In an error-strewn game - and with a minor controversy concerning batting orders - the Sluggers nearly threw away a commanding 9-3 lead in the top of the 6th as the Renegades made it appear closer than it really was.
Game Notables: John (3-3, double, triple); Ian (3-4, double, 2 RBI); Jun (2-3, walk, double, HR, 4 RBI); Lisa (3-4, double, RBI).
After a week off for make-up games, the Sluggers (5-8) entered this game against the already-relegated Renegades, needing a win to ensure they would have a chance at 6th place to avoid a playoff match for relegation at the conclusion of the 2012 season.
The Renegades (1-12) were under no such pressures, having been mathematically eliminated from the Premier division to play in Division I for the 2013 season.
Though the two teams were playing in very different circumstances, both seemed to be playing with the same amount of rust, as neither showed much interest in scoring runs to start off the game. Simple plays turned into difficult ones as easy groundball outs were mishandled, bobbled, and overthrown. Luckily for both scorelines, as neither team showed much potency at the plate, these early errors weren't particularly painful either.
Maybe a little controversy and confusion could make the game interesting.
With the score 2-1, a runner on third and one out in the bottom of the 2nd inning, the Renegades scorekeeper Jonathan Spielberg appealed the Sluggers' batting order. Upon examination, it was apparent the Sluggers' batting lineup on the match report did not correspond to the batting lineup on the Sluggers' scoresheet, and that they had batted out of order. However, as the out-of-order instance had happened two batters before the current batter, and the one-batter previous had completed her at-bat, according to Rule 7, Section 2, #3, the out-of-order batter's at-bat should have been legal, and all play resulting from that at-bat legal, and no out called for the failure to bat in the correct order. Simply put, due to the next batter having received a pitch, all play that happened should have remained legal, the out-of-order batter should have been skipped, and the next legal batter should have taken their at-bat.
Unfortunately, what happened was something different: the about-to-be out-of-order batter - who had yet to take a pitch - was called out. (He should have been skipped.) The batter who incorrectly batted out of order previously in the inning, was inserted into the batter's box. This all resulted in the out-of-order batter having an extra at-bat in the inning and an extra out being applied to the Sluggers' inning. The next batter (who shouldn't have been at bat for the second time in two batters) flied out to end the inning, stranding a runner at 3B, and leaving all involved wondering if that was the right thing to do.
"We knew something was wrong with the ruling - in fact, Pat was certain the ruling shouldn't be applied because a pitch had been thrown to the next batter, but he wasn't able to convince any of us either - and we didn't have time to think it through and we didn't have a rule book. I knew something had to be done to straighten it out, but I wasn't sure what. We just accepted there was a problem with the lineup, which there was, and assumed we'd have to accept some sort of penalty. Without the rulebook and no one having made a similar ruling ever before, it's no surprise nobody could figure out exactly what to do. We'll know better the next time, though we'll get the lineup correct next time too," said Sluggers co-captain John Edwards.
The Sluggers got rolling in the bottom of the 3rd inning, with bottom-of-the-order Sluggers P John Edwards leading off with a single, and followed with a double by SS Ian Priestley, then a 2 RBI single from 3B Lisa Lyness. Sluggers LF and perennial power-hitter Junichiro Aoki took his first walk of the season, opening up first base for RF Fan Gardyn. Gardyn grounded to SS, but the throw to 1B was off-target as Aoki paused in front of the defender as he advanced to 3B. The error saw Aoki and Lyness both score. The next four Sluggers batters could only manage one single (1B Wouter Schotsman), but of the 9 Sluggers who appeared at the plate, only two were left on base as four crossed the plate.
The bottom of the 4th saw the same quad of batters seeing more success at the plate, as Edwards (triple), Priestley (RBI single), and Lyness (single) all were striking the ball well. With Priestley and Lyness on base, Aoki showed his trademark power and knocked a 3 RBI HR, making it another 4-run inning for the Sluggers, now ahead 3-9.
Unfortunately, it wasn't all to go the Sluggers way, as sloppy infield play and a string of hits put the Renegades right back into the game in the top of the 6th inning. Highlighting the inning was the Renegades LC Sherie Peters hammering a ball to deep left field, clearing Aoki who scrambled and quickly got to it on one bounce to hold her to a stand-up double. "I knew it was gone as soon as she hit it. She got absolutely all of it," said Edwards. After a couple of infield errors and simply being unable to get outs on weak infield hits combined with fast runners and a slow infield, the Sluggers suddenly seemed to be in danger of being reeled in as momentum was swinging heavily in the Renegades' favor.
Sluggers C (and well-known effective strategist) Pat Reddy called an on-field team conference with 2 outs in the top of the 6th, after the Sluggers again weren't able to convert the third out due to the speed of the Renegades' runners and tall grass of the infield. Whatever was said to the team seemed to have the desired effect, as the next Renegades batter was put out with ease and the Sluggers retained their slim lead heading into the bottom of the inning, 8-9.
The "fab four" of Edwards, Priestley, Lyness and Aoki made a final appearance in the bottom of the 6th. A leadoff double by Edwards, then advanced to 3rd on a ground-ball by next batter Ian Priestley; he was eventually driven home on a hard single up the middle by Lisa Lyness. A double by Aoki, followed by a foul-out by Sluggers RF sub Eri Elliot, put Sluggers RC Connor Rainsford up to bat. Rainsford hit a hard ground ball to Renegades SS Alan "Junior" Lenehan, who had to rush to get the fleet-footed Rainsford and overthrew 1B in the process, scoring Lyness and Aoki. Sluggers 2B Michiyo Hogan lined out to SS to end the inning, but the damage had been done as the Sluggers were ahead for good, 8-12.
Game Notes: "Obstruction" and "interference" calls were narrowly avoided by both teams, as it can only be inferred the umpire did not feel there was sufficient evidence to suggest hindrance on the part of fielders or offensive players, though it should be noted umpires are now much more aware of these rules and are applying them more often. ... In the 2nd inning, there should have been no penalty to the Sluggers. This was confused as the corrected next batter was currently on base, but this was further confused as he had been replaced by a substitute runner and was actually on the sidelines; his at-bat should simply have been skipped with no penalty to the Sluggers because of the lateness of the discovery of the order error. ... The Sluggers scored three runs on Renegades errors during the course of the game. ... The Sluggers maintained their double-play-per-game goal on the final play of the game, with Edwards snaring a liner hit back to the pitcher and doubling the Renegades' Sherie Peters off of 2nd for the third and final out. ... The Sluggers are currently tied with the Marlay Mayhem for 6th place; the two teams meet for the final game of the season, with the winner taking 6th in the Premier division, and the loser playing the #2 finisher in Division I for promotion to the Premier division.