The clumpy red dirt kicked up from both players’ spikes. The crowd rose to its feet shouting, and with only a few steps left, both players dove headfirst towards the bag, knowing the game could be on the line.
After a second’s pause, everybody near the field directed their attention to the umpire crouched just behind the pitchers mound. The umpire’s right hand went up in a clenched fist and he yelled “out!”
With that, groans of dissapointment filled air, and the Castleton baseball team’s hope of completing a comeback was thwarted.
Castleton’s Allen White remained laying on the field for a moment in disbelief as Norwich University’s players erupted with joy after defeating Castleton 13-10 in game two of a doubleheader on March 25.
The Spartans, who won game one 10-2, jumped out to an early lead, capitalizing on the inability of Nowrich’s starter, Craig Leverone, to throw strikes. With the bases loaded, Matt McNamee fouled out to the first baseman. With the catcher also attempting to make a play on the foul ball, Cameron Curler raced home for the game’s first run.
Castleton tacked on two more just a few batters later when Macyn Clifford delivered a two-run single to left field.
With a three-run lead, Brandon Fay, who only gave up one hit in the first inning, took the mound for Castleton but couldn’t hold the Spartans’ lead.
After getting two quick outs, Fay ran into trouble when he hit Brandon Place with a pitch. Things only went down hill from there, and by the time the inning was over Fay had given up four hits and four runs.
“He was up and down today,” coach Ted Shipley said. “He’d have a good inning and a not so good inning and it caught up to him a little bit. He’s a real good pitcher, but when he’s really good he’s good every inning. He was just a little too inconsistent today.”
After Castleton reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the inning with four runs of their own, Fay continued his pattern, throwing a scoreless third inning before running into trouble in the fourth inning, allowing seven runs.
“I thought [Fay] had good focus today,” Shipley said. “But it’s a tougher day when you don’t have your normal warm-up routines. Not to make excuses, though, because he didn’t pitch like he’s capable of.”
Castleton put two more runs on the board in the bottom of the fifth inning, but Norwich went back to work with the bats in the top of the sixth, negating those two runs with two of its own.
Castleton kept its foot in the door and looked like it had a chance to pull of the comeback as Ryan Zielinski singled off of Norwich’s Alexandro Cardoza. With the bases loaded and two outs, White came to the plate and grounded out to first.
“It was a bang, bang play,” Shipley said. “Unfortunately for us they called him out. It was a play the umpire could go either way with. It was sure close, and it’s a judgment call. It wasn’t the way I would have liked him to judge it, but it happens.”
Castleton falls to 5-8 on the season, but it has won four of its past six games.
The Spartans will face Colby-Sawyer College next on March 28, and Shipley says the team will have to refocus itself on winning.
“Colby-Sawyer is a real good team,” he said. “I think it will be a couple of close games. It will be one of those good college baseball games that could go either way. It’s a team that will play better that day.”