Mother nature and human nature took turns tossing curveballs during the Wheels Invitational baseball tournament Friday.
The 4 p.m. games at all three sites were completed, but only one of the three nightcaps finished, Fort Mill’s 12-2 blowout of Rock Hill as pouring rain moved into the area. South Pointe’s Wheels Invitational nightcap with Woodrow Wilson (W.Va.) succumbed to the steady shower. And Northwestern’s game never happened because Marist (N.J.) abruptly withdrew from the tournament after its coach was ejected.
N.J. coach takes team and leaves
Marist coach Ron Hayward elected to pull his Royal Knights team from the Wheels Invitational after being told by the umpiring crew that he could not coach in Friday’s second game.
Hayward was ejected from the day’s first game against Mamaroneck (N.Y.) for arguing what he thought should have been a balk call against the Tigers’ pitcher. When told by the umpires that by rule he had to sit out the next game, which was to be against Northwestern, he decided to take his team off the field.
The Knights’ 4-3 win over Mamaroneck made them 1-1 in the tournament. But Heyward said they would also not participate in Saturday’s consolation round. He did not have much else to say otherwise.
“No comment,” Hayward said. “We’re going home. You can ask the home guys (Northwestern).”
Northwestern coach Mitch Walters was just as stunned as everyone else.
“By (the National Federation of State High School Associations) rules, you get thrown out of a game, you have to sit a game,” Walters said. “And he refused to sit out. He said if he had to sit this game out he was going to take his team and go.”
Walters, whose team has won both of its Wheels game so far, said this was a first for him.
“I’ve never seen this. High School League is a game suspension and a $500 fine. That’s why I’m never going to get chunked. I don’t have $500.”
Maybe fans and onlookers thought the game would be a blowout favoring the Floridians, who looked sharp Wednesday, but the Dots jumped to a 7-2 lead after an inning and half, only to lose their lead late as the Eagles kept coming, much like the gray precipitation pouring from the sky.
Poca jumped on Faith Baptist starter Winston Guerrero in the first frame, with the help of a couple of booted ground balls by the Eagles’ infield. Guerrero was lifted after the inning, to be replaced by Jesus Centeno who pitched the next five innings and change with varying success. Their struggles weren’t unique; the two teams combined for 16 walks.
Poca starter Skyler Vealey kept the Eagles off balance for the duration of the 4 1/3 innings that he threw. Brett Watts came in for the Dots in the fifth as Faith Baptist mounted a comeback, but he struggled to get outs as the rain picked up.
Keanu Thompson looped a two-run double in the bottom of the fifth to cut the Dots’ lead to 7-6. Nelson Pena reached when the Poca shortstop bobbled a grounder, plating the tying run. Junior Fermin walked to load the bases and Poca sent Dante Barnett to the mound to spell Watts. A passed ball scored Thompson to give Faith Baptist its first lead of the game, 8-7. Johnathan Sanchez closed the game for the Eagles, throwing a perfect final 1 2/3 innings to seal the comeback.
WP- Centeno; LP- Watts. Poca- Matt Chandler 2-4; Noah Frampton 1-3, BB, 2B. Faith Baptist- Nelson Pena 2-2, 2B, BB; Keanu Thompson 2-3, 2B, BB; Junior Fermin 1-1, RBI sac fly RBI, 2 BB’s.
WP - AJ Candelario. LP - Sam Bauman. Records: Marist 1-1 (Wheels); Mamaroneck 4-4, 1-2 Wheels.