Milltown’s run ends amid some controversy


Staff Writer

CAMDEN — In Sunday’s 7-6 win over the Nor-Gwyn Hawks, the Pennsylvania state champions, the Milltown Post 25 Maulers advanced to play on the final day of Mid-Atlantic Senior Legion Regions for the first time in team history.

“This is the furthest Milltown has ever been,” Milltown Post 25 head coach Glenn Fredericks said. “We’re very proud, but we don’t want it to end here.”

Unfortunately, it did.

The Milltown team came back on Monday and lost a controversial 10-7 contest to the host Brooklawn team (the same team Milltown had already defeated twice in state tournament play) to end their season in the regional tournament final.

Following the conclusion, Fredericks was anything but pleased with the way his team was treated throughout the tournament, both on and off the field, particularly in the final game.

“I’m not making any excuses, but they [Brooklawn] had every single advantage you could possibly have throughout this tournament,” Fredericks said. “We felt like we were playing Brooklawn every game with some of the things that were going against us. They wanted us out of here, and did everything they could to get the Brooklawn team through to the nationals.”

What Fredericks and the Maulers had in mind was a trip to the Senior Legion Nationals in South Dakota. After sending the Pennsylvania state champs packing, Milltown faced Brooklawn needing two wins to travel to the Nationals.

But Monday’s first game didn’t go in Milltown’s favor, despite out-hitting the Brooklawn team 17-12.

“How do you out-hit a team like that and not win the game,” Fredericks said. “I know we were the better team, and that you can only beat a good team so many times. But this wasn’t the way for us to go out.”

Brooklawn was the beneficiary of a couple of questionable calls, the first of which came in the sixth inning. After Andy Anderson started a two-out rally with a double, slugger Chris Affinito was intentionally walked, setting up Drew Silver’s RBI single. Scott Dyckman then came to the plate and hit a slow dribbler down the first-base line. The first-base umpire immediately called the ball foul, seemingly ending the play.

But when Affinito rounded third and slowed up as he approached home plate, the Brooklawn pitcher threw the ball home, where Affinito was tagged. The home plate umpire then called Affinito out, claiming after the play that he had over-ruled the first-base umpire’s foul call.

But his explanation didn’t appease Fredericks.

“Once the ball is called foul, the play is dead,” he said. “Whether it was actually foul or not doesn’t even come into play. You can’t get an out once a foul ball is called.

“Plus, he made the call without even getting an appeal from the other team.”

Fredericks was even more upset when, upon questioning the call with the home plate umpire, he was told he could not protest the call or the game, and that if he didn’t return to the dugout, he would be tossed from the game, and the next one, if necessary.

“He wouldn’t even listen to me,” Fredericks said. “All he said was that he was going to run me out of the game.”

The other questionable call came on the game’s final play.

With Anderson, who was leading the nation in hits coming into the game and was already 4-for-5 on the day with a pair of doubles, coming up to the plate representing the tying run with two on and two outs, he was called out on a pitch that nearly hit his ankle.

“First of all, the second strike bounced in the dirt,” Fredericks said. “The catcher had to get out of the crouched position just to knock it down. And the guy calls it a strike.

“Then, on the last pitch, it almost hits him in the shin, and the guy rings him up and then sprints to the tunnel.”

What made things worse was that Affinito, who led the nation in slugging percentage, home runs and RBIs, and was “by far and away the best player down there,” according to Fredericks, was left standing on deck.

“They handpicked this crew for this game, and that is completely unacceptable,” Fredericks said two days following the game. “The home plate umpire is the head official of the Camden County baseball league, and for him to even be there is a conflict of interest.

“The two games we played before that had Big East officials, and they were the best officiated games we had all year.

“These guys wouldn’t even let us protest the game,” he added. “It was a chain-of-command type thing, but there are some higher-ups that are certainly going to hear about this.”

Eric Hines took the loss for Milltown, allowing 10 runs off 12 hits in nine innings. Anderson and Drew Silver (4-for-5, three RBIs) led the offense, while Affinito added his fifth home run and 14th RBI of the tournament to lead off the fifth inning.

But when the smoke cleared, Milltown was left wondering how they were not the team heading to South Dakota next week.

“This was supposed to be our year,” Fredericks said. “We had the better team, and we had already proven it twice.

“They were the No. 4 team in New Jersey [behind Rivervale, Milltown and Wayne] and they’ll be representing us in the nationals. They don’t deserve that because they didn’t even qualify for the regional tournament.”

But it was the events of the regional tournament that left Fredericks steaming.

“They had the easiest road, and they gave themselves extra days’ rest when they needed it for their pitchers,” he said. “This is why we were disappointed to be going down there in the first place.

“I just feel really bad for my kids,” he added. “It’s a life lesson learned, and they got a chance to look into the politics of it all. And this is as bad as it gets.”

Diamond notes … After appropriately mauling West Sussex of Delaware on Saturday by a score of 19-5, courtesy of two three-run dingers by Affinito in the eighth inning, Milltown beat Nor-Gwyn behind the arm of starting pitcher Matt Metsch.

“It was important for us to put together a huge effort going through the losers bracket,” Fredericks said. “Metsch came out and dominated Nor-Gwyn the entire time. His effort personifies what this whole team is about.”

Metsch went the distance, allowing just two earned runs and one walk through nine innings.

“They scored some unearned runs off Metsch with two outs, but he never lost his composure,” Fredericks said. “He struck out the last hitter with the tying run on second.”

Milltown erupted for four in the fifth to go up 7-3 and build a lead that was just enough to hold of Nor-Gwyn. Steve Abbott led off the inning with a single and moved to second on a sac bunt by Harry Douglas, whose bunt was so well-placed he was safe at first.

After the Douglas bunt, Anderson repeated the feat, bunting for another base hit, and Abbott scored on a throwing error by Hawks’ pitcher Sean McLaverty.

“Teams think they have it made once they get past Affinito, but this team hits one through nine,” Fredericks said. “They proved that by keeping it going after Nor-Gwyn intentionally walked Aff in the fifth.”

The intentional walk was certainly not a bad move by Nor-Gwyn. In his two previous games, Affinito hit four round-trippers and knocked in 13 runs.

After the intentional walk, Drew Silver drew another base on balls and picked up an RBI. Dyckman plated another Milltown runner as he took first base from getting hit by a pitch. Affinito scored the final Milltown run on a double-play ball, and the four-run lead proved insurmountable for Nor-Gwyn.

— Shawn Layton contributed to this story