Blown lead, controversial call send McKeesport to section loss
McKeesport was only six outs away from a statement win in its Section 3-AAAA debut at Franklin Regional.
Instead, all the Tigers walked out of Haymaker Park with Monday was an addition to their litany of bitter defeats.
McKeesport (1-3, 0-1) blew a three-run lead in the bottom of the sixth and saw the potential tying run waved off on a controversial call in the top of the seventh in a 6-5 loss to the Panthers.
“In hindsight, we gave one away,” McKeesport coach Rich Satcho said. “Is it frustrating? Yes, because this is the best team I've had since I've been here. But we battled and did all the little things correctly except for one little error, and all we can do is shake this one off and get ready for our next game on Wednesday.”
This one will be harder than most to put in the rearview mirror.
McKeesport exposed a mistake-prone Franklin Regional (5-1, 1-0) defense that committed six errors in the game — including five in the sixth inning that led to four runs and helped the Tigers take a 5-2 lead. But the Panthers' strength is their hitting, and they were finally able to get to senior starter Eddie Stockett in the bottom of the inning. They picked up two runs run on three consecutive hits, an intentional walk and a bases-loaded walk and watched Stockett leave the mound with the bases loaded on no outs for reliever Colton Joseph.
“The kids came up in the sixth inning and just had quality at-bats,” Franklin Regional coach Bobby Sadler said. “They just looked for their pitches to drive and they got them. He pitched a heck of a game and kept our bats at bay and made us swing at pitches we didn't want to swing at.”
Joseph came in with a two-ball count on Nick Munson and hit him to force in the tying run. Then, after a runner was picked off at third and Joseph appeared he could get out of the inning with the game tied, he allowed an RBI single to Danny McGrath that scored Munson with what turned out to be the winning run. McGrath was 3 for 4.
It's what happened in the top of the seventh, though, that had McKeesport players, coaches and fans shaking their heads.
With one out and Franklin Regional closer Nick DiDiano in, Joe Driscoll swung at a pitch in the dirt for strike three, but the ball fell at the feet of Panthers catcher Brandon Nania. Driscoll made a beeline for first as Nania stepped out onto the grass infield for a throw down to first to complete the strikeout. But Nania whipped the ball over Munson's head and down the right-field line into foul territory.
Driscoll kept running and slid safely into third when the throw from right field got away from Franklin Regional's Brett Myers and kicked toward the fence. Driscoll got up and headed for home, but just as he was about to touch the plate to tie the game, the home plate umpire stopped the play and called him out for running inside the baseline on the way to first.
“In all the years of baseball I've played at whatever level, I've never seen a call like that by an umpire,” Satcho said. “When the catcher comes out after strike three and goes five steps into fair territory and air mails it, you just don't make that call. Especially at that time of the game, in the seventh inning, that's a tough call.”
Satcho vehemently protested the call and even asked for an appeal from the first base umpire but to no avail. Instead of the tying run, the Tigers were saddled with their second out and, two batters later, the game was over.
“Obviously I don't have the angle where the kid was running,” Sadler said. “All I saw was the ball go past first base, and I was screaming, ‘Three, three, three,' and the umpire was trying to get everyone's attention. That's not my call. That's the umpire's call to make.”