The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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Jim Rueda

May 9, 2012

Rueda column: Rain-altered East-West game just leads to bigger ones

So the East-West softball game Tuesday wasn’t quite the epic everyone was hoping, mostly because the weather decided to take control.

It was obvious from the start you were watching two very good pitchers and two very good teams, but the rain made it all but impossible to get a true indication of which club might be better.

I’ve had more than one person ask if I thought it was kind of cheesy for West to take the 1-0 win after East had gone ahead 2-1 in the top of the sixth (The sixth inning could not be completed so the game reverted back to five complete innings where West led 1-0).

From my perspective, no matter which way the decision makers went —  complete game after five or suspended game to be completed at a later date — one of the teams was going to feel as if it didn’t get a fair shot.

It all comes down to how you view the top of the sixth. Just as that half inning began it started to rain significantly harder.

East’s Coley Ries laced a one-out single to left off Malorie Veroeven to start a rally. A few pitches later Shelby Beckman hit a double to deep center, putting runners on second and third. That brought Macy Anderson to the plate and it was right about that time it became obvious that pitcher Veroeven was having more and more difficulty gripping and controlling the wet ball. Even though the ball was changed every few pitches, it was noticeable the rain was having an affect.

Anderson ended up singling to center to tie the game. After some uncharacteristically wild pitches, one of which allowed Anderson to score the go-ahead run, Veroeven managed to end the inning.

I would concede that East’s first run was probably legitimate but I have serious doubts about the second. You can argue that weather is part of the game and the players simply have to adapt, but I would say the East defense and pitcher Ries were not forced to adapt to similar conditions. The game was halted before they went back out on to the field.

Going back to five complete puts East at a disadvantage but, if you resume the game, say next week on a bright, sunny day, then West has the disadvantage because the Cougars would not have to “adapt” to adverse weather conditions.

It was obvious nobody wanted the game to end the way it did. Both athletic directors and head coaches agonized during the stoppage of play on what to do.

In the end, they probably did the only thing they could.

The good news is that Tuesday’s meeting wasn’t the important one. East and West are on a collision course to meet again on Friday, May 18, in Austin in the championship of the new Big Nine Conference Tournament.

That will be bigger, but it still won’t be the big one. The real big one comes in a potential meeting at the Section 2AAA Tournament.

By that time we all will have forgotten about Tuesday’s game.   

Jim Rueda is the Free Press sports editor. He can be reached at 344-6381 or at jrueda@mankatofreepress.com.

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