By Rob Potter
LIBERTY The Liberty Slo-Pitch Softball League “B” Division best-of-three game championship series between Ratner & Son Paving (12-7) and Sam’s Misfits (16-3) was supposed to have ended on Thursday night at the Liberty Elementary School field.
While the teams played all three games that night and Sam’s Misfits prevailed in two of them, neither team can officially claim the championship. The reason the title is still up for grabs is because Ratner & Son Paving formally protested Game 3 following an umpire’s call in the top of the sixth inning.
With the bases loaded and one out in the frame, Ratner & Son Paving’s Mike Weiner hit a groundball which Sam’s Misfits second baseman Eric Youmans fielded. Youmans then attempted to tag out Jeff Yaun, who was running from first base to second base. Youmans did not tag Yaun, but Yaun was called out by the base umpire for running out of the base line while attempting to avoid the tag.
Youmans then threw the ball to catcher Richie Edwards in order to force out James Ratner, the runner who had been on third base. Home plate umpire Steve Nash declared Ratner to be out.
But Ratner & Son Paving Player/Coach Dan Ricco and several of his teammates disagreed with Nash. They contended that once Yaun was called out, there was no force play at the plate. Therefore, Edwards had to tag out Ratner.
Since Edwards did not tag Ratner but caught the ball in his glove while keeping one foot on the plate, Ricco stated that Ratner was safe and the score should be tied at 12-12.
When Nash said that his decision stood and Ratner was out, Ricco said that he was officially protesting the game.
Play resumed and Sam’s Misfits recorded the final out of the inning as Edwards fielded a dribbler in front of the plate and threw to first base.
In the bottom of the sixth, Sam’s Misfits, which is sponsored by Sam’s Towing & Recovery in Liberty, scored three runs to extend its lead to 15-11.
After giving up a one-out single to Frank Scuderi in the top of the seventh, Sam’s Misfits pitcher Pete Hefele retired the next two batters on a groundout and flyout, respectively, to end the game.
Player/Coach Charlie Houghtaling and his Sam’s Misfits teammates then celebrated their victory. After shaking hands with the Ratner & Son Paving players, the Sam’s Misfits team members gathered at home plate to take a team photo with the “B” Division championship plaque.
But on Friday morning, Nash called Mary Feusner, who is an officer with the Sullivan County Softball Officials Association and regularly attends Amateur Softball Association (ASA) state meetings regarding rules and regulations, to describe the disputed sixth-inning play from Game 3 and the call which he made. Feusner told Nash that the protest by Ratner & Son Paving should be upheld and the game should be restarted from the point when the protest was made.
The game will be finished. However, the date and time to complete the contest have yet to be determined.
Ratner & Son wins Game 1
Ratner & Son Paving, which qualified for the finals by sweeping Mongaup Tek two games to none in a best-of-three semifinal series, rallied to win the opening game of Thursday night’s finals.
Down 10-4 after five innings of play, Ratner & Son Paving scored seven runs in the top of the sixth and one run in the top of the seventh for a 12-11 victory.
The team scored all seven of its runs in the sixth inning with two outs. Scuderi started the rally by ripping a triple to right field. After Steve Rogg walked, Scuderi scored on a single by Marcus Baez.
Moments later, James Ratner hit a two-run single to left field. The third runner who was on base, Jack Moylan, also scored when the throw home from the outfield was errant.
Ratner then scored thanks to an infield hit by Mike Mulligan.
Mulligan scored the final run of the inning when Weiner ripped a double to right field.
Jim Piontek led off the top of the seventh with a ground-rule double to left field. He scored on a sacrifice fly by Scuderi to give Ratner & Son Paving its two-run lead.
Sam’s Misfits tried to rally in the bottom of the seventh. Edwards and Joey Bertholf began the frame with consecutive singles. The next batter, Brett Youmans, singled to score Edwards.
But Ratner & Son Paving pitcher Ricco retired the next three batters to preserve his team’s one-run win.
Sam’s Misfits evens the series
With a 15-12 Game 2 win, Sam’s Misfits evened the series at 1-1.
A two-run triple by Brett Youmans and an RBI single by Carl Yaun gave Sam’s Misfits a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Ratner & Son Paving answered with a run in the bottom of the first on Mitch Juron’s RBI single.
The score remained 3-1 in favor of Sam’s Misfits until the bottom of the third. Ratner & Son Paving took a 4-3 advantage as Juron hit a two-run single and then scored on Scuderi’s single.
Sam’s Misfits scored five runs in the top of the fourth to regain the lead, 8-4. Hefele, Brian Caruso and Daniel Bertholf all had RBI singles and the team scored two more runs on an error.
Sam’s Misfits pushed its advantage to 13-4 in the top of the sixth. Randy Caruso singled and Hefele, who had been on second base, crossed home plate after briefly getting caught in a run down. Because the ball ended up out of play when Hefele was caught between third and home, Caruso also scored.
Moments later, Kyle Vanwolde belted a two-run triple to left field to make it a 12-4 game. He then scored on Edwards’ base hit.
In the bottom of the sixth, Ratner & Son Paving cut the Sam’s Misfits lead to 13-6 on a two-run, ground-rule double by Scuderi.
However, Sam’s Misfits got one of those runs back in the top of the seventh as Brett Youmans scored on Brian Caruso’s single.
Ratner & Son Paving rallied for six runs in the bottom of the seventh. The key hits in the inning were an RBI double by Juron and a three-run homer by Piontek.
With two outs and Ratner & Son Paving trailing 15-12, Scuderi singled to keep the game going. But Hefele got the next batter to fly out to end the game.
Game 3 is close and competitive
The deciding game of the series featured both teams rallying from deficits of at least five runs.
Ratner & Son Paving jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the top of the first. Juron blasted a two-run homer, Scuderi hit an RBI triple and Baez and Weiner each added an RBI single.
Sam’s Misfits rallied in the bottom of the inning to take a 6-5 advantage. Key hits included Randy Caruso’s RBI double and RBI singles by Hefele and James Walton.
Sam’s Misfits scored six runs in the bottom of the second to extend its lead to 12-5. Brothers Randy Caruso and Brian Caruso each hit a two-run double.
In the top of the sixth, Ratner & Son Paving scored five runs to make it a 12-10 game. Key hits were RBI doubles by Scuderi and Chuck McAllister.
The score remained the same until the top of the sixth. Joe Doucette walked and scored on an error before the “out” call which was protested.