With the score tied 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Visalia Rawhide (ARI), Lancaster Jethawks manager Rodney Linares made a tactical move, replacing Jobduan Morales behind the plate with Roberto Pena. He couldn't have known at the time that this move would be part of a large controversy that ended with the Rawhide winning Game One of the five-game series in walkoff fashion.
Tyler Brunnemann gave up a leadoff double to Breland Almadova before inducing a pop-out to second from Andrew Velazquez.
Then, Visalia manager Robby Hammock added a wrinkle of his own, inserting pinch hitter Raul Navarro for Jose Queliz, who had been struggling since his promotion to High-A. Navarro, on the other hand, is a shortstop who put together a slick .304/.364/.426 line this season.
Wanting no part of Navarro, Brunnemann intentionally walked him to set up the double play.
The good news? Brunnemann got a ground ball to second base from the next hitter. The bad news? I'll let you take a look:
Elkins threw the grounder to Chan Moon for the out at second. With no play at first, Moon then threw to third baseman Rio Ruiz, who threw home to Pena, beating the runner by a significant margin... but Almadova was called safe at the plate, giving the Rawhide a walkoff 3-2 win.
According to Antelope Valley Press's Jethawks beat writer Eric L. Smith, the Jethawks clubhouse was predictably upset about the call, particularly Pena.
"He was out by far," Peña said. "For it to end up that way … for me it’s a blown call.
"We argued with him because it was the wrong call. He shouldn’t have blown the call like that."
The argument with the officials ended with Ruiz tossed from the recently-concluded game.
It didn't help that in the top of the eighth, a Tyler White liner down the left field line was called foul. That call erased a potential run that would have given the Jethawks a 3-2 edge in the game. It also didn't help that the double that put Almadova on base in the first place should have been fielded by Danry Vasquez, who instead saw the ball deflect off of his glove.
The loss spoiled a great outing by Brian Holmes, who went five innings, striking out nine and allowing just two earned runs on four hits and a walk.
The Jethawks and Rawhide will face off again tonight (9:00 Central Time) in Visalia in game two of the series, before heading to Lancaster to finish off the set.
- CF Brett Phillips - 0/4, 2 K
- SS Chan Moon - 0/3, R, K, HBP
- 3B Rio Ruiz - 2/4, 2B, R, K
- 1B Tyler White - 1/3, 2B, 2 RBI, K, E
- RF Ronnie Mitchell - 0/4, 2 K
- DH Chase McDonald - 0/4, 2 K
- LF Danry Vasquez - 1/4
- C Jobduan Moales - 1/4, 3 K, E
- 2B Catfish Elkins - 0/1, BB, HBP
- LHP Brian Holmes - 5.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, HBP, 9 K
- RHP Zach Morton - 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
- LHP Chris Cotton - 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
- RHP Tyler Brunnemann - 1.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, IBB, 2 K