On Thursday, after over two hours of high school baseball, rain finally came again to the Washington vs. Musselman Region II semifinal game at waterlogged Bruce Davidson Field.
Rain had come early on Tuesday morning. And the game was postponed at about 9:15 a.m. Storms came through again on Tuesday night, and even though it didn’t rain Wednesday, Davidson Field was still too wet to play.
Finally, on Thursday the teams at least got to start the game that would decide the Regional finalist that would face Bridgeport, a team that had won on Tuesday and was just waiting for its opponent to be determined in Jefferson County.
No winner was determined. A severe thunderstorm with its share of lightning caused the game to be suspended in the bottom of the seventh with the score at 2-2 and the Patriots with two baserunners . . . but also two outs.
Last Friday was the fourth straight day the weather-plagued game was scheduled to be decided. And it was.
The suspended game from Thursday was continued. The tie game had been interrupted by a thunderstorm that came when the Patriots had runners at first and second and two outs.
Musselman’s new pitcher, Darrin Zombro, walked Pansch to load the bases. After falling behind in the count to Drew Hetzel, Zombro was replaced. When Hetzel was walked on four pitches, Gustines came home with the winning run . . . and Washington made its travel plans for a Saturday game on the road against Bridgeport.
A place in the Class AAA state tournament was on the line. Before the rain caused a halt on Thursday, neither team could fathom the two pitchers — Washington right-hander Ryan Pansch and Musselman right-hander Evan Woolum.
Pansch had struck out the three batters he faced in the first. He used all fastballs and the Applemen couldn’t even get a foul ball off him. Woolum was behind a run in the first after Washington leadoff man Colin Gustines reached base on an infield hit, moved to second on a passed ball and to third on a groundout to Woolum.
Gustines scored easily when Pansch was out on a sacrifice fly.
Given a run, Pansch started mixing in an occasional curveball as he continued on through four more shutout innings. In his first five innings, Pansch fanned nine and only allowed hits to Jacob Whitmore.
But Washington couldn’t solve Woolum because his curveball was his most effective pitch . . . and a high school pitcher with a curveball is like a major league Hall of Famer with 300 wins. Through four innings, Woolum had four strikeouts and had been touched for only two hits himself.
Washington would add a run in the fifth. Ryan Mumaw had a leadoff single and continued the run-freely plan the Patriots had against catcher Denver Luttrell when he immediately stole the third of five bases the Patriots had before play was suspended to another day.
Not only was Mumaw able to reach second but when Luttrell’s throw sailed all the into centerfield he slid safely into third. Dorian Hetzel executed a safety squeeze bunt with Mumaw scoring a run that gave Washington and Pansch a 2-0 lead.
Storm clouds had been building behind the Musselman dugout for several innings. But they were paid no mind as a faint sun continued to shine.
Storm clouds of another kind visited Pansch in the sixth. Maverick Keller legged out an infield hit and Woolum drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch. Pansch had already retired Darrin Zombro and when he fanned Whitmore on a pitch where the Applemen were also successful on a double steal, there was only one out left in the inning.
Pansch lost Thomas Presley to a walk to load the bases. And Chance Allen was inserted as a left-handed batting pinch-hitter. Allen delivered a two-out double between third baseman Austin Larcomb and the bag . . . around came Keller and Woolum to score . . . making it 2-2. Pansch fanned Chris Schleuss (his 11th strikeout victim) to keep the game tied.
As the storm steadily approached, Woolum retired the Patriots in order in the sixth.
Two groundouts were the fate of Musselman’s first batters in the seventh. Zombro sent a routine bouncer to second but a waist-high hop was misplayed for Washington’s first error. Zombro stole Musselman’s fourth base, and with Keller ahead 3-1 in the count the shortstop was walked intentionally.
Woolum grounded toward shortstop . . . and when the ball was misplayed it set in motion a controversial series of events that gave the encroaching storm another few minutes to reach Davidson Field.
Zombro fled toward home from his perch at second. As Gustines’ throw from the outfield arrived to catcher Seth Campbell so there was Zombro literally in his lap. The runner and catcher collided and the baseball flew back to the screen. Zombro was safe (momentarily) and Keller also crossed the plate.
Washington’s many coaches were on field to complain to ball-and-strike umpire Terrence Washington. Musselman’s many coaches spilled out of their first-base dugout in an attempt to protect their interests.
Washington summoned the other three umpires for a prolonged conference. Both sidelines were filled with bodies. The only thing moving was the storm, which didn’t seem to care what decision would finally be rendered by the umpires.
Finally, umpire Washington took a step away from the others and raised his right fist to indicate Zombro was being ruled “out” for not avoiding a collision with Campbell. The inning was over. Instead of Musselman taking a two-run lead, the score was still 2-2.
It was much darker. But none of the four umpires had seen any lightning. When lightning is seen, the game is halted immediately and the field is cleared for a mandatory half-hour break.
Woolum fanned Mumaw, but allowed a line-drive single by Dorian Hetzel. Hetzel gave way to a pinch runner. Washington was already 5-for-5 on stolen base attempt with none of the plays at second being close.
But runner Bryan Bayliss got such a bad jump off first that he was easily thrown out . . . and the bases were empty with two gone.
Gustines walked and Larcomb had a ground single. Two runners. Two out. Bottom of the seventh. Tie game.
The third base umpire saw a bolt of lightning.
Clear the field. Wait for the impending deluge.
Game suspended. Field full of puddles.
Play began again on Friday in the bottom of the seventh with Pansch at bat with a 1-0 count.