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BOWLING GREEN – A North Oldham 12-year old postseason that players and coaches hoped would include a trip to Indianapolis and potentially farther ended suddenly Tuesday.
Paintsville upset NOLL 6-5 Tuesday night at Ephram White Park, eliminating the team from La Grange in the state semifinals. The loss Tuesday was the first all postseason for NOLL.
Paintsville went on to fall to Warren County South in the state title game Wednesday night.
“We played basically how we were supposed to play,” first baseman Gavin McLarty said. “We fought. I guess just a couple of missed balls and bad bounces just went against us.”
NOLL took a 2-0 lead and then allowed Paintsville to score six straight runs, only to threaten to tie the game in the fifth.
Then controversy took over.
NOLL trailed 6-5 in the top of the fifth with two outs, runners on second and third and Deaton Oak at the plate.
Oak hit the first pitch he saw hard back to Paintsville pitcher Mason Moore. Moore threw onto first base to force Oak out and strand the potential tying and go-ahead runs.
But Moore had already thrown 86 pitches by the time Oak came to the plate. By Little League rule, a pitcher cannot start an at-bat if he’s already thrown 85 pitches.
NOLL manager Doug Oak protested to the umpires, saying the at-bat should be reset with a new Paintsville pitcher.
Over the course of the next 20 minutes, the game umpires spoke to on-site rules officials before calling officials at Little League Central Region in Indianapolis. Those officials forwarded the inquiry to Little League headquarters in Williamsport, Pa.
The Williamsport officials handed down the final verdict: the out would stand and Paintsville’s manager would be suspended for the next two games – the potential state title game Wednesday and the potential first Great Lakes Regional game in Indianapolis.
According to Roy Turley, the on-site umpires’ supervisor, NOLL could’ve successfully won the protest to have the at-bat reset had Oak not hit the first pitch into play.
But because the ball was put in play, Turley said, the at-bat could not be repeated.
“Even though I disagreed in spirit because, in my mind, you become rewarded for doing something you shouldn’t have done, the ruling was the ruling,” Doug Oak said. “The ruling didn’t cost us the game. It was one of those days where the baseball gods just didn’t smile on us and some things that hadn’t happened to us happened to us.”
NOLL reliever Austin Reed kept Paintsville off the board in the bottom of the fifth, giving NOLL three outs to score one run to tie.
Trevor Amburgey lined out to Paintsville shortstop Gunner Collins. Reed then reached first on a Collins error.
Parker Caudill grounded to Collins, who stepped on second to force Reed out for the second out.
Then Ben Gibson hit another grounder to Collins, who flipped the ball to a covering Ashton Adams at second base, forcing Caudill out and ending the game.
NOLL had won every other postseason game it played by at least six runs prior to Tuesday’s loss.
“Honestly, we played outstanding baseball,” Doug Oak said of his team's postseason.
NOLL took a 2-0 lead in the second inning. McLarty and Trenton Mills scored on RBI singles by Isaiah Kelly and Deaton Oak, respectively.
Paintsville got a run back in the bottom of the second on an RBI double off Mills by Moore.
Paintsville tied the game at 2-2 in the third on an NOLL error. Then a two-RBI double by Logan Stuss gave his team its first lead, at 4-2.
It was at that point Doug Oak lifted his starting pitcher, Mills, in favor of Reed, who’d been playing shortstop.
Reed gave up a sacrifice fly off the bat of Lucas Litteral to make the score 5-2.
Paintsville added its sixth run on an RBI single by Trenton Coleman in the fourth.
NOLL rallied in the fifth. Reed led off with a double and advanced to third on a wild pitch.
He scored NOLL’s third run when Collins booted a groundball off the bat of Caudill.
Gibson and Marshall Cuzick hit back-to-back singles, loading the bases with no outs.
Caudill was thrown out at the plate on a groundball by Mills for the first out.
Gibson scored on a groundball off the bat of Anthony Reynolds, making the score 6-4 and putting runners on second and third with two outs.
Another run scored on a Paintsville error, trimming the margin to 6-5.
That set the stage for Deaton Oak’s at-bat and the controversy that followed.
“I told them out there it’s one of those things about elimination baseball,” Doug Oak said. “It’s one game and sometimes the bear gets you. Sometimes you get the bear.
“I would take them in a five-game or a seven-game series over anybody. But it just wasn’t meant to be.”