DENVER — Joey Plaster absolutely crushed the baseball to left field. Connor Gray, on first base after a fielder’s choice, took off for home at top speed; he rounded third and found an unexpected surprise awaiting him.
What, or, more accurately, who was waiting for him was home plate umpire Dwight Nichols. The man in charge of calling the balls and strikes had ventured up the third-base line inexplicably to make a call that wasn’t necessarily his to make with a three-man umpiring crew on the field.
“To me, with a three-man crew, he should’ve never been over there in the first place. With a three-man, he should’ve been at home plate anyway,” said Chatfield Senior High head coach Brad Thayer. “Even if you are hustling over to try to get yourself in position to make a call at third base, there is no way you should be anywhere near a runner who is rounding the base. It was absolutely controversial. It totally took the wind out of our sails by that play.
“To me, that was ridiculous that he was even anywhere near the field of play.”
The collision caused Gray to stumble around the base paths and get called out at home, snuffing Chatfield’s rally attempt in the fourth inning of an eventual 2-0 loss to top-seeded Rocky Mountain in the first round of the 5A double-elimination baseball tournament May 17 at All-City Stadium.
“I just ran the bases around normally; he just jumped right in front, got in the way, tripped me, and then we got out. We didn’t get any runs,” Gray said.
Scoring runs, as much as just getting hits, proved difficult for the Chargers (13-10), who were held to just three hits by Lobos starter Tyler Stevens. The Rocky Mountain hurler walked one and struck out five.
Chatfield counterpart Nick Low, for the most part, matched Stevens. He allowed two runs — one earned — on four hits while walking one and striking out six. Rocky Mountain scored an unearned run in the second inning on Stevens’ two-out single and added an insurance run in the fifth on another Stevens single.
While pitching has been key for Chatfield, which had allowed just one run in its previous four games, Low said the Chargers’ hitting as much, if not more, had to do with them making it to the state tournament in the first place.
“Pitching has been a huge part of our season, but it’s our hitting that’s carried us through,” Low said.
But Chatfield didn’t get a hit until Plaster’s two-out double in the fourth.
“It was definitely hittable,” said first baseman Mason Brozovich, who had one of Chatfield’s hits. “I think we may have gone up a little tentative today, a little nervous, which happens. We had our opportunities to get runs in, but we didn’t get them in.”
Chatfield, which overcame a 2-5 start to the season and went 13-3 versus in-state competition during the regular season, had its season ended a day later in a 12-2 loss to Cherry Creek.
Contact Michael Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.