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Cotey: Nothing unjust, just a bad day for Armwood

Armwood catcher Josh Spano topples over Chiles’ Sean Poole, but Spano holds on for the out in the fifth inning. A collision at home in the bottom of the inning led to Spano’s ejection.

JEREMIAH WILSON | Special to the Times

Armwood catcher Josh Spano topples over Chiles’ Sean Poole, but Spano holds on for the out in the fifth inning. A collision at home in the bottom of the inning led to Spano’s ejection.

PORT ST. LUCIE — A lot of things happened Monday afternoon that disappointed Armwood High coach Mike Wrenn.

There were untimely errors, horrible baserunning and, heck, even by his self-evaluation, some bad coaching decisions.

But he left Port St. Lucie after a 4-2 loss in the Class 5A state semifinals disappointed and a little angry at the wrong thing.

He left feeling his team had been wronged, that the Hawks had been dealt an unfair hand and had to fight back from a tough situation they had unfairly been put in.

He left thinking his catcher, Josh Spano, was only playing good, hard-nosed baseball when he lowered his shoulders and turned Chiles catcher Taylor Anders into a blocking dummy.

He will change his mind when he sees the replay, I would think.

Or not.

For an Armwood team that played in Brandon's shadow much of the year and played with a chip on its shoulder as a result, Wrenn's frustration probably played well on the team bus back home.

But the Hawks didn't lose because Spano took out Anders, or because he was unjustly ejected in the eyes of the Hawks, or because the umpires handled the decision and it killed a potentially big rally.

They lost because they played a bad game at the worst time.

It happens.

It happened when they committed crucial errors in the third inning, allowing Chiles to get all four of its runs.

It happened when four runners got picked off, killing big innings and the last one ending the game.

Wrenn, a former catcher, didn't need to look far for a reason his team lost. He could have started almost anywhere.

Instead he went to this: defending Spano's forearm shiver to the grill of Anders in the fifth inning.

It was 4-1 at the time, and Spano would have been the second run of the game as he came around to score on Tanner Emmons' double. His run would have made it 4-2 with runners on second and third and one out.

Instead, he was called out, the run was nullified and the benches briefly emptied.

"I'm not going to tell him to stop being aggressive," Wrenn said. "I'm not going to make the kids stop playing (the way they have all season)."

Which is not what anyone was suggesting.

But there is a line between playing aggressively and playing unnecessarily aggressive.

Yes, Anders was standing near the plate; he was practically standing on it.

No, there was no play at the plate to break up.

Yes, Spano could have gotten to the plate without colliding into a player not expecting it any number of ways.

Say, sliding?

It was a brutal, unnecessary shot that could have caused a serious injury but, most important, could have been avoided.

The rule is simple: no running over the catcher (and I'll add for effect — especially one who doesn't have the ball, which at the time was still in the outfield in the process of being relayed home to stop the runner behind Spano).

So call it a good, hard baseball play if you must.

But it was just one mistake, and while it contributed to the Hawks' demise, it wasn't the only reason for it.

After all, this is a team that had four runners picked off, three of them rather inexplicably.

In the sixth inning with the score 4-2, Joe Cartwright intentionally got himself hung up between first and second, a little trickery Wrenn called for in the hope his runner on third could score before Cartwright was tagged out.

It didn't work.

And with runners on second and third and leadoff hitter Billy Farrell at the plate, a pickoff at third base ended the game when a hit would have tied it.

It wasn't one play.

It was a bunch of them.

A bunch of good reasons to be disappointed.

John C. Cotey can be reached at johncotey@gmail.com.

Cotey: Nothing unjust, just a bad day for Armwood 05/25/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 26, 2009 9:31am]
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