(UPDATE: This story was updated, Aug. 1, to reflect a change in schedule for the final of the Championship Game in the Pony division of the Merced Youth Baseball league. It will be held on Saturday, Aug. 3, 9 a.m., at the Merced Sports Complex.)
Wild games in the Merced Youth Baseball league are not uncommon, but this one was another story.
It had all the drama of the Big Show — and a whole lot more.
It was the Athletics, sponsored by Cen-Cal Tire World, versus the Angels, who didn’t have a company sponsor.
“We’re the underdogs,” an Angel’s coach said.
It was the final game of the season Monday night at the Sports Complex for the top teams in the Pony division — with 13- and 14-year-old players. That’s important because many of the players were saying goodbye to the city league and anticipating playing for high schools in the future.
It was their last chance to shine, and go out with a bang.
“It’s been an exciting season,” said Birdi Olivarez-Kidwell, who was cheering on her 13-year-old son Torin. “The teams are well-matched. The players are at that stage when they are improving their skill levels and strategies to win games.”
The Athletics, who only lost one game during the regular season, showed off a lot of star players.
There was Josh Greer Bartley, a.k.a. “The Bear,” who towered over the other players. Everytime The Bear came to the plate, the A’s coach pointed to the lights high above the outfield, and the Angel’s coach would tell his pitcher to walk him. This irritated The Bear who would complain all the way to first base as the fans in the stands hooted and hollered. Later in the dugout, The Bear told this reporter: “Sorry you missed out on seeing the best hitter in Merced Youth Baseball, but they won’t pitch to me.”
There was a player nicknamed “Speedy” because he’s fast and can make a typical hit single suddenly turn into a triple.
And then there was “A.J.” the catcher who incredibly entered the 5th inning with one single hit short of “hitting the cycle.” He was pretty excited, but his play on defense was a disaster.
The A’s batters would build up big leads, but when they took to the field, the Angels would capitalize on wild pitches and overthrows at third base.
“Focus! focus! focus!” A’s coach Ralph Arceo shouted.
His assistant told the boys: “We need to stop surviving this game, and start winning this game.”
Meanwhile, the umpire — a petite female with a powerful voice — was shouting at the coach of the Angels about some sort of violation. The Angels coach wouldn’t budge from the dugout, and didn’t dare approach the umpire which appeared to frustrate her.
Due to other commitments, The Times had to leave the game as it extended past 9:30 p.m., but Angels fan Renee Davenport said she would report back with the final score and a smart phone picture of the winners. Davenport was there to cheer for her great grandson Tyler Silva and great nephew Michael Roman.
When the Times called Davenport the next day, asking why the photos had not been sent, she replied: “Didn’t you hear? The game is not over. The score was 19-18 in favor of the A’s … and then the lights on the field went out!”
The Angels were reportedly up in the 6th inning, with the bases loaded and no outs. The crowd was going wild, but the city has the lights on timers, and there’s no way to put them back on.
League officials didn’t want to call the game because it was the championship. So both teams are going to meet again on Saturday (Aug. 3) at 9 a.m., back at the Merced Sports Complex. All the players have to take the same positions they had when the lights went out. They are going to continue the game through a 7th inning.
Davenport also said The Bear finally got a pitch at the plate.
But did he get a hit?
“Of course he did,” she said. “What do you think happened? … The ball went soaring into outfield. … I’m not sure where it ended up.”
If you want to see an exciting finish to a wild game. You don’t want to miss this one. Stay tuned for more in next week’s edition.