Controversy once again rocked a Hannibal home baseball game when visiting Moberly came to the Veterans Field Sports Complex Tuesday night. Moberly beat the Pirates 2-1.
With Hannibal holding a 1-0 lead in the top of the second, Moberly sent a batter to the plate with the uniform number 33. However, the lineup card for Moberly listed the uniform number for its first baseman as number 5. Hannibal manager Daryl Zessin caught the infraction, notified the homeplate umpire and the batter was called out, ending a Spartan rally that had tied the game, or so that was the thought. However, after a lengthy discussion with the coaches and umpires, the call was reversed and Moberly resumed batting.
Zessin said he still needed to read the rule book in detail for the ruling, but talked about how the call went.
“In the book it talked about an eligible player, which the kid was by name,” Zessin said. “But, his number was not actually on the card. They (Moberly) have two different types of uniforms and in the book it said something about an eligible player and if it is found that he is an eligible player, then they would just resume the count where it was at. I still need to look at it myself though because I am still a little bit baffled.
“I see their argument,” the coach continued. “It was the kid, it was the kid’s name that was in the lineup on the card, it was just the number was wrong. I can understand that and if it was me, I would probably complain the same. But, at the same time, I am looking out for my own team and that number is not on the roster.”
The home plate (Mark Cooley) and field umpires (Alonzo Richardson) took the time to explain the ruling and the call after the game.
“It was the home plate umpire’s call,” Richardson said. “The home team coach brought (the issue) to his (Cooley) attention that the player on the roster , the intial game roster, batted out of place. Well, he did not bat out of place. His number on the lineup card was just wrong. With the state of MSHSAA, if I am not mistaken, and we got together on it, it is not the number that is  most important, it is the player’s name and the order in the lineup.”
“In that siituation you just correct the roster,” Cooley said. “He just had the wrong number on. There was no penalty whatsoever.”
With a second chance in the top of the second, the Spartans runner on first stole second. Hannibal catcher Jordan Wilson came up throwing, but no-one was covering the bag and the throw sailed into center field. That enabled the runner to take third before eventually scoring on wild pitch, giving Moberly a 2-1 lead. As for the batter with the wrong jersey number, he struck out to finally end the inning. But, it was too late and the damage was done.
Hannibal starting pitcher Eric Hugenberg took the blame for the bad inning.
“I just lost a little bit of control,” Hugenberg said. “I hit a batter I shouldn’t have and then I walked a batter at the bottom of the order that I shouldn’t have. That was on me. My defense played great tonight.”
Hannibal started out on a positive note, ending a 12 inning scoreless streak against North Central Missouri Conference opponents by pushing a run across the plate in the bottom of the first inning.
That run also briefly gave the Pirates a lead. It was Hannibal’s first lead since beating Western 9-2 in the Pirates’ season opener.
“It hurts that we can only score one run,” Zessin said. “We have played three conference games now and have only scored one run. That has got to change or we are going to be looking at the same type of scoreboard everynight.”
Hannibal attempted to rally in the bottom of the seventh, but came up short. Austin Lewton opened the frame with a double and moved to third on Gunnar Gollaher’s perfectly executed bunt. With runners on the corners and no outs, Braydon Hampton flew out to left field. However, the ball was not deep enough to send the runner from third.
“Coach (Zessin) didn’t send me,” Lewton said. “I was thinking about (going), but ...”
Even though the throw to the plate was offline, Zessin stood by his decision not to send Lewton.
“That ball was hit very short and there was nobody out,” Zessin said. “To be honest with you, I would think that 99 percent of most outfielders would have thrown him out. ... I still had another opportunity to get a sac-fly and still score that run.”
As the next batter struck out, Gollaher stole second base uncontested to give Hannibal two runners in scoring position. But that was as close as Hannibal would get as three pitches into his at bat, Trever Hertlein ended the game with a deep fly ball to center field.
“Lewton and Trever (Hertlein) both hit the ball well today,” Hugenberg said. “If Trever’s ball was hit anywhere but right there, we would have won the game.”
Hannibal had other opportunities to try and score during the game, but poor base running doomed the Pirates.
Gollaher walked to open the second. Ball four came on a ball that got past the catcher. Gollaher tried for second and was thrown out. In the fourth, Lewton doubled to lead off the inning. However, he was picked off by Moberly’s pitcher quicker than it took for the next batter to strike out.
“I was just making a bad read,” Lewton said. “I wasn’t paying much attention.”
Zessin was none too pleased with the miscues on the base paths.
“(Gollaher) was sent,” Zessin said. “But, it looked like he slowed down. I don’t know if the guy was gassed or not, but he shouldn’t have been and he didn’t make it. It was one of those plays where we were down by one and  probably something to reconsider my judgement on that.”
On the mound, Hugenberg (0-2) went the distance, no hitting Moberly for four and two-thirds innings. The senior finished the game with nine strikeouts and one walk. Hugenberg also hit a batter while throwing 91 pitches.
“My defense helped me out a ton out there,” Hugenberg said. “(Catcher Jordan Wilson) did a heck of a job back there blocking. I couldn’t ask for a better defense I just hit and walked a few too many.”
Zessin was pleased with his starting pitcher’s overall performance on the mound.
“Eric is Eric,” Zessin said. “He battles through situations when the going gets tough and unfortunately he did throw a wild pitch with a guy on third that scored one of their runs and there was a couple of passed balls prior to that (Wilson) didn’t handle. Everybody has a tough batter or two or inning. Eric has always been very solid ... he pitched a great game.
At the plate, Hannibal had just five hits while also drawing two walks and having a batter hit by a pitch. Lewton had a pair of doubles for Hannibal.
For Moberly, the win was its first of the season. The Spartans are now 1-1 overall and 1-1 in NCMC play. With the loss, Hannibal falls to 1-3 on the season and 0-3 in NCMC play. The Pirates will be back on the diamond Thursday when they travel to Mexico. First pitch is set for 5 p.m.