Spring Mills pitcher Rich Auman’s third throw of Tuesday night’s game plunked the umpire square in the facemask with a loud crack.
The wild pitch foreshadowed a game riddled with mistakes between both the Spring Mills Braves and the Pleasant Gap Peppers — but in the end, just one led to a 5-4 Braves victory and evening of the teams’ three-game playoff series, 1-1.
It was a looping, sun-catching fly ball that spun the Pleasant Gap left fielder around twice before he briefly caught it, then it dribbled out of his glove. Spring Mills third baseman Branden Martz then scored easily from second, the go-ahead run and the final lead change. It was also the ninth error of the game between the two teams.
“That one bounced our way, some of the baseball gods bounced our way,” laughed Braves head coach Fred Johnson.
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The most hotly-contested snafu was an interference call at home plate, in which a baserunner was attempting to steal third and Braves catcher Colton Treaster boinked his throw off of the Pleasant Gap batter’s helmet in his effort to pick off the runner. The batter was called out amid loud protest, which staunched momentum from a two-run inning that had put the Peppers in the lead, 4-3.
Then, the chatter began.
“You know, the tempers sort of started in Game 1 (of the series),” Johnson said. “There were some things that happened that most spectators didn’t know, and we let them go today. I guess we repaid the favor. … You hate to see that for the fans. The umpires took care of it the way they should have.”
By the bottom of the sixth, Spring Mills led 5-4 after a wild pitch in the fifth allowed a runner to steal home and the error in left field gave the Braves the go-ahead score. Both benches were then issued warnings after a brush-up between a runner and fielder coming off the field sent the expletives flying between dugouts.
Auman, one of the the oldest players in the Centre County Baseball League at 47, kept his cool.
“I always tell the guys, ‘You know, we got kids at the game,’ and stuff,” he said. “The emotions were high, but you just gotta drop it and play ball.
“I was just real proud of the guys. I was able to hit my spots a lot better after the third inning. I was able to start doing that, get the curveball going a little bit. First three innings I wasn’t even able to spot my fastball.”
Auman went the distance for the Braves with four strikeouts after the third inning, including one in the seventh that helped his team complete its comeback win after an early two-run deficit.
“We crawled back in it,” said Johnson. “Our teams are really similar. … It’ll be interesting to see who they bring out to the mound on Thursday. We’re going to go as far as our pitching takes us, same as them.”
The series-deciding game will be at Governor’s Park in Bellefonte at 6 p.m.