Things started about as well as Sun Valley could’ve liked in Wednesday against Kennett. Jake Burrell set the Blue Demons down 1-2-3 in the first, then the Vanguards got a pair of runs in the top half. But by the third inning, the lead and Burrell were long gone. Here’s the gamer, and here’s the rest of the details.
– First up, Burrell. The big righty didn’t seem to be worried about his long-term fate this season despite a flare-up of what he described as recurrent discomfort in his throwing elbow. “It’s been a pain that I’ve had a few years, but I was able to play in the field,” Burrell said. “I’ll be able to play the rest of the season.” That fact that he was able to play the remaining five innings at first base and maintain his clean-up spot in the Vanguards offer is a big boost.
– Antonio Pagano brought the game to life in the first inning with his home run off the scoreboard in dead center field. “It was a 1-0 fastball,” Pagano said. “Coach told me to sit back, decent speed pitcher, he said sit back and drive the baseball. I saw it come right over the middle of the plate, I just put a nice swing on it and it hit the scoreboard.” In a foreshadowing of things to come, it took a while for the umpires to determine that it had in fact cleared the fence. Apparently the metallic thunk of horsehide against sheet metal that was audible from 300 feet away wasn’t proof enough.
– The final score wasn’t pretty, but the game did enter the seventh at 7-2. Neither Burrell (due to injury) nor reliever Jeff Damon (ineffectiveness) did much to calm the game. But Kevin McGarvey had a solid outing. He pitched innings four through six, allowing just three hits and one earned run while striking out five.
– So now to the controversy of the day. In the fourth inning, catcher C.J. Pruitt appeared to have Kennett’s Donny Henry picked off a first base. It was an awkward play – Burrell, being right handed, caught the ball near the bag and turned to slap a backhand tag on Henry, who slid into the bag less than conventionally, screening umpire Tony Raia. Manager Kraig Kaufold came out to protest, asking Raia to solicit help from the home plate umpire to no avail. An inning later, it was assistant coach Steve Maloney who argued a close pick-off play at first from McGarvey on Brett Rose. A couple of pitches later, Rose was picked off on a play where Raia started to signal safe but then went with out. Standing just 15 feet behind first base, I can tell you that Henry was clearly out and Rose was safe both times. That puts the umps at 1-for-3. If they did that at the plate, they’d be in the hall of fame, right?