Hoffpauir’s ejection ignites Vidalia in comeback win

Published 12:26 am Sunday, April 4, 2010

VIDALIA — An implosion in the infield left the Vidalia baseball team in quite a hole Saturday afternoon against Bunkie.

But an explosion by Vikings coach Johnny Lee Hoffpauir helped blow the team out of that hole and propel the Vikings to a walk-off victory in the bottom of the seventh.

Vidalia’s Seth Thompson was the hero Saturday, lacing a one-out double into deep left center, scoring Caleb Vines and Seth Barlow from second and third. Down 11-10 before Thompson’s hit, those two runs would give Vidalia the 12-11 win.

“I knew I had to step up,” Thompson said. “Baseball is my life. It’s what I want to do for a long time. I was behind 2-2 (in the count), and I knew I had to step it up. He gave me a fastball and I saw it and hit it.”

Hoffpauir was thrown out of the game for arguing a controversial call in the bottom of the sixth. The Vikings trailed 11-6 at that point, and Thompson said his coach’s ejection completely changed the atmosphere of the Vidalia dugout.

“It was epic,” Thompson said. “It changed the game. Right then, that’s when we won the game. Everyone got excited — it was the key moment of the game.”

The controversial call came with runners on first and second, and Thompson up to bat with a 3-0 count. Thompson took what he thought was ball four, but the umpire called the pitch a strike and motioned for him to come back to home plate after Thompson had already made his way to first.

The problem arose when the home plate umpire told Vidalia’s two baserunners to return to first and second. Hoffpauir argued that, since no play was made after the 3-1 pitch was called a strike, his two runners essentially performed a double-steal, and should remain at second and third.

“First of all, I thought it was ball four, and my batter walks to first base, and my runners advance,” Hoffpauir said.

“No play was made — it’s like a stolen base. He tried to tell me I called time out. I never called time out. I told my runners to stay where they were.”

What ensued was over five minutes of arguing by Hoffpauir, which included tossing his hat and covering home plate with dirt. Hoffpauir finally left the field, but the Vikings fans were riled up — and the players responded in kind.

After Hoffpauir’s ejection, Vidalia scored four runs that inning and held the Panthers to a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the seventh, setting up the walk-off win in the bottom half of the inning.

Vidalia’s infield committed error after error in the earlier innings, and Hoffpauir said he was amazed his team was able to win in spite of that.

“We made 10 errors, and somehow we found a way to win,” Hoffpauir said. “You’re definitely not going to win a lot of ball games with that many errors. I have to give the kids credit, they didn’t give up, but you can’t make that many errors.”

Nothing exemplified that more than the top of the fourth inning, which Vidalia led 4-3 going into. Three errors by third baseman B.J. Neely, one by shortstop Trey Lillie and one throwing error by catcher Matt Sonderes led to four Bunkie runners scoring.

“That was a crusher,” Hoffpauir said. “We should’ve gotten out of that inning with no runs scoring. We threw away just about everything we could throw away and almost put ourselves out of the game at that point.”

The Vikings responded by scoring one run in the bottom of the fourth, but Bunkie added two runs in the fifth and sixth innings each.

Bunkie scored first in the top of the second inning on an RBI single by Christian Cole. Vidalia scored three runs in the bottom of the second on an RBI triple by Jamal Davis and an RBI single by Thompson.

Bunkie scored two more runs in the top of the third, but Vidalia’s Ben Parnham had an RBI on a sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the third, giving Vidalia a 4-3 lead after three.

Thompson got the start for Vidalia, going five innings and giving up nine runs. Lillie got the win after pitching a scoreless seventh inning.

Vidalia (10-5, 4-1) will play Tuesday at West Feliciana at 5 p.m.