Merkle rerun not enough to help Grizzlies in final
HENDERSON – It’s been almost 100 years since the Merkle Boner. On Saturday, the NIAA 4A State Championship baseball game almost had its version of the Bishop Gorman Boner.
The Gaels celebrated winning their second straight state title not just once, but twice after taking a 4-3 win in eight innings over Galena at Community College of Southern Nevada. Gorman thought it had won the game in the bottom of the seventh, but because two runners didn’t advance on the play, the two teams kept playing.
With one out and the bases loaded, John Rickard singled home Jeff Malm with the run that apparently gave Gorman the 4-3 win. While Malm touched home and Rickard touched first, the problem came when Brandon Garcia failed to advance to second from first and Taylor Cole failed to advance to third from second.
They instead went to the dogpile in the middle of the field to join in the celebration. Galena’s players alertly noticed what had happened and touched third and second.
It was important that Galena touch third first to keep the force in play at second. Had the Grizzlies touched second first, the force would have been taken away at third and the game would have been over.
Officials at the game and the umpires took 33 minutes to review the play and since the forces were still in play at third and second, it was correctly ruled that Galena had gotten an inning-ending double play. So Rickard went from picking up the state-winning hit to hitting into an inning-ending double play.
The play was reminiscent of the Merkle Boner in 1908. Fred Merkle was at first when the New York Giants were playing the Chicago Cubs late in the season in a pennant race. The Giants appeared to have the game-winning hit with two outs, but Merkle failed to advance to second.
The Cubs touched second base. It was eventually ruled that Merckle was out and the game was finished at the end of the year. The Cubs won the game, the pennant – and their last World Series.
But it was a different story on Saturday when Malm singled home the game-winning run in the eighth. Surely, Malm is the only player in Nevada history to score – and drive in the winning run in a state championship game.
And guess who pitched a complete game, striking out eight over eight innings, including striking out the side in the eighth to pick up the win? Malm.
“We made the right call,” NIAA executive director Eddie Bonine, who was in on the decision-making meeting. “It’s real specific.”
“We saw it and we caught them on it,” Galena coach Gary McNamara said. “It’s the proper rule and we played on. They have to complete the play. The call was right.”
McNamara’s only problem was the ruling took so long. “I thought the delay was just too long,” he said. “The rule’s cut and dried.”
But McNamara also stressed the main thing is the NIAA got it right. “I commend the NIAA for getting it right,” he said.
The bizarre ending overshadowed a gutsy effort by Thompson on the mound, who was pitching on one day’s rest after throwing three innings against Gorman on Thursday. Thompson carried a shutout into the sixth inning, but could only hold off Gorman for so long.
Thompson admitted he was tired and relying mainly on his location. “That’s all I did the whole game,” said Thompson about spotting his pitches. “They just found holes. It happens. It’s just baseball.”
Malm, who had three hits, led off the sixth with a double. Brandon Garcia, who had two hits, followed with a single and Rickard singled in a run that made it 3-1. Thompson almost had Neil Lawhorn struck out on a borderline pitch just off the outside corner before Lawhorn hit an RBI single that made it 3-2.
Scott Dysinger led off the seventh with a double and after Thompson fell behind Malm 3-0, the decision was made to intentionally walk him. Taylor Cole singled home the tying run that also put runners at first and third.
Garcia was intentionally walked to load the bases. Rickard singled the first pitch he saw from Thompson, which set off the chaos.
“We knew we were going to come up and hit,” Thompson said. “We knew we had to respect the game the whole time. We stayed pretty even keeled the whole time.”
Matt Evans came on in the eighth. Paul Sewald walked, Johnny Field singled and Dysinger was hit by a pitch to load the bases with two outs. On a 3-2 pitch, Malm came through with the hit that gave Gorman its second straight state title.
McNamara said he couldn’t have asked for anything more from Thompson. “Unless Tony does what he does we don’t have a chance to win,” McNamara said.
Galena took a 3-0 lead in the first when J.D Peters led off with a single. After Pete Lazzari’s sacrifice bunt, Thompson and Basim Azzam were hit by pitches to load the bases. Jake Hess cleared the bases with a double to make it 3-0.
Malm limited Galena to five hits, with Eric Maupin picking up three of the five hits.
Also unfairly overshadowed by the bizarre ending was Galena’s effort. Thompson put it best. “We did everything we could,” he said.
• Charles Whisnand is the Nevada Appeal sports editor. He can be reached at cwhisnand.com or 881-1214.