FORT WORTH — Was it a caught foul tip to end an inning or a mere foul ball?
Unfortunately for the Belton Tigers, they have nine months to ponder that question because the answer helped bring the end of their season Saturday night.
Belton dropped an 8-7, nine-inning decision to South Grand Prairie in the third and deciding game of a Region I-5A bi-district series at LaGrave Field.
“My question was miscommunication. The home-plate umpire made one call and the first-base umpire made another,” Belton coach Eddie Cornblum said. “But I don’t think games come down to calls. We just weren’t able to close the deal.”
Jason Jones brought Darrion Scott home in the bottom of the ninth with a sacrifice fly to right. Scott led off the inning with a walk and advanced to third base on a single to left by Greg Smyers. Jones also had the game-winning RBI in Game 1 as a RBI single brought home the winning run for an 8-7, eight-inning decision Thursday in Grand Prairie.
The inning that had a larger impact Saturday was the sixth. Belton led 7-4 when the controversy popped up when Smyers was at-bat with two outs. The inning appeared to be over when a foul tip by Smyers appeared to be caught by Belton catcher Joey Hogan. Smyers was called out at first and the Tigers (21-12-1) had left the field, but the call was changed to a foul ball and they had to return despite complaints from Belton coach Eddie Cornblum.
Smyers took advantage of the extra swing and smacked a double to the left-field fence to score Kade Chapa and pinch runner Paul Aguilar. Earlier in the inning D.J Williams hit a one-out single went to second on a fielder’s choice by Chapa and scored on a single to right by pinch hitter Patrick Clifford.
South Grand Prairie (18-17), the fourth-place team from 7-5A, advanced to the area round to face Flower Mound Marcus.
Belton sophomore right-hander Shane Stafford lasted eight innings and got a no-decision. He allowed seven earned runs and eight hits and three walks while striking out six. Devin Lovato (0-5) entered the game in the ninth and took the loss.
“Shane was still smooth. He wasn’t laboring,” Cornblum said. “He gave us everything you could want.”
Belton was able to extend its lead to 7-4 in the fifth when Sortor hit a double off the glove of right fielder Kelvin Brigham, was sacrificed to third by Niemi and scored on a wild pitch by reliever Liles.
In the last three innings of the game however the Tigers failed to get a hit. Sidewinder Kiwa Pecararo (4-2) pitched two perfect innings to pick up the win.
“It sometimes takes Kiwa to get a little time to get warmed up, but when his stuff is on, it’s filthy,” South Grand Prairie coach Dennis Pelfrey said. “As a team, we haven’t played great baseball yet this year. We may not have the best baseball players, but we have a bunch of good athletes and they are a scrappy group of guys.”
Cameron Cooper led off the game with an infield single and scored on a Walker Winders single to left.
The Warriors countered with two runs in the bottom of the frame. Scott led off with a walk, stole second and scored on a ground-rule double to left by Smyers. Smyers, who was 4 for 5, scored a fielder’s choice by Dakota Liles.
Belton went ahead with two runs in the second when Niemi scored on a Cooper double to the right-field fence and Herrington came home on a Janczak sacrifice fly to right.
Belton extended its lead in the third as Chase Cryer scored on a Joe Pare single to left. Herrington followed with a single to left to knock Warriors starter Dylan Dover out of the game. Dover allowed three earned runs, seven hits and one walk in 2 1/3 innings.
The Warriors were able to cut Belton’s lead in half in the bottom of the third. Smyers scored on the back end of a double steal with Jones and Jones scored from second on a Stafford wild pitch that deflected near Belton’s first-base dugout.
“I’m numb. I feel bad for everybody, the kids, the community,” Cornblum said. “They are a classy bunch of guys, especially the seniors.”