Jul 20, 2012 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff WriterA 2-1 win over Kemmerer turned into a heartbreaking 1-0 forfeit loss for the Riverton Little League 9-10 year old all-stars in Cody in the semifinals of the Little League District 1 tournament.
Riverton was forced to forfeit its apparent 2-1 victory Thursday over Kemmerer because all players did not have the one at-bat that Little League rules require during the five-inning game.
"It was very tough and very emotional. We're going to state, and then we are not," Riverton head coach Jeremy Martinez said.
Friday, Riverton fell to Cody 8-2 to end the season.
Prior to Friday's game, the Riverton coaching staff sought a ruling from district administrator Bill Sedlacek as to whether the team would be able to play a challenge game the coaches felt was provided for that could have kept their state tournament hopes alive. But, according to Martinez, "We couldn't get an answer to that question. They (our kids) felt like they didn't have any hope."
Lander 9-10 coach Tracy Yates agreed.
"If they had won, it was up in the air. There was no clear decision," Yates said.
After Thursday's game, the Riverton coaching staff failed in its protest to Western Little League officials at San Bernardino, Calif.
"Based on our opinion and based on the Little League rule book, no umpire can make that kind of ruling and decision," said Martinez. "A failure to substitute can be issued as a written warning."
Also, the Riverton coaches believed that one of the approved penalties could have been a two-game suspension of the manager.
"Our No. 9 batter only got one at-bat," Martinez said, indicating that the substitute player would have batted in the ninth position. As it was, Riverton only batted in four innings because it was the home team and had the lead after the top of the fifth.
During the top of the fifth inning, Riverton tried to allow Kemmerer to score two runs even though Riverton's pitcher Jereko Martinez was throwing a no-hitter at the time. He was relieved by Ridge Briggs because he had exceeded his pitch count.
"Jereko was focused," manager Martinez said. "He mainly threw the fastball. He moved it around. I think that it was the best game that was pitched all year."
As the end of the game approached, the Riverton staff did not agree with the way tournament officials handled events.
"The score keepers told Cody Beers (the umpire), and he said you either figure out a way to let Kemmerer score two runs or you forfeit the game. I think that was absolutely out of line. He should have not have said a word. If Kemmerer would have protested that would have been fine," Martinez said.
Umpire Beers said the he believed it was not his responsibility to tell Riverton how to manage their substitutions.
"There was one player who had not batted at that point. It is pretty cut and dried, really. The scorekeeper, for right or wrong, told me that Riverton's last sub had not batted. I thought about it for a second, and I knew the kid hadn't batted.
"As an umpire, you try to do everything you can to avoid a game going to protest. I informed Riverton what was going on, and I informed Kemmerer what was going on. Riverton had a chance to do whatever. It is not my job as umpire to tell them how to sub their players," Beers said.
According to the Riverton coaching staff, Riverton then tried to let Kemmerer score two runs in order to necessitate a bottom half of the fifth inning but was admonished by officials for making "a mockery" of the game.
"I had issued a warning to the bench. The first two pitches (with two out) landed up on the backstop. When I heard the coach instruct the catcher to throw the ball into right field, I called time and said that we are going to have to figure out a different way to do this. They had an opportunity to do it a different way," Beers, also the assistant district administrator, said, adding that there are rules preventing teams from making a travesty of the game.
The final out of the game was made on a groundout to first base.
Cody 8, Riverton 2
During Friday's game, Cody erupted for six runs in the third inning to take a 7-0 lead that Riverton could not overcome.
"We had a few walks in that inning. After those walks, they erupted with their bats," Yates said.
Jason Muehler and David Kellner assisted Martinez in coaching the all-stars.
"I've got a good set of parents and they are all supportive. It met everything (to coach). They are the greatest bunch of kids," Martinez said.
Lander 5, Cody 3
Lander beat Cody 5-3 in the other semifinal contest. The win locked up a spot for the title game and a trip to the state tournament.
Riverton swept Lander last week in a best-of-three series for seedings for the district tournament.
"We weren't surprised that Lander beat Cody," Martinez said. "This is from the heart. We knew that Lander had it in them. They are a good team."
On Friday, Lander beat Kemmerer 11-0 to claim the District 1 title.
"Ty Massey was one walk away from pitching a perfect game. Many of us coaches have been around for along time and have never seen that happen. Today everyone chipped in. Our defense made the plays they had to. Ty just pitched an excellent game," Yates said.
Lander to state
Lander will now advance to next week's state Little League tournament in Green River.
"It's been quite some time since any Lander team has won district," Yates said.
Kemmerer will play Cody Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. to see which team will qualify for the state tournament as the second-seed from District 1.
"We are champions of District 1. I knew the boys could do it. They played two excellent, excellent games. You hit the ball and then you win," Yates said.
-- Sports editor Bruce Tippets contributed to this story.
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