By Rick Assad
Controversial calls by umpires have been a part of baseball forever and will continue to be.
On Friday in a Pacific League showdown between host Burbank High and Crescenta Valley, it appeared the plate umpire made a costly mistake when he failed to call freshman Jacob Deno out on a third strike just as pinch runner, senior Mason Faunce, who came in after senior Emilio Velis walked, scored what would be the game-winner.
It turned out the run would be the difference in the Falcons’ 3-2 decision and because there is no replay, the play will not be overturned.
The inning began when Velis, the leadoff hitter in the frame, drew a walk off junior Daniel Neria.
Bob Hart, the Burbank coach, walked to the mound and inserted senior Ryan King, who had been playing shortstop, to face senior Robert DeLeon, who laid down a sacrifice bunt, which sent Faunce to second base.
Senior Brenden Pehar then fanned and Deno eventually struck out, catcher to first base.
Hart certainly felt that the plate umpire had made an error.
“I think he got caught up in the moment and forgot about the pitch and called the guy out and the ball was dropped,” he said. “Called him safe, but the pitch was a strike and it should’ve been strike three.”
Hart of course wasn’t pleased with the call, but realizes we’re human and make mistakes, though unintentional.
“We all make mistakes and I think he made one. To forgive is divine. That being said, I never want players to use that as an excuse because then it becomes a built-in excuse every time,” he said. “We had our opportunities, but we didn’t capitalize. That’s my message to them. Accountability and control your own destiny.”
In the seventh, junior Wyatt LaMarsna walked to begin the frame and moved to second base when senior Ian Schenk, who had a infield single in the first inning, laid down a sacrifice bunt.
But King, who lined a base hit to right field in the first inning, popped up to shortstop and senior Jaden Rez, who had an infield hit in the fifth inning, fanned swinging to end the game.
Neria hadn’t allowed a hit until the fifth inning when DeLeon lashed a solid single to right field with one out.
“I did start to get a little tired in the fifth, but I still felt really good and wanted to keep going,” said Neria, who struck out eight and walked two with two hits allowed across six-plus innings. “My slider was on and my fastball was tailing well. I think if you take away that inning, we would’ve won for sure.”
Two batters later, pinch hitter, junior Luke Steel lined a run-scoring single down the left-field line that brought in Velis, who walked to begin the inning.
The next hitter was sophomore Nico Terenzi, who grounded out to third base as senior Evan Aceytuno crossed home plate after getting aboard on a force out, tying the score at 2-2.
The Bulldogs (11-4 and 9-3 for third place in league) struck in the second inning for a 2-0 advantage when eight batters made their way to the batter’s box.
Neria singled to right center to begin the frame and then advanced to second base when senior Jacob Drossin, who doubled in the sixth inning, walked.
Both runners eventually scored as LaMarsna’s run-scoring double to center field drove in one. The other run came around on an error.
Neria worked a 1-2-3 first inning as senior Rowan Respecio lined to first base, senior Noah Maddox grounded to third base and senior Luca Cuneo fanned looking.
Junior Jameson Ferraro grounded out to shortstop to begin the second inning for the Falcons (17-7 and 10-2 in league for second place) and Velis reached first base after the third strike was dropped.
DeLeon grounded out to second base and junior Chris Barrena grounded out to first base.
Neria fanned the side in the third inning as Deno struck out looking, Terenzi struck out and was officially out on a throw from the catcher to first base and Respecio whiffed swinging.
In the fourth, Neria struck out two of the three batters he faced as Maddox fanned looking and Ferraro struck out swinging. In between, Neria caught a high pop up from Cuneo.
Ferraro was the winning pitcher after working six and one-third frames, fanning 10, walking two and surrendering six hits. Maddox collected the save after getting the final two outs.