Baseball: Auburn Mountainview falters late against Kentlake

Lions drop to second in NPSL standings.

Coming into the second game of the two-game series against Kentlake, Auburn Mountainview knew it was going to be an uphill battle. Leader and ace of the pitching staff Gino Trippy was ejected from the Friday night 3-0 loss to Kentlake and by rule had to sit out the next game.

Auburn Mountainview was in lockstep with the Falcons as they were both tied at 6-1 in the NPSL for the league schedule.

The Lions couldn’t hold off Kentlake on April 22, falling 3-2, and are now one game behind the Falcons with four games remaining.

“Our whole team played great. They played their hearts out. It’s a great group of kids, I really love our group,” Head Coach Austin Simpson said.

Auburn Mountainview threatened the Falcons early, but their offense was dispatched, leaving runners on base and in scoring position early in the game.

Trailing 1-0 in the third, the Lions struck for two, much in part to playing small ball. Jay Swanson dropped down a bunt and Kentlake pitcher Devin Tep tried to make a miraculous play, but ended up throwing the ball into right field. Jacob Watrous came around to score on the error, scoring from first base, while Swanson ended up on third.

Jeremiah Weatherford hit a ground ball to short with the infield back, and Swanson scored to take the 2-1 lead.

A one-run lead was looking like all starting pitcher Caden Shoul needed. Auburn Mountainview needed a whale of a performance and he delivered. Shoul’s final line was 6.1 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 10 Ks, 5 BB.

There were many occasions where he left batters befuddled at the plate. He got out of jams like in the fourth inning, where the Falcons had the bases loaded and just one out. He struck out the next two batters and kept his team in front.

One of the turning points offensively for the Lions was in the bottom of the sixth. Auburn Mountainview had the bases loaded with Weatherford up to bat. He hit a line drive to the second baseman who had the ball pop out of his glove. Kentlake skipper Mike Suguro said after the game that it wasn’t intentional.

The second baseman then touched second base and threw the ball home, in which Kentlake’s catcher tagged Shoul, who was on third for another out.

The problem that the umpires made was no one made any out calls on the field. Fans, coaches and players were left with their palms up. The result of the call was an out at home and a force out at second base.

Simpson said he was initially told that the runner was safe at home and out at second. Then after some deliberation with Suguro, returned to Simpson and told him the run didn’t count and there was an out at second base.

“He said he dropped the ball at second, stepped on second and threw home and got him with a tag. Then (the umpire) said he didn’t see a tag,” Simpson said.

“The first time they came up to me said, ‘It is going to go your way. This side (Kentlake) is not going to be very happy.’ Then they said double play, you’re out.”

According to Simpson, he believed that the umpires made the wrong call following the situation in the sixth.

“It’s a bummer of a game because we had it and I knew we had it and the umpires screwed us on that one,” Simpson said after the game.

As the two teams walked off the field confused as ever, it was still a 2-2 ballgame heading into the final inning of play. With one out and a man on second, Kentlake scored the third run of the game on a fly ball to center that would have been caught 99 times out of 100. But with the sun and the clouds behind home plate, Lion centerfielder Jacob Watrous never saw the ball and it fell to the turf.

Despite being down 3-2 with momentum completely going the Falcon way, in the home half of the seventh, the Lions got the tying run 90 feet away from home. Danner Philbrick hit a leadoff single to center that bounced over the Kentlake center fielder, and Philbrick hustled all the way to third base.

Kentlake reliever Gavin Liechty recorded the next three outs on his own, striking out two Lions and fielding a comebacker to close out the game.

The Lions have four games left and will need some help to get back on top of the standings. Auburn Mountainview has Auburn Riverside and Thomas Jefferson to close out its schedule.

“We just have to forget it and move past it. That’s it,” Simpson said. “This group is awesome. It is a great, great group. They play hard… They’ll come back, they’ll battle. It is what they do.”

Caden Shoul was dominant on the bump for the Lions against Kentlake. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Caden Shoul was dominant on the bump for the Lions against Kentlake. Ben Ray / The Reporter