Wildwood’s season ends in controversy

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There may be a tougher way to lose a game, but don’t try telling that to the players and coaches from the Wildwood High School baseball team.

The Warriors’ season came to an end in controversial style when an overturned umpire’s call took away the tying run and ended the game as Wildwood lost a second-round South Jersey Group I playoff game to Gloucester Thursday afternoon, 2-1.

“As a coach, I don’t even know what to say to the kids, especially the seniors,” Wildwood coach Rich Hans said.

With two outs and a runner on third in the seventh inning, Wildwood’s fastest player, Jose Valentin, hit a ground ball to shortstop. The Gloucester player fielded the ball cleanly, but his throw forced the first baseman off the bag in the eyes of the field umpire who made the initial call. But after an appeal was made, the home plate umpire overruled his partner’s decision and called Valentin out, stating that the Gloucester first baseman had held the bag, according to Hans.

Hans said he was given no explanation, stating the umpires ran off the field immediately after changing the call.

“There was a controversial call that we felt went the wrong way,” Hans said, choosing his words carefully. “In our opinion, the umpire at first base made a great call initially, but then the home plate umpire reversed the call. It’s a tough way for our seniors to go out.

“It’s tough when you have four seniors on the bench crying their eyes out because their season and their careers ended on a call like that. Our kids do everything they’re told. They played hard, they hustled and they run everything out. To not have something like this go their way, as a coach I just don’t what to say to them.”

Wildwood nearly took the lead earlier in the inning when Billy Bolle’s line drive down the line with runners on second and third was foul by only about a foot, Hans said.

Brendan Bean singled and scored on a passed ball to give Wildwood a brief 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth. Gloucester scored twice in the bottom of the inning on Bobby Girgenti’s two-run single to take the lead for good.

Chris Mormile pitched a complete game for the Warriors in the loss, striking out eight and allowing only three hits.

“Chris was awesome,” Hans said. “He was lights out.”

Wildwood, the No. 7 seed in the tournament, had its season ended at 17-14-1. Gloucester (18-5), the No. 2 seed, moves on to the sectional semifinal round next week.

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