Eagles take control|Controversial call ignites PCA rally in Game 1

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Controversy created opportunity, and opportunity led to victory for Porters Chapel.

Benefiting from a controversial ball-strike call, PCA rallied for two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning Tuesday night and beat Franklin Academy 4-3 in Game 1 of an MPSA Class A playoff series.

The win gives PCA (20-8) a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series, with Game 2 set for Wednesday night at 6 in Winnsboro, La. It also left Franklin coach Ryan Ellington hopping mad.

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“I’m not going to be a guy who blames it on the officials. But in 16 years, that’s the first time I can say the officials stole a win from me,” Ellington said.

The game turned on a curveball in the dirt.

After Ryne Ford’s RBI single in the top of the eighth put Franklin (20-7) ahead 3-2, pitcher Caleb Kratzer started the bottom of the inning with a strikeout. He then worked Josh Perry to a 2-2 count and threw a nasty breaking pitch down low.

Perry tried to check his swing, but turned most of his body and crossed the middle of the plate with his bat. Field umpire Leon Campbell made what appeared to be a strike gesture, but plate umpire Ben Richardson called the pitch a ball.

As Franklin catcher Adam Walley pleaded for an appeal to Campbell, Richardson refused to allow it. Instead, Richardson held up three fingers on his left hand and two on his right to indicate a full count. 

An irate Ellington — who had been restricted to the dugout for arguing another call in the first inning — and two of his assistant coaches came out of the dugout to protest the call and ask for an appeal, but Richardson continued to stare straight ahead with his hands raised. Eventually, Richardson lowered them long enough to eject Ellington for arguing.

“He wouldn’t give me an explanation. Wouldn’t give me anything,” Ellington said. “I’ve never seen anything like that. I don’t know how long he’s been calling, but he’s pitiful.”

For his part, Perry conceded that he might have swung at the pitch. He also said Richardson offered a quiet explanation to him.

“It was close. I might have went around,” said Perry, who went 3-for-4 and drove in two runs with a fourth-inning single. “The home plate umpire was saying, ‘I saw the tip of the bat the whole way. It’s a ball.’”

Given a second chance, Perry didn’t waste it. He ripped the next pitch up the middle for a one-out single. The next batter, Josh Hill, hit a double off the left field wall and Perry scored from first to tie the game.

Hill moved to third base on the relay throw home, then scored the winning run when Matthew Warren’s sharp grounder bounced off the glove of Franklin shortstop Tucker Ellington. As Hill sprinted down the third base line, both PCA’s dugout and Franklin’s coach erupted.

After his ejection, Ryan Ellington walked around the perimeter of the field and re-entered through a gate in left field after the final out. He continued to yell at the umpires as they walked off the field. The officials stopped and called over administrators from both schools for a conference.

“They’re writing up an incident report on us, and we’re writing one up on them,” Ellington said.

The fireworks at the end overshadowed a masterful pitcher’s duel between Kratzer and PCA’s Montana McDaniel. Both pitchers went the distance, allowing only two unearned runs apiece through the first seven innings.

Kratzer retired the first nine batters he faced, allowed six hits and one walk, and struck out five. McDaniel gave up seven hits — four to Dusty Barefield, who was 4-for-4 with a double and an RBI — and one walk. McDaniel also had 16 strikeouts.

“Montana was outstanding,” said PCA coach Randy Wright. “Both runs they scored early were gifts we gave to them.”


Contact Ernest Bowker at ebowker@vicksburgpost.com