Disputed call goes against Colts; Aces move on to finals
SAN ANGELO, Texas - In the minds of San Angelo Colts fans, the game and the call will forever live in infamy, just like Don Dekinger in the 1985 World Series, Brett Hull's goal in the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals, the "Tuck Rule," and USSR-USA in the 1972 Olympics. Andres Rodriguez, the team MVP, crushed a hanging slider to deep left field off Alexandria Aces closer Juan Carlos Ovalles with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning that would have been a series-winning, come-from-behind, three-run home-run.
Hollywood couldn't have been scripted better. The league's leader in homers and RBIs was up against one of the best relievers in the league, with a place in the championship series on the line. And it looked like Rodriguez wrote a fairy-tale ending to the series. But the only man that mattered, home plate umpire Jared Higdon, ran up the third-base line and signaled foul, a raucous celebration cut short.
After a heated argument from Colts third-base coach Joe Rhomberg and manager Doc Edwards, with the Colts relievers finally heading back to the bullpen after pouring out on the field, Higdon and the other two umpires, Vince Price and Kate Sargeant conferred. But none of them saw enough to overrule the disputed call, and it stood as strike two, as a shocked crowd of 1,421 waited through five of the craziest minutes a sports fan will ever experience, and then tried to will Rodriguez to come through anyway afterwards.
As if the situation was not bizarre enough, it ironically came on the same day that Major League Baseball and its umpires agreed to institute instant replay in part for calls just like this one.
After two balls and a foul ball, Ovalles hung another slider, and Rodriguez hit it well, but not well enough. Left fielder Bryan Sabatella squeezed the ball for the final out of a surreal 5-3 win, sending the Aces on to the championship series for the third straight year, winning the series 2-1.
"I've never had a call like that in 50 years," Edwards, the former Major League player, coach, and manager who is in his 51st year of professional baseball said afterwards. "It's heartbreaking because I know the ball was 10-15 feet fair. Instinctively, [Higdon] should have known it was fair when everyone in the bullpen was running out to celebrate and all of Alexandria's players were heading off the field."
The Colts bullpen is located down the left-field line, and the relievers and other staff members all signaled fair and rushed to join the potential celebration.
Higdon and the rest of the umpiring staff are not permitted to comment as per United League rules.
Alexandria was in the position to win because they jumped out to a 5-1 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh for the second straight night. Rookie right-hander Chris Weast (0-1) had the best start for the Colts in the series, going six innings, allowing three runs, two earned. He gave up two solo homers, to Homy Ovalles in the third and Andre Marshall in the fourth.
Rodriguez got the Colts to 2-1 with a solo homer of his own off Alexis Sosa (1-0) in the bottom of the fourth. But Sosa went 6 2/3 innings, keeping the Colts at bay, allowing three runs, two earned, on six hits.
After the Aces scored an unearned run in the sixth to make it 3-1, Colts reliever Miliade Venas gave up two more unearned runs in the seventh, but as they did in Game 2, the Colts scored two in the bottom half. A wild pitch with the bases loaded got one run in, and then Jose Torres singled off the glove of second baseman Luis Guance to drive home another run before Sosa was lifted in favor of lefty Ronald Ramirez.
Ramirez got Rodriguez on a groundout and then pitched a scoreless eighth, as Colts closer Luke Massetti threw two scoreless innings to keep the game close. With two outs and no one on in the ninth, player-coach John Anderson blooped a single over the shortstop Rafael Ozuna, and Torres walked to set up the confrontation between Ovalles and Rodriguez.
Whether or not the ball was actually fair or foul, the Aces were the beneficiary and move on to face the Amarillo Dillas, who came from behind to win Game 2 and sweep the Edinburg Coyotes tonight, in the ULB Championship Series.
For the Colts, it was an excruciating way to end one of the best seasons in franchise history, with the best winning percentage in the team's nine years of existence and the best winning percentage in the three years of the United League. A team that was a mix of veterans and youngsters won 54 of 83 games, had the rookie of the year in Bryan Frichter, a near triple-crown and MVP winner in Rodriguez, and four All-Stars.
Notes: Tyrone Pendergrass had three hits to lead the Colts...This was the second time in three years that Alexandria beat the Colts 2-1 in the first round, with the decisive game at Foster Field...In the entire series, the Colts only had more than one hit in an inning five times, and never had more than two hits in an inning...The Colts hit .218 in the series, compared to .310 in the regular season, while Alexandria hit .319 in the series...After the first two relievers for the Colts in the series, Alex Merricks and Matt Greanead, gave up four runs in Game 1, the rest of the Colts' bullpen, David Wasylak, Merricks again, Venas, and Massetti, went 7 2/3 innings without allowing any earned runs in the series.
Advertising, ticket, and group information are available by calling the box office at (325) 942-6587. Stay tuned to the Colts' official website, www.sanangelocolts.com, for information about the 2009 season.
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United League Baseball Stories from August 21, 2008
- Aces drop game one - Alexandria Aces
- Disputed call goes against Colts; Aces move on to finals - San Angelo Colts
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