Disputed call haunts Hampton baseball team

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Saturday, May 28, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Hampton baseball coach Kellen Wheeler said he “couldn’t even sleep that night” after the Talbots’ controversial WPIAL playoff loss to Penn-Trafford.

Senior left-hander Cam Marshalwitz called it “a terrible way to go out” and “the worst way” to end a game.

A questionable seventh-inning call brought the Talbots’ 2022 season to a sudden and unexpected halt with a 4-3 loss to No. 8 seed Penn-Trafford in the WPIAL Class 5A first-round on May 17 at West Mifflin.

The umpire ruled Hampton pinch-runner Brayden Hussar left second base early in the top of the seventh while trying to advance on a flyout to centerfield. The double play ended the ninth-seeded Talbots’ season and sent the elated Penn-Trafford players sprinting off the field.

Wheeler said “there is no possible way” Hussar left early. Marshalwitz was convinced Hussar didn’t jump the gun and said, “I didn’t think it was even close. I was taken by shock.”

Trailing 4-3, Hampton’s Charlie Schuit and Vinnie Matthews hit consecutive singles to put runners on first and second. With one out, leadoff hitter Luke Staggers drove a deep fly to center. The Penn-Trafford outfielder made the catch and threw to the shortstop as Hussar tagged up and advanced. The P-T shortstop then tossed to ball to second base to challenge the play, and the umpire made the game-ending call.

“The only reason they threw it to second base is because they wanted to keep Vinnie at first,” Wheeler said. “They didn’t even try to throw it to third base. Brayden could have gone for a hard jog and still been able to make it. That’s how deep it was.”

When the ruling was made, Wheeler was in the dugout, shouting to Hussar to stay alert for a possible passed ball during the next at-bat.

“I picked my head up, and Penn-Trafford was running off the field celebrating,” Wheeler said. “I had no clue what even happened. The umpire just ran off the field. I never got an explanation or anything.

“My only comment to the umpire was, ‘You just ruined a game for seven kids that are never going to play a high school baseball game again.’”

Said Marshalwitz, “Everyone was furious. The people that were most upset were the parents. … The umpires made the call, and they did not stick around at all to talk to the coaches or even negotiate. They made the call, and they basically sprinted off the field to their cars. Adam Dembowski’s dad saw them in the parking lot and gave them a piece of his mind.”

The play ended a season that saw the Talbots (10-10) open 8-0 in Section 2-5A, their best start since 2013, and reach the playoffs for the 14th time in the past 16 seasons.

Playing their final high school game were Marshalwitz, outfielders Dembowski and Staggers, catcher Matthews, third baseman Cole Lux, Hussar and Schuit.

“The seniors are who I feel bad for the most,” Wheeler said. “I couldn’t even sleep that night even thinking about it.”

Junior outfielder/pitcher Ryan Apaliski earned first-team all-section honors, and junior second baseman Anthony Bucci and Staggers were named second team.

Marshalwitz, who is considering Youngstown State where his older brother Casey is a junior pitcher, Mercyhurst and Seton Hill, was named honorable mention.

Returning next season are juniors Apaliski, Bucci, Eric Weeks (SS), Braxton Eastly (1B) and Zach Carr (OF), sophomores Matt Erka (P/OF) and Sean Sullivan (IF) and freshman catcher Justin Dubee.

Wheeler said the Talbots gathered in left field after the sudden loss to reflect on the playoff game and the season.

“There was a lot of emotions going on,” he said. “I walked out to the kids, and I was speechless. I usually have things to say after the game. But for the game to end that way, I really didn’t even know what to say at that point.”

Marshalwitz said the bus ride home was “definitely a lot different than last year,” when the Talbots were “humiliated” in a 14-1 loss to West Allegheny in their playoff opener. While the seniors were emotional, the underclassmen, with time, were able to shrug off the stinging loss to Penn-Trafford.

“The kids had pizza on the bus, and by the time we got to about halfway home, everything started to settle and get back to normal,” Wheeler said. “At that point, it’s a high school baseball game. Life moves on.”

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