With two outs at the end of the seventh and Iroquois holding on to a 5-3 lead, pitcher Cam Fuer beat Hamburg’s Evan Chaffee with the ties on base for an apparent game-over.
The Chiefs celebrated their championship of the Section VI, Class A overall title Monday afternoon with the usual yells, yells and dog poo.
The celebration was interrupted for quite a while when a discussion took place involving coaches, judges and Section VI officials. Eventually, the umpires ruled that the Iroquois had broken a state rule governing the number of pitches. In response, the Chiefs had to give up the game they just won at Bobo Field at Niagara University.
Therefore, Hamburg is switching to the Far West Regionals this weekend. Iroquois is ready for the season.
“I’ve been training this program for 20 years,” said Derek Hill from Hamburg. “This is by far the most bizarre finish I’ve ever seen.”
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It was the kind of ending that will no doubt garner attention in high school athletic circles across the state. And the whole situation requires a good explanation.
New York State rules limit pitchers to 125 pitches in any given postseason game; If they reach 125 in the middle of an at-bat, they are allowed to stop pitching to that batsman. Both teams keep track of the count, but the home team’s (in this case Hamburg) total is the one considered official in the event of a dispute.
Fuer threw a full game entering the seventh and had five walks and nine strikeouts in the first six innings. The Iroquois pitcher had two more strikeouts, another walk and a hit batsman in the first four batters in the bottom of the seventh. According to an unofficial tally by a media member in the press box, Fuer went past 125 pitches when he pitched Jacob Reese, the hitter before Chaffee.
“We had our man on 93 pitches early in the inning,” said Iroquois coach Chris Snusz. “He’s thrown 31 pitches, which brings him to 124. They insisted he was at 138, which was ridiculous.”
“We knew he was pretty close (by number) when he went into the last inning,” Hill said. “I had lost track of the coaching in third place. But we had multiple sources confirming that he had crossed the legal line before Evan hit the plate.”
However, Fuer stayed in the game and threw to Chaffee. As soon as he threw his first pitch with the racquet (at least according to an impartial count), he was considered an ineligible player. And according to the state association, the rule is in black and white: “Any violation of this rule is counted in the same way as a school assignment by a player who is not eligible to play. The game is forfeited.” There are no exceptions.
“Those are the rules,” Hill said. “I didn’t know if we had to repeat the last at-bat. I wasn’t sure about the protocol from that point on. But… wow.”
The inning lasted until its completion. When the game was over, a dejected Hill returned to his dugout and was greeted by a buzz. The other coaches were busy double-checking the situation and brought this to the referees’ attention. Section VI officials took it from there. Hamburg’s count was the one that counted and the result was reversed.
As you’d expect, the Chiefs were furious, the Bulldogs a little embarrassed but happy, and fans of both teams traded insults. The referees declared the loss and went to the parking lot.
“I have a lot of mixed feelings right now,” Hill said. “I’m grateful that we can go to training tomorrow because you don’t want to say goodbye to these guys. But don’t take anything away from (Iroquois). Obviously they have a great team and a great program.”
“I feel terrible for the kids,” Snusz said. “They played hard and won the game.”
The ending spoiled an intense game between the A-1 and A-2 champions. Hamburg emerged through four innings to a 3-0 lead while starting pitcher Chaffee consistently worked out of jams. Nolan Heavern hit a solo homer while the Bulldogs also hit from a penalty and a holdup.
But the Iroquois recovered. It scored its first run in the fifth when a ball that had been called an infield fly was misplayed, resulting in an out but a run that scored from the third. Later in the inning, Sam Staerke singled two runs home to give the Chiefs the lead. They added an insurance run on a wild place in the seventh. The rally was successful… until it wasn’t.
“That’s going to get lost in the whole thing — both teams played great baseball,” Hill said. “What a great game with an unfortunate ending.”
Hamburg will take on the Section V Champion on Saturday afternoon at Niagara University.
Medina wins Class B title
It seems the only thing that can slow down the Medina baseball team is Covid-19.
The Mustangs defeated Depew 4-1 for the Section VI Class B crossover title. The win sent Medina to the Far West Regionals against the Section V champion at 2 p.m. Saturday at Monroe Community College.
The Mustangs’ last such title came in 2019. The catch is that the 2020 season was wiped out and there was no crossover game in 2021 because of the virus. As such, it’s been a while since Medina took a backseat to baseball in the region.
“They can make some noise (in the state playoffs),” said Depew coach Dennis Crawley Jr. “If their pitch comes through, they’ll be fine.”
A defining moment came in the second inning when the Mustangs hit two runs with a sacrificial fly and a bases-laden hitter. The runs were a consolation for Medina starter Aiden Paul, who had six innings scoreless.
“I used to play mostly fastball/curveball, with the slider every now and then,” he said. “These runs give me peace of mind. I didn’t have to worry about beating everyone. Those two runs really made a difference.”
The teams traded zeros until the end of the fifth inning. In the sixth, Medina added a little needed insurance with two RBI hits from Xander Payne and Zach Fike. Paul, who had three hits that day, was pretty tired after the sixth inning. Part of the problem was waking up to a surprise allergy attack.
“He sneezed a lot this morning,” said coach Jon Sherman. “We had to find a Zyrtec and calm it down. It was a hot day out there.”
Paul got out and catcher Payne moved up the mound for the bottom of the seventh. Justin Refermat opened the inning with a double to the left, but Payne accumulated three groundouts while giving up a meaningless run to end the win.
“They have a top-to-bottom pitching staff,” Crawley said. “We played them later in the year. It went eight innings and they beat us 2-0. We had our work cut out for us and when you don’t have guys on base it’s difficult to score.
Most high school sports endings are bittersweet. This was especially true for Depew, as it won its first Section VI title since 1971. If the Wildcats needed inspiration, all they had to do was look at their coach. Crawley has battled ALS this season. There’s a chance this was his last game as a coach – but not if he has anything to say about it.
“It could be — it depends on how I’m progressing with ALS,” he said. “I will definitely come back when I can. I will definitely fight for it.”