/her eligibility, provided he/she delivered 40 or less pitches, and subject to each of these conditions:
1. If the pitcher delivered 20 or less pitches before the game was suspended, that pitcher’s pitch count will begin at zero for the continuation portion of the game;
2. If the pitcher delivered between 21 and 40 pitches before the game was suspended, that pitcher’s pitch count will begin with the number of pitches delivered in that game;”
With Johnson forced into catcher’s gear, the Shore game plan had to be completely re-worked, with Manager Williams having to go deep into the rotation, much earlier than he wanted to. He also had to be very stingy with his remaining staff, realizing that without his Ace, the powerful Green Run machine might be tough to beat, and it was likely Shore would have to play a second game at 7 that night.
Williams managed his staff brilliantly, but it was still not enough, as Green Run eventually pulled away, finishing with a decisive victory. Whether or not Shore should have played the game under protest was debated, but Williams decided to avoid any more distractions and just play baseball.
At 7:00 that night, Shore met familiar rival, Central Accomack for the final elimination game. These games are always hard for both sides, as these players and coaches have all grown up together, and win or lose, always walk off as friends. Friends of course, after the game. This matchup was a game for the ages. Central brought its usual solid pitching and stout defense, as well as competent batters. Williams call to hold back some of his top pitching staff paid off. Starting short stop Landen Sayers took the mound, and was nothing short of brilliant. After ending with over 90 pitches, his average was an incredible 34%. With great hitting, as well as tough defense, after four innings, the score was 1-1. The play of the game came in the top of the fourth. With Aidan Blair on second, Joe Curry sent a fly ball to shallow right center. It appeared that Blair tagged up before leaving, yet the base umpire claimed he left early. Blair was called out, and the late rally ended with no runs for Shore.
Little League games with a score of 1-1 are extremely rare, yet, in the end, there can only be one winner. In this case, it was long drive to deep left center that led to a triple, and eventually the winning run for Accomack. With one last chance in the top of sixth, Shore left it all on the field. With a man on first, it was a hard ground ball to the short stop by Landen Sayers, played to second for the force out, which ended the game.
With a 2-1 victory, Central moves on to play Tuesday. The schedule was not known at the time of this publication.