FREMONT — Being called for an illegal pitch isn't anything new to South Central sophomore right-hander Holly Noveroske, but what took place during her start in the Satellites' regional rematch with Fremont on Tuesday was something nobody at a packed Vistula Park expected to see.
Noveroske faced just four hitters, walking all four on 18 pitches while being called for 15 illegal pitches by the umpiring crew to walk the bases loaded and end her night inside the circle much earlier than she and coach Tony Wallace expected.
Lauren Bowmar relieved Noveroske, but two straight singles and a two-run single off the left field fence that almost left the yard by Machenzie Friend, had South Central (22-6) down 6-0 in the first inning, eventually falling to Fremont (19-8) in the regional for the second straight year, 9-4.
"The only thing that the (first-base) umpire would tell me is that she was leaping," Wallace said. "I tried to explain to him that you can leap as long as your backfoot keeps contact with the ground and stays in line with the plane, especially if there's a divot. He wouldn't explain any further, so I actually had to fill in the blanks for him. I said, 'So you're telling me her foot's coming all the way off the ground?' All he said was, 'Yep.' I tried to ask some more questions and he remained silent and stared at me."
Wallace called the umpires' treatment "probably the worst I've seen in softball" over the 30-plus years he's been involved in the sport.
"I'm just frustrated about it," Wallace said. "I know he's human, but we weren't treated very well here tonight."
With Noveroske herself unclear about the situation, she noted she wasn't given a full explanation either as to what she was doing wrong. She explained that when she was called for some earlier in the season, she knew what to fix with her foot staying grounded.
"(The coaches) were telling me I wasn't hopping, so I didn't really know what I was supposed to do if they're calling it every time. There was nothing I could do," Noveroske said. "If I were to keep my foot down on the ground the entire time and throw 20 miles per hour, what's the point of having me in there?"
The crew working Tuesday's contest was unavailable for comment after the game, but Noveroske got the hook after just four hitters in which her final 12 pitches were all walks on the result of illegal pitches. With tears running down her face amidst the total confusion from everyone watching, Noveroske walked to the dugout as a silence fell over South Central's defense in the first frame.
"Before the game, I was really excited because this was the one game I was looking forward to after last year with what happened," Noveroske said. "I was just ready to come back and win this one, but everything happens for a reason. There's not much I can do about it except come back and try not to throw illegally [laughs]."
Maddie Beemen's two-run missile left the yard with one out in the second to push the Eagles' lead to 8-0 and it appeared the rout would be in following Noveroske's departure, but the Satellites gave themselves a chance in the third when Marissa Carr blasted a solo shot to left and Heidi Smith drove in Delanie Gale, who reached on an error in right center, making it an 8-2 game.
"We were just trying to keep each other up," Noveroske said after the first couple frames. "We knew that this is all we had left and we tried to stay positive because we didn't want to be done, especially for our seniors. This is all they had left. They're such a big part of our team. Losing them is going to be so much for us, so we tried to keep fighting and overcome what happened because we couldn't control it."
The Eagles tacked on another run on a bases-loaded walk from Bowmar to Jada Rhonehouse to make it 9-2, but Bowmar kept Fremont off the board for the final two innings, fanning six in all over the evening.
"Lauren pitched a great game for us coming in cold like that," Wallace said. "That wasn't the ideal scenario for her to come into the game and pitch, but she battled and helped keep us in it. I couldn't ask for much more from her. You take that umpire and that first inning out of the equation and it's a 4-3 ballgame."
MacKenzie Hudspeth cracked an RBI single to right in the sixth to score Skyler Wildfong and make it 9-3, while Gale demolished a big fly to left center that landed on the batting cages behind the fence to cut it to 9-4. Noveroske stepped to the plate for the first time in the contest in the seventh with two on and one out, as pinch-runner Hannah Hagy was caught in between first and second base and was tagged out at second to end the game and S.C.'s season.
"We're gonna miss our five seniors," Wallace said, speaking on Carr, Hudspeth, Chloe Ryan, Ali Snyder and All-Porter County Conference shortstop Skyler Wildfong. "We had a lot of great times with them. They're a very good crew. We're gonna miss them. They brought leadership in their own individual ways. Those are some big holes to fill, but we're gonna go regroup, reload and come back fighting just like these girls do every year."
Reach Michael Whitlow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (219) 214-4169. Follow him on Twitter @couldbelikemike.
Class A Regional
Fremont 9, South Central 4
Marissa Carr and Delanie Gale each homered for the Satellites in the loss.