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VALLEY/VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Chaminade Is Out After Two Strikes

Baseball: Umpire enforces rarely used rule, ending Eagles' rally with controversy and sending Crespi to 4-2 Mission League victory.

April 22, 1998|PETER YOON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WEST HILLS — Normally, it's one, two, three strikes you're out at the old ball game, right?

Not so fast.

A relatively obscure rule came in to play Tuesday when Chaminade High's Matt Chirba was called out for leaving the batter's box on strike two, ending an Eagle rally and paving the way for Crespi's 4-2 Mission League victory at Chaminade.

It was the first time in the last five tries that Crespi (16-4-1, 7-0 in league play) defeated Chaminade (9-9-1, 2-1-1), but history was lost in controversy.

With runners on second and third and two out in the fifth and Crespi clinging to a 3-2 lead, Chirba, Chaminade High's cleanup batter, looked at Crespi pitcher Mike Jackson's curveball for strike two, assumed it was ball four and headed for first base.

Under a rule passed by the National High School Federation in 1994, batters who leave the box without calling a time out are assessed an automatic strike.

The home-plate umpire applied the rule to Chirba, who was called out because the assessed strike was the third, ending the Eagles' threat and infuriating Chaminade players, fans and coaches.

"That's not the intent of the rule," said Chaminade Coach Scott Drootin, who stormed on to the field to argue the call when it was made. "It's supposed to help speed up games. That umpire was just showboating. They should let the kids decide the game."

Crespi's Christian Cardenas was called out on the same rule in the top of the seventh inning, drawing a cold stare from Coach Scott Muckey.

"Usually the umpires will let that go," Muckey said. "But at that point, I wasn't going to argue."

Overshadowed by the controversial play was a well-played game by both teams. Jackson (5-1) allowed two runs on six hits and struck out six in 5 2/3 innings.

Muckey, who admitted the move showed just how bad he wanted to end the four-game losing streak against Chaminade, brought No. 2 starter Tim Leveque in to relieve Jackson.

"I had no reservations about it," Muckey said. "We had to win this game."

Leveque, who entered the game with a 2-0 count on Bobby Berger, struck Berger out to end the sixth inning with a runner on second.

Chaminade rallied again in the seventh, when Leveque walked Spencer Gordon to start the inning and John Higashi hit a one-out single to put runners on first and third.

But Leveque, in his first relief appearance of the season, struck out Chris Martinez, who hit his 13th home run earlier in the game, and got Jeff Gershon to fly out to center field to end the game before letting out a series of victory yells.

"We hadn't beaten Chaminade in a couple of years so I was pretty fired up," Leveque said. "But I have to pitch against them on Friday so I have to try and keep my emotions in check."

Crespi scored two runs in the first inning against lefty Bryan Palmer (0-1), making his first start of the season for Chaminade, but the big blow came in the six inning when designated hitter Max Flaum hit a two-out, home run to give the Celts a 4-2 lead. Flaum, who drove in two of Crespi's runs, has six hits in his last 11 at-bats.

"That was a backbreaker," Drootin said of the home run. "The umpire's call didn't beat us, Crespi did."

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