- Eighth-inning bunt was originally rules as a hit
- League officials gave the PIlots permission to change to change the call to an error
- Jharel Cotton and Coby Cowgill combined for a no-hitter
HAMPTON - Standing in centerfield at War Memorial Stadium late Wednesday night, Jharel Cotton wondered why he and his Peninsula Pilots teammates had been asked to attend the postgame meeting.
They were told to face the scoreboard, which still showed the aftermath of Peninsula's 10-0 victory that night against Outer Banks. Under the hits category for Outer Banks, lights illuminating the frustrating form of the number "1" beamed at the players. As they stared at the board, the number magically transformed to a "0" - and a delayed no-hitter celebration for Cotton and relief pitcher Coby Cowgill ensued.
"We didn't know why the coaches wanted us out in centerfield," said Cotton, a Menchville High graduate who just finished his freshman year at Miami Dade College. "They told us to look up at the scoreboard, and the number changed. It was a great moment for all of us."
Peninsula benefited from an in-game appeal to the Coastal Plain League office after an eighth inning bunt by Outer Banks leftfielder Tyler Barrington. The bunt was originally ruled a hit, but it was changed to a throwing error charged to Pilots third baseman Chas Crane. The end result was the no-hitter.
Peninsula's reversal of fortune offered a sharp contrast to what took place in Detroit, coincidentally on the same night. Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga threw 8 2/3 flawless nnings before he was robbed of a perfect game by first base umpire Jim Joyce's inexplicable safe call on a ground ball hit by Cleveland's Jason Donald, who was obviously out on the play.
On Thursday afternoon, Pilots coach Hank Morgan still hadn't seen a replay of Galarraga's misfortune. Still reveling in his own team's accomplishment, Morgan hadn't had time to absorb much else.
Cotton rolled through 7 2/3 innings Wednesday, recording 14 strikeouts and surrendering no hits or walks. Cotton (2-0, 1.32 ERA) got a boost in the first inning when centerfielder Zach Blanchette logged the game's second out on a fully extended diving catch.
In the seventh inning, Outer Banks' Jake Stone reached base after hitting a ball that hung up between rightfielder John Lynch, first baseman Tadd Bower and second baseman Mike Mosby. The ball eventually glanced off the glove of Mosby, who was charged with a tough error.
With the Pilots up 9-0 in the eighth, nobody could've expected a bunt. Barrington had other plans. He laid down a bunt that Crane fielded cleanly with his barehand, but his throw to first took a short-hop and was slightly up the right field line, pulling Bower off the bag.
As Morgan gave Barrington an earful from the dugout for breaking one of baseball's unwritten rules by bunting late in a lopsided no-hitter, eliciting apologies from Outer Banks' coaches for Barrington's decision (which didn't come from the coaches), an Outer Banks hit went on the scoreboard.
Morgan pulled Cotton from the game after the hit. Cowgill pitched 1 1/3 innings of hitless relief.
The ruling on the bunt didn't sit well with Pilots general manager Jeffrey Scott. He sought opinions from two attending pro scouts, who both agreed it should've been an error. Scott was on the phone to the league office before the inning was over.
"I didn't want there to be a situation where it was like 'Well, let's sit here for an hour and make it look like we're being complete homers'" Scott said. "That's not the case at all. It was more or less a situation where we said 'Let's take care of it right now so it doesn't look like we're trying to do it behind anybody else's back.'"
Within 10 minutes, Scott had earned a reversal of the original call. Unfortunately, the game had already ended, and the crowd had already left.
Morgan is a baseball purist. He isn't fond of revising baseball history once the story is written, but he's convinced justice was done in this case.
"I would like to be down on the field with a guy going like Cotton was going," Morgan said. "It's something I've never been a part of. To have the thrill and the exhiliration of getting that 27th out, and counting down those last six outs or so to come down to that last out and come charging out of that dugout, it must be the greatest feeling.
"Well, we didn't get that. That's kind of what I was looking forward to."
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