There's a reason they always stress to touch home plate to all Little Leaguers coming around to score: If you don't, you'll be called out.
Incredibly, that exact scenario unfolded in the most important Class LL high school baseball game of the season in Connecticut. Making it even more dramatic, the appeal happened in extra innings, when the player in question was rushing home to celebrate what he thought was a state championship.
According to the Newington (Conn.) Town Crier, Southington (Conn.) High star Matt Sprulli appeared to score from first in the bottom of the eighth inning of the Connecticut Class LL state baseball championship against Newington (Conn.) High. Yet Sprulli never touched home plate with the winning run before celebrating in a massive dog pile at second base with the rest of his teammates.
Wise to the error, Newington catcher Tyler Barrett held the ball, stood on home plate and looked over to home plate umpire David Bindas, who promptly called Sprulli out, ending the eighth inning and giving Newington a new lease of playoff life.
"I hate to say it but it was kind of bittersweet," Barrett told the Town Crier. "I was happy to get the out because it gave us another chance to win the ballgame. It's about time we handed it to them. They have a great program but we were due."
Equally amazingly, no one from the Southington coaching staff was in a position to argue the call, as head coach Charles Lembo admitted he hadn't seen the play at the plate. Rather, he was focusing on the batter who had driven in what was sure to be the title-winning run.
"To be honest I saw him come around third base and I was waving him home," Lembo said. "And I made sure he touched third, and then I was looking at Sal at second to make sure he didn't keep coming because I didn't want him out before the run scored. So I never saw what happened at the plate."
Lembo said it was the Newington crowd that made him realize the run didn't count.
"We were kind of celebrating and we thought we had it won and all of a sudden I heard the crowd react and I went 'woah wait a minute that's not our side,'" he said. "And Dave [Bindas] told me that he missed home."
That same Newington crowd had more to celebrate two innings later, when the Indians scored the go-ahead run, then shut down the Blue Knights to secure what may go down as one of the most disputed state titles in Connecticut history.
If nothing else, the finish served to reinforce an old Little League axiom that is still just as important at any other level of baseball.
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