Controversial ruling goes Sussex Tech’s way in baseball win at Central

GEORGETOWN – Half of Georgetown saw it as a good, hard baseball play. The other as interference.

Umpires agreed with the latter and as a result Sussex Tech celebrated a 7-5 baseball win over hosting rival Sussex Central Tuesday afternoon that put the Ravens on top of the Henlopen North standings and severely damaged the Golden Knights’ playoff hopes.

Trailing by two entering the bottom of the seventh, Central loaded the bases with no outs. Trey Toppin started things with a base hit to center, Justin Mears followed with a walk and Jacob Swift bunted for a single to load them up.

 

Sussex Tech double play

Central senior John Messeck slides into Tech second baseman Tyler Banning on what was eventually ruled a game-ending double play. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

Toppin and Swift were both lifted for pinch runners Justin Revel and John Messeck, respectively.

Following a strikeout, Tech reliever Ryan Swingle – who took over for freshman reliever Brady Parks prior to Swift’s bunt – got Knights senior Dustin Reynolds to hit into what looked like a game-ending double play grounder to shortstop Justin Hill.

Barreling down the basepath from first on Reynolds’ grounder, Messeck slid hard into the second base bag.

The slide knocked second baseman Tyler Banning off balance and he was unable to complete the double play, as his throw bounced short of first and to the fence behind the bag, which appeared to allow Mears to follow Revel across the plate for the tying run.

Umpires, however, ruled Messeck’s slide illegal and instead awarded Sussex Tech the game-ending twin-killing and the victory.

As would be expected, Tech head coach G.L. Jefferson agreed with the ruling, Central counterpart Todd Brock did not. Both, however, said the game ending on the play was unfortunate.

“I personally think it was the right call,” Jefferson said. “That type of ballgame we had, it’s a shame it had to end on a play like that. But, it is what it is.”

“It’s a tough way to take both of these teams off the field,” Brock said. “You hope the call doesn’t go to the umpires to decide the game, but unfortunately that’s what happened.”

Junior Colin Bergh provided the eventual game-winning run in the top half of the sixth with the teams knotted 5-5.

Sophomore Luke Oliphant led off the frame with a single and stole second base during junior Trenton Hearn’s at-bat. The stolen base proved to be big as Hearn grounded to shortstop, which would have potentially setup a double play and cleaned the bases.

Instead, with one out and a runner on, Bergh ripped a triple to right-center that plated Oliphant and gave the Ravens a 6-5 advantage. Moments later he scored an insurance run thanks to a well-executed squeeze play bunt from junior Kyle Lux.

“Hitting a triple is honestly one of the best feelings in baseball,” Bergh said. “Getting to third base, just the expression and the feelings with you having your teammates in the dugout right where third base is, words cannot explain it.”

Sussex Central's Justin Mears is tagged out at home by Tech catcher Colin Bergh during a 7-5 Ravens baseball win. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

Sussex Central’s Justin Mears is tagged out at home by Tech catcher Colin Bergh during a 7-5 Ravens baseball win. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

Both teams had big early rallies that eventually setup the controversial finish, which left the rivals yelling insults at each other across the field.

Sophomore Jordan Marvel tripled and later scored on an error in the second inning to give Sussex Tech a 1-0 lead and the Ravens, following a scoreless trip to the plate by Central in its at-bat, piled on four more runs in the third.

Hearn started the rally with a triple and Bergh (3-for-4, 2 RBI) promptly doubled him home to make it 2-0.

Mears, who started on the mound for Central, got Lux to groundout and then the Knights intentionally walked Hill to setup up a possible double play. Junior Cole Collins, however, thwarted their plans and smacked a RBI single that made it 3-0.

Marvel followed with a walk that loaded the bases and then Mears was called for a balk when he stopped his motion, which allowed Hill to score the Ravens’ third run of the inning. Collins capped the rally afterward when he scored on a wild pitch.

The Knights, however, answered in their half of the third when Hearn, Tech’s starting pitcher, ran into control problems. And when all was said and done the frame ended with the teams tied 5-5.

Freshman Trevor Collins led the inning off with a single and Central drew four straight walks afterward – the last one coming off Parks in relief – to make the score 5-2.

A Ravens error with the bases still loaded allowed the Knights run No. 3 and Swift brought them within one of tying with a RBI single to left. Hansen’s sacrifice fly afterward tied the game at five, where it stayed until Bergh’s winning hit.

With the win and Dover’s loss to Polytech the same day, Sussex Tech (10-2 overall, 7-2 Henlopen) moved back into first place in the Henlopen North with four conference games to play. The Senators (7-2, 6-2) are tied with the Ravens atop the standings but Tech holds the head-to-head tiebreaker.

“The Henlopen never ceases to amaze you,” Jefferson said. “Obviously Dover losing is a big thing, it puts us back in the driver’s seat, but we have a tough team in Lake Forest coming in Friday and we can’t overlook them. I think our kids respond well to it being in our hands, it’s all up to us, but it’s one game at a time.”

Conversely, Central’s hopes of not only winning the North but also reaching the playoffs took a hit with the loss.

The Knights (6-5, 5-3) are still in the mix for the division title but have tiebreakers and a one-game deficit against them. Additionally, earning an at-large berth with multiple strong opponents – including defending state champion Caravel on Thursday – remaining will not be an easy task.

“If we want a chance, we have to win against some quality opponents,” Brock said. “We have to put this one (Sussex Tech) to rest and really concentrate on Caravel.”

From the Sussex County Sports Desk

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