PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

April 8, 2013

PREP HARDBALL NOTEBOOK: District 20-4A softball heads into stretch run

David Coleman
The Port Arthur News

— With three games left to play, the District 20-4A softball race is heating up. Saturday’s win by Port Neches-Groves over Nederland means there is a bottle-neck for the final spots. Currently, Little Cyprss-Mauriceville leads the district at 11-0 while Vidor sits in second place at 8-3.

Nederland and PN-G are tied at 7-4 while Livingston is at 5-6 and Lumberton, in sixth place but still mathematically in the race, is at 4-7.

PN-G beat Nederland twice, so it holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Lady Bulldogs. If the two teams end up tied, PN-G will take the higher seed. Similarly, Nederland swept Vidor, so if the Lady Bulldogs end up tied with the Lady Pirates, they’ll have the head-to-head tiebreaker edge for seeding.

Nederland has the easiest schedule of the remaining teams, traveling to Beaumont Ozen on Tuesday, hosting Lumberton on Friday and finishing the season at Beaumont Central. PN-G will have a tough pair of games out of the three, hosting Vidor on Tuesday before traveling to Ozen on Friday and hosting Livingston to close the season.

Vidor has the toughest road ahead, playing PN-G, Livingston and LC-M in the next three games. Livingston has to travel to Beaumont Central on Tuesday before playing both Vidor and PN-G.

Vidor can clinch a playoff spot by beating PN-G on Tuesday, while both PN-G and Nederland need two wins to lock one up.

Keep your popcorn handy. It seems like these races may go down to the final game of the regular season.

Game of the Week

LC-M at PN-G baseball – Going 1-1 over a brutal two-game, consecutive day road trip helped the Indians, but I’m sure they didn’t expect to lose at Livingston and beat Lumberton. Now, the Indians will attempt to take down another playoff contender at home against LC-M.

PN-G beat the Bears 7-2 on March 15 in its second district game. Since then, PN-G has gone 5-1 and grabbed the second spot in District 20-4A with a chance to take home another district title. To get there, the Indians have to maintain home field advantage, especially against a tough team like LC-M. Teams in 20-4A rarely beat each other twice in the same year.

Raines works through pain

Nederland senior right-hander Carson Raines has baffled hitters all season, striking out 61 in 40 2/3 innings so far this year. His 12-strikeout performance against Vidor on Saturday gets special mention, though. Early last week, Raines had his wisdom teeth out. He did not play in Friday’s game against Beaumont Central, as Brandon Self got the start at shortstop.

Apparently, though, he felt good enough by Saturday to make short work of the Pirates, as Raines needed only 87 pitches to get through seven innings.

Know your softball rules

Two tricky rules situations cropped up in the second installment of Mid-County Madness. Both highlight different rules for softball than the traditional baseball rules, so let’s break both situations out here and lay out what happened.

In the first situation, Port Neches-Groves was at bat in the top of the fifth. With one out and a runner on first, Maci Dean hit a line drive at Nederland shortstop Savana Guidry. Guidry caught the ball just above the dirt and then gunned it to first to try and catch Ricki Gilbert off the bag.

The umpire in the field originally ruled Gilbert out on the throw, but made the call from the left side of the infield. PN-G head coach Brook Buchanan asked for clarification and the two umpires conferred as Nederland ran off the field and readied for their at-bat.

The home plate umpire reversed the call because the other ump did not have a clear view of the play and the home plate ump did.

Nederland took the field again, but ran off two pitches later after another conference with the umpires.

This is where the rule book comes in handy. Nederland’s dugout noticed that PN-G had pinch-run for its designated player earlier in the game, but never gone to the home plate umpire to re-enter the DP. Pitchers and catchers are afforded courtesy runners without needing to re-enter and a designated player can re-enter the game once after leaving for a pinch-runner.

However, since PN-G never notified the umpire that the DP was back in the game, her at-bat was illegal and resulted in an out after Nederland’s pitcher threw a quick pitch to the DP.

Not an inning later, another rule quirk popped up with Nederland at bat. After Tori Cooper beat out an infield single, the speedy left fielder attempted to steal second. Halfway down to second, though, the field umpire called a dead ball and ruled that Cooper had left early, resulting in an out.

In softball, a runner cannot lead off from a base until the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand. Once the ball is released, the runner can lead off or attempt to steal.

If you have any rules-related questions about baseball or softball games, feel free to send them to us at  sports@panews.com and I’ll attempt to answer them here.

David Coleman covers high school sports for the Port Arthur News. He can be emailed at dcoleman@panews.com and found on Twitter at @MDavidColeman.