WATSON – Neither coach had seen anything like it.
Both Live Oak’s Jesse Cassard and Randy Sandifer of Walker High found themselves on the infield grass of Live Oak Ballpark simultaneously arguing different sides of a call with the same base umpire in the bottom of the sixth inning of Thursday’s District 4-5A matchup.
“Not in my 17 years of coaching baseball have I seen that happen,” Cassard said.
Said Sandifer: “It’s the first time I’ve seen both coaches out hollering at the same guy (umpire).”
What ultimately transpired – Live Oak’s 6-3 victory over Walker – wasn’t up for debate, but the manner in which the Eagles were afforded the opportunity to pad a precarious one-run lead that same inning was.
Walker was already off the field, believing it had turned an inning-ending double play and looked forward to keeping its hopes alive in the top of the seventh.
A one-out groundball off the bat of Live Oak’s Collin Martin was gloved by Walker shortstop Cameron Crowe. His throw to second baseman Gabe Inman to force out Sal Palermo was initially signaled safe by the base umpire, but who verbally called him out on the field according to Sandifer.
Inman then threw to first baseman Dakota Wilson where Martin was called out for an apparent double play, sending the Wildcats to their dugout.
First-year Live Oak coach Jesse Cassard came out and vehemently argued the call, appealing for help to the home plate umpire, who after a few minutes, ruled Palermo safe, thus bringing Walker back to the field.
That reversal brought Sandifer out of his dugout where for several moments, he and Cassard were both arguing with the base umpire in the two-man crew.
“It was a pretty big reversal,” Sandifer said. “We went from thinking we were off the field and one run down, to having to get another out. It changed the momentum of the game.”
Said Cassard: “We’ve got to be better. We hold our kids to a high standard. The coaches are held to a high standard. I think the umpires need to be held to a high standard. That’s a critical call in the game. You’ve got to make a clear-as-day call in my opinion.”
To that point Walker High reliever Paul Howard had pitched magnificently, shutting out Live Oak for five innings after inheriting a 4-0 deficit and nobody out from starter Gavin Adams.
Eighth-place hitter Dylan Williams, who was previously 0-for-2, worked a full count and drove a pitch from Howard through the right side of the infield and into right field, scoring pinch runner Reid Broussard, who had taken over for Palermo on the bases.
Howard, who threw 96 pitches in relief, walked Cam Dickerson – his first in his extended appearance – when lead-off batter Rhett Rosevear lined a shot off reliever Cody King that glanced off the glove of a leaping Crow and into left field for a 6-3 lead. The Eagles had three of their five hits in the sixth inning.
“Dylan had a great at bat,” Cassard said. “I was glad we figured that guy (Howard) out and scored a couple of more runs. It says a lot about our offense.”
Walker (9-18, 4-3) didn’t go quietly in the seventh, loading the bases with two outs on a hit batter, a walk and single from Inman when Kade Dupont coaxed a ground ball from Crow to Palermo at first base to end the game.
“Walker’s tough, they play everybody tough,” Cassard said. “It’s district. Everybody’s fighting.”
Dupont nailed down his 11th save of the season, helping to keep Live Oak (22-8, 5-2 in district) in the District 4-5A lead by a half-game over Zachary (4-2).
Walker, which outhit Live Oak 6-5, scored a run in the third on a throwing error and added two more against Eagles' starter Ethan Prescott in the fourth inning.
Crow’s RBI-groundout drove in Seth Richardson, who doubled to lead off the inning, and catcher Spencer Murray (2-for-4) singled home Grant Edwards.
The Wildcats loaded the bases in the fifth against Prescott, who allowed five hits, walked five and struck out three, when Dupont got Crow to pop out to Williams just off the infield grass in right.
Live Oak opened with four runs on two hits, including Lane Hutchinson’s RBI-single, but also parlayed a pair of walks and three wild pitches with the first of those leading to the game’s first run.
Howard limited the damage, allowing only one hit and kept Live Oak without a hit or run until the fateful sixth inning. He yielded three hits, struck out four and walked two in a 96-pitch outing.
“For him to come in that early was pretty big,” Sandifer said. “He was spot on. We won the middle five innings.”
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