PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- A relatively obscure rules violation factored heavily into the the Taconic softball team’s Western Massachusetts Division 2 tournament loss on Thursday.
But the loss itself could not obscure a successful season for Taconic.
With Sabis down, 5-1, in the top of the sixth, the Bulldogs’ leadoff hitter went to a full count and launched a foul ball deep past the left-field line.
As she stepped back into the batter’s box to redo the 3-2 pitch, the base umpire interrupted play and awarded her first base.
After a discussion with both coaches to explain the ruling, play continued, and Sabis scored three runs in the inning to begin a comeback that ended in an 8-6 win and a date Monday at Hoosac Valley in the sectional quarter-finals.
After the game, the umpires explained that the pitcher had been called for an illegal pitch. It was determined she did not break her hands before stepping onto the rubber, bringing into play a rule that was a point of emphasis for the National Federation of State High School Associations in September 2018.
According to the bulletin that accompanied that point of emphasis, “Requiring the pitcher to take position on the pitching plate and simulating taking a signal from the catcher prior to bring[ing] her hands together allows the batter to prepare for the start of the pitch. If the pitcher does not pause after stepping onto the pitcher’s plate to simulate taking a signal from the catcher prior to bringing her hands together, an illegal pitch should be called.”
The penalty for an illegal pitch: a ball. And, in this case, ball four.
“I wasn’t really sure what was going on there,” Taconic coach Jaclyn Candelet said of the call that sparked the three-run rally. “I think that definitely got into our heads, and we didn’t adapt to it. What the call was, I still am unsure about what it was.”
With that call in their heads, Taconic’s players gave up a walk and a passed ball/wild pitch to help Sabis score three runs on two hits in the sixth. Then an error, a passed ball and two more wild pitches fueled a decisive four-run, two-hit rally in the top of the seventh.
Early on, it was Sabis (14-7) who was making the mistakes, helping Taconic score five runs with just four hits.
In the first, Taea Bramer singled her way aboard but moved around on a passed ball and a couple of wild pitches. In the the third, three Sabis errors allowed Taconic to score two runs and go up, 3-0.
After the Bulldogs got one back in the top of the fifth, Taconic ran its lead to 5-1 in the bottom of the frame.
Taylar Ostrander reached on a walk, and Bramer (2-for-4, two runs) singled. A passed ball and wild pitch got Ostrander home, and Bramer scored on Kiki Carrigan’s double to left-center to make it a four-run margin.
Sabis drew to within one in the top of the sixth, but Taconic got some insurance in the bottom of the inning with a two-out rally. Payton O’Connell worked a walk, went all the way to third on a passed ball and scored when Anna Bongini dropped a single into right.
After multiple Taconic miscues allowed Sabis to take the lead in the top of the seventh, the hosts still rallied, getting a leadoff double from Carrigan (2-for-3, RBI) and a walk from Elly Christopher. The hosts ended up with the tying runs on second and third with one out, but Sabis pitcher Jayden Dow (10 strikeouts) got a swinging third strike and a ground ball to third to end it.
Taconic finishes the season 10-10 with six of its losses, including Thursday’s, coming by three runs or fewer.
“It’s a great group of kids,” Candelet said. “It’s tough to see the three seniors go out like this. We definitely turned it around from last year. We were 6-14. This year, we end up 10-10, in the first round of Western Mass.
“It’s tough. But you can’t let this define our season. We’re a good team. Unfortunately, some things just didn’t go our way, and we’re going home.”