As Staples center fielder James Frusciante raised his arms in the air, seemingly to indicate that a ball off Matt Batten's bat was lodged under leaves at the outfield fence, the St. Joseph shortstop hesitated.
Batten, who drove a fastball into the gap in left-center field, momentarily stopped running at second base, before racing home under the instruction of his coaches. That split-second decision -- and an overruling by the umpires -- proved to be the difference in Wednesday's baseball clash between Staples and St. Joseph.
Originally called a ground-rule double -- thus sending the lead runner back to third base -- the ruling on Batten's hit was eventually overturned after a brief discussion between two umpires. The ball was ruled to be still in play and the Cadets, with some alert base running, plated two runs in an eventual 4-3 win at Staples.
"The ground rules are if the ball gets lodged, keep the guys running and then they'll (the umpires) go out and check," St. Joseph coach Jim Chaves said. "I just told my guys to keep running, just going off what the ground rule is."
Batten's hit, which broke a 2-2 tie, helped lift the Cadets (10-2) to their sixth straight win.
"I was just looking to keep my hands in and just work middle. I happened to get my arms extended a little bit. It carried well here," said Batten, who connected off a 2-1 fastball from Ryder Chasin.
That hit was one of just five on the afternoon for St. Joseph, which stranded five runners over the first four innings.
Starter Nick Williams was the winning pitcher for the Cadets, scattering eight hits over six innings. He allowed three runs before giving way to right-hander Stanley Wolpiuk, who tossed a scoreless seventh for the save.
"That was big momentum change in the game," Chaves said of Batten's hit. "Both pitchers were throwing extremely well. I had a feeling it was going to be a pretty low-scoring game. We were just extremely fortunate that that play went in our favor."
Staples fell to 7-6 despite a complete-game effort from Chasin, who allowed just five hits and struck out four. The Wreckers committed three errors on the day, leading to three unearned runs.
"Ryder threw a great game. He deserved a better fate," Staples coach Jack McFarland said. "One earned run."
McFarland called Batten's hit an "unfortunate play," but declined further comment.
The Wreckers, who came into the day on a two-game win streak, struggled to hit in the clutch. Trailing 4-2 in the sixth inning, they put runners on second and third with no outs, but plated only one run
In the seventh inning, shortstop Sam Ellinwood led off with a single but was erased one batter later on a double play.
"We strand way too many. We're not getting any big hits. We've got to get both those guys in there," McFarland said, referring to the sixth inning in which the lone run scored on an errant pickoff throw.
St. Joseph fell behind 1-0 after an inning -- the Wreckers' first run scoring on a wild pitch -- but took a 2-1 lead in the second. Third baseman Brett Olayos followed up a Staples error with a double to tie it. The second run scored on a wild pitch.
The Cadets held onto the one-run lead until the third inning when Staples catcher Noah Yokoi singled with two outs to make it 2-2. The Wreckers, however, were held off the scoreboard the next two innings.
"Nick's been doing great all year," Chaves said, referring to his starter. "I didn't think he had his best stuff. ... But when he had to, he really beared down with guys in scoring position."
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ST. JOSEPH 4, STAPLES 3
ST. JOSEPH 020 020 0 -- 4 5 1
STAPLES 101 001 0 -- 3 9 3
Records: St. Joseph 10-2; Staples 7-6.
Batteries: SJ -- Nick Williams (W), Stanley Wolpiuk (7, SV) and Ishmael Herrera. S -- Ryder Chasin (L) and Noah Yokoi.
Highlights: SJ -- Matt Batten hit a two-run inside-the-park home run. Williams allowed three runs on eight hits in six innings, striking out five. Brett Olayos hit an RBI double. S -- Chasin pitched a complete game, allowing four runs while striking out five. Yokoi hit an RBI single.