- The Menchville-Western Branch game didn't end until 9:49
- Gloucester's game against Cox started at 10:30 and didn't end until 1:32 a.m.
- Gloucester players didn't get home until almost 4 a.m.
By now, you've seen Jim Joyce's blown call that cost Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game Wednesday night. ESPN all but interrupted its regular programming to discuss it.
Some 700 miles away at the Old Dominion's Bud Metheny Complex, site of the Eastern Region baseball tournament, the night also was pretty interesting. Even if it didn't make SportsCenter.
How many times have you seen the defending state champion go down in a 12-inning game that included a 94-minute lightning delay and a controversial play at the plate? When can you recall a high school baseball game ending at 1:32
in the morning?
"I remember one high school football game I played, and that's because it snowed," said Granby athletic director Marty Bechtol, the Eastern Region tournament director. "These kids won't remember what they had for lunch on Wednesday, but they'll be talking about that night for the rest of their lives."
Menchville will always remember that play at the plate (he was safe, wasn't he?) and how it all unraveled in the 12
inning. Gloucester will never forget the night (morning, officially) they qualified for the state tournament for the first time since the school went Group AAA in 1990.
It all started as it should have, right at 5 p.m. on a hot, hot, hot day. And after two complete innings, Western Branch led Menchville 1-0. Then, at 5:27 p.m., an alert siren blasted, indicating there was lightning in the area. Play was immediately halted.
The players remained mostly in the dugout, watching the fireworks, listening to the thunder, and waiting for it to end. Finally, at 6:43, the all-clear signal was given. At 7:01, play resumed.
Meanwhile, Gloucester's team arrived shortly after 6, an hour and a half before their game against Cox was scheduled to begin. They watched from the third base bleachers, sitting among the Menchville fans and cheering for their Peninsula District rivals.
In the sixth inning, the Monarchs tied it on Alex Korecky's single. In the eighth, they appeared to have won it when Deron Hanley tagged up and came home on Josh Moore's fly ball to left. But he was called out at the plate.
From a video posted on YouTube, which was shot from the third base side, Hanley appears to be safe. But the game went on. And on. And on.
Andrew Petersen, Gloucester's starting pitcher, wondered if it would ever end.
"We were sitting with the Menchville people, and we wanted them to win," he said. "But at some point, we just wanted somebody to hit the ball and win it."
What was he doing to stay focused all that time?
"There's nothing like a bottle of water and a big pack of Skittles to keep you awake and your energy pumping," he said.
Gloucester coach Derek Kibler began to fret a little. Who knew when this game would end? Could you really start a high school baseball game after 10 o'clock? What would the parents say? What would the school officials say?
Kibler was in contact with athletic director Jon Hatch and principal Layton Beverage, who ended up driving down. They essentially told him to go with his gut.
"We reserved the right to say that it was beyond what was appropriate for a high school athlete," Hatch said. "My advice to Derek was, make the call and be comfortable with it."
Kibler asked his players. Their answer was exactly what you'd expect.
"They said, 'No, we're ready to go,'" he said. "And they looked ready to go."
Finally, at 9:49 p.m., the game ended. Western Branch scored four runs in the top of the 12
, and the Monarchs managed only a walk in the bottom half. There would be no repeat: Menchville was done after a 5-1 loss.
"My last high school game," pitcher Austin Chrismon said. "I had been thinking about it because every game is an elimination game now. And now it's over."
The decision was made to play the second game. It was also agreed not to rush things. The field needed to be prepared properly, and the players needed adequate time to warm up. The first pitch wasn't thrown until 10:52 p.m., 63 minutes after the first game had ended.
"They were both adamant about that," Bechtol said, referring to Kibler and Cox coach Bill Conroy. "And I told them, take all the time you need. We could have hustled and gotten the game started at 10:30, but it was their time."
Unlike the first game, this one would have no drama. Gloucester scored one in the first, two in the second, and three in the third. The Dukes cruised to a 7-1 win that, despite no extra innings, still lasted 2 hours and 40 minutes.
At 1:32 a.m., it was finally over. A Gloucester fan wondered if IHOP was still open because he wanted breakfast and coffee.
By the time the dugout was cleared out and everyone rounded up, it was after 2 a.m. when Gloucester's bus pulled away. The drive home is roughly 90 minutes, and by the time the players got to their homes it was approaching 4 a.m.
They were given excused absences until noon. Then they left for Norfolk at 3:15.
"We were focused," shortstop David Lutz said. "We were running on adrenalin."
Bechtol, who has been the tournament director since 1998, said he doesn't remember a night quite like this one. He does remember one that he says was actually worse.
In a 1999 quarterfinal between Woodside and Western Branch, a thunderstorm hit after six innings had been played. The Bruins were leading 9-6 at the time, and after a 67-minute delay the game was called.
This one, he said, worked out.
"The integrity of the tournament was upheld," he said. "All the years I've been doing this, we've never had a game start that late. I hope we never have one start that late again."
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