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A judgment-call no-hitter

by Chris Conley

EVERYTHING EVERGREENS (FOX SPORTS WAUSAU-WSAU) Congratulations to SPASH pitcher Austin Schulfer who no-hit the Evergreens yesterday. He stuck out 10, walked none, and faced one batter over the minimum in a 1-0 win. He was able to consistently spot his fastball, and was able to throw his breaking pitch for strikes. It was the best pitching performance I've seen this year.

But it's a close call as to whether this really was a no-hitter. The only Evergreens runner to reach base got there on an infield error. Hits versus errors is a judgment call for the official scorekeeper. If I was scoring the game, I would have awarded a hit on the play in question instead of assessing an error.

Here's what happened:

Mason Hagenbucher led off the top of the 7 th inning for the Evergreens. Up to that point, Schulfer had retired the first 18 batters he'd faced and was working on a perfect game. Hagenbucher hit a slow-rolling ground ball up the first base line. Initially both the SPASH pitcher and first-baseman went to field the ball, potentially leaving first-base uncovered. Pitcher Schulfer realized no one was covering the base, and scrambled back towards the bag. His first baseman fielded the ball late, threw wildly to the base, allowing Hagenbucher to reach.

In my opinion, Hagenbucher would have beaten the throw to first. I would have credited him with an infield hit. In the scorekeepers opinion, it was the wild throw that caused Schulfer to alter his course to the base allowing the runner to reach. The ruling was that the poor throw allowed the base runner -- an error.

These kinds of judgment calls are not uncommon. It's a close, highly subjective decision. This one happened to come up with a no-hitter on the line.

The scoring decision was almost mute two batters later, when Mike Plaza hit a sinking line-drive to centerfield. Jon Barnes came in on the run and made a diving catch the defensive play of the game. Barnes, who was 3-for-3 and scored the only run, had a remarkable game that was overshadowed by an outstanding pitching performance.

Chris Conley
4.23.14