The news hit Southington’s sports-loving public with a thud, the kind that leaves a familiar heaviness in the pit of the stomach.
The Southington High baseball team had the Class LL championship won Saturday night in the eighth inning when Matt Spruill ostensibly scored from first on all-star Sal Romano’s double into the left field corner.
The Blue Knights massed around him and celebrated on the mound, but Newington catcher Tyler Barrett appealed to home plate umpire Dave Bindas that Spruill failed to touch the plate. Bindas endorsed the appeal and Spruill was ruled out.
Two innings later, Newington won a 3-2 verdict in what will be long remembered as one of the state’s all-time high school baseball classics. Hearts went out to the Knights, Spruill in particular. It was a remarkable season and they did a community proud with the effort put forth over a grueling contest that was played for nearly 3 hours in a consistent, soaking mist.
But there is food for thought, served up heartily on a platter by Southington Patch photographer Margaret Waage. She took a sequence of photos, one of which appeared on this webpage a few hours after the contest concluded.
She had others on her memory card, including the one you see here.
Southington had to deal with some misfortune earlier in the year when it left Berlin thinking it had beaten the Redcoats only to find out over the phone the suspended game rule had been interpreted incorrectly and found out the Knights lost to the Redcoats.
The Southington coaches and players handled with with class but is this too much to ask?
We all know that photos can be misleading at worst, inconclusive at best, and I do not wish to cast any aspersion on Bindas’ integrity or his decision. Although he is not in the photo and his view of the play could have been blocked by the multitude of Blue Knights reveling in the moment, he surely must have seen Spruill miss the plate to make that call.
The photo also reveals that Newington pitcher Cole Bryant, who pitched 10 innings, struck out 16 and threw 176 pitches, was walking off the mound dejectedly, not looking at the plate at all as Spruill’s foot came down.
The reason I mention this because Newington catcher Tyler Barrett said it was Bryant who initiated the appeal. That isn’t to criticize Barrett, who understandably was caught up in the emotion of the moment, but it is another interesting twist to a story that has so many of them.
Perhaps Newington coach Eric Frank just took a shot in the dark and got lucky? He had nothing to lose. The school had never won a baseball championship and hadn’t won a title of any kind since 1982.
Frank evoked the spirit of his late mother Jean Frank hovering over the scene at Muzzy Field that night and simply not allowing Newington to lose. Who’s to question him?
Is Spuill’s foot on the plate? The interpretation is yours.
Should Southington High School be celebrating a championship today? Tell us in the comments.