Cliff Rold's frustrations tripled Thursday, and they were easy to understand.
- Wednesday's Central Section Division II semifinal baseball game at Mt. Whitney ended when the Pioneers' James Lopez scored the winning run in a collision with Edison catcher Garrett Kelly. Tigers coach Rold screamed foul, claiming the run should have been discounted and Lopez ejected for intentionally plowing Kelly – which, if true, violated the National Federation of High Schools slide rule.
- Rold's contention gained strength Thursday morning in newspaper photos from Fresno to Visalia capturing the play.
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- And, finally, a Rold appeal to section commissioner Jim Crichlow was denied later Thursday.
"I can't overturn a ruling because it's a judgment call, and that's the whole key," Crichlow said.
Most difficult to judge for umpires in such a play is the runner's intent: Was it malicious? Was it on purpose? And did he have a choice?
Interestingly, Crichlow said he's had to say "no" to six other schools this season appealing similar home-plate collisions, only for the opposite reason – they were defending runners who were ejected as opposed to one who wasn't punished.
An ejection comes with an automatic one-game suspension, which means that, had the Lopez call gone the other way he would have been prohibited from playing in Mt. Whitney's championship today at Frontier.
Lopez, a 6-foot, 210-pounder who also played linebacker in football, says he initially was going to slide but didn't after seeing Kelly bobble the ball. Such a split-second decision does offer strong defense for the runner.
Rold says it was flagrant contact, resulting in a right-hand injury that will remove the junior Kelly from a couple of weeks of summer ball.
And Crichlow says: "First, you don't have to slide. Second, it's the umpire's judgment as to whether it's malicious intent or contact. And that's a judgment call that can't be overturned."
This catcher Bears MVP?
For all that's been said at nationally top-ranked Buchanan about the pitcher who's seemingly been around forever, Seth Moranda (12-1, 1.18 ERA), and the other who burst upon the scene this season, Dominic Topoozian (10-0, 0.93), a strong argument can be made that the person with whom they play catch is the team's most valuable player.
"I've used all the superlatives, what more can I say about him?" said Tom Donald, whose 29-2 Bears will play at home today against 24-6 Centennial for the D-I championship.
Batting third in the lineup, Brown is leading the team in average (.427) and RBIs (40), has eight doubles, a triple and six home runs, scored 25 runs and caught all but two of the team's 219 innings while allowing only four passed balls.
All this after batting eighth in the lineup and hitting .242 with five RBIs as a junior.
"He's religious about his work and is a great example for the young catchers coming up in our program," Donald said. "He doesn't say, 'boo,' and isn't flashy. He's just a talented young man who gets the job done."
Clovis coach James Patrick, after losing to Buchanan for the fourth time Wednesday: "There's a reason they're 29-2. They play well in every facet of the game, their hitters grind you out, they don't strike out much and Moranda's on top of his game. He had command of three pitches from inning No. 1, and that's typical."
Centennial's starting pitcher today, Grant Watson, is a senior left-hander with a 9-0 record, 1.83 ERA, .333 batting average and 4.4 GPA. He'll play for UCLA as a recruited walk-on.
Buchanan and Centennial each started five underclassmen last year in an eight-inning semifinal won 7-6 by the Bears on Shota Runge's two-out RBI single. A tremendous defensive second baseman, he's also batting .405 as their leadoff hitter this season.
Madera South (21-9) will be gunning for the first section baseball championship in the five-year history of the program today at home against Hanford West (22-11). The Huskies have won one section title in their 13-year history – a 1-0 Sequoia Division Large School victory over Tehachapi with their first senior class in 2002.