Sports column: Think you’ve seen it all in baseball? Go watch VHS
Published 11:00 am Sunday, April 16, 2023
One of the great things about baseball, it has been said, is that you never know what you’ll see when you come to the ballpark. No matter how many games you’ve watched or played in your life, there are always new scenarios that pop up.
The 2023 Vicksburg Gators are putting that theory to the test with a steady string of baseball oddities.
On March 28, they run-ruled Provine 13-3 without getting a hit. Walks, hit batters, errors, wild pitches and other assorted debacles allowed them to circle the bases with ease.
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A few days later, the teams were playing their last of three MHSAA Region 4-5A match-ups when lightning halted play in the fourth inning. Vicksburg was winning 8-1, but they needed to get to the fifth to make it official.
The game was called and had to be replayed from the start. It was rescheduled for this past Tuesday, only there was one problem. Vicksburg had already scheduled a doubleheader with Forest Hill for that evening.
Coach Antonio Calvin decided it wasn’t a problem after all and played all three games anyway. Doubleheaders are common in baseball, but tripleheaders are almost unheard of outside of tournament ball at the youth level.
Playing three games for the price of one aligns statistically for the Gators. In eight region games so far, they’ve played a total of 22 innings — roughly the equivalent of three normal-sized games — because of the mercy rule. The three on Tuesday went a combined five innings and the Gators outscored their opponents 50-0.
If you’re looking for oddities within the game, Vicksburg is your team as well. In the 13-3 victory vs. Provine, all three of Vicksburg’s outs in the first inning were recorded at home plate. They were tagged out at home while trying to score on wild pitches.
In this week’s 20-0 win over Forest Hill, the Gators’ final out of the second inning came when a batter grounded out — to the right fielder. He was a little slow getting down the line, and the outfielder was alert enough to throw to first for the force out.
It was likely a relief to the poor Patriots’ pitcher, who was about to have to be pulled because of a high pitch count. He threw 98 pitches in the first inning and 115 through two innings.
Sadly, Forest Hill wasn’t as sharp at the plate. In the third inning they hit into what was scored as a 1-4-8-4-3 double play that took a full minute to play out.
The batter hit a swinging bunt between home and the pitcher’s mound. Everyone thought it had been fouled, but the umpire immediately called it fair. The batter stood at home and the runner at first base.
After a few seconds, Vicksburg pitcher Cameron Myles walked over to the ball, picked it up and threw to second base, but it hit off the second baseman’s glove and caromed into shallow center field. The batter continued to stand at home and the runner at first base.
After a few more seconds, Vicksburg’s center fielder ran down the ball and threw to second to finally record an out. The batter still stood at home and the runner at first base.
Finally, as coaches calmly yet urgently shouted instructions, the relay throw to first base — where, say it with me now, the runner continued to stand, while the batter stood at home plate — completed one of the most bizarre double plays you’ll ever witness.
Vicksburg (14-9, 8-0 MHSAA Region 4-5A) has clinched its second consecutive region championship. Its four leaguemates — Forest Hill, Provine, Callaway and Jim Hill, a collection of Jackson Public Schools teams that don’t emphasize baseball — are obviously outmanned.
The purpose of this column is not to bash anyone in any way, though. The JPS teams are doing their best and not throwing in the towel. Vicksburg is winning games it needs to win, the way it should win them. Calvin has used JV lineups, held runners, and cut games short wherever possible. Even though the Gators have outscored their opponents 129-15, they have not run up the score or tried to embarrass them.
Rather, the point here is to appreciate what an odd and wonderful game baseball can be. Even games that aren’t particularly competitive can be compelling in their own way. You never know what you might see.
Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org