Not even weather can halt Ramstein's title streak
May 28, 2016
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Saturday's DODEA-Europe Division I baseball championship game between the Ramstein Royals and Kaiserslautern Raiders was interrupted by an even more potent German powerhouse.
A mix of lightning, darkened skies and heavy rain showers made a mess of the anticipated large-school title game at Ramstein's Southside FItness Center. The end result: a 3-0, five-inning victory for Ramstein and the program's fourth consecutive Division I championship.
The disjointed game reached its administrative conclusion some four hours after its initial opening pitch, and after lightning in the area had sent the teams repeatedly rushing back to their dugouts for shelter and forth to the diamond for sporadic live action. Officials on the field first determined that the game could not continue due to darkness, caused not by the time of day but by the gathered storm clouds.
DODEA-Europe officials looked to switch to Southside's adjacent field, which is outfitted with lights and had just hosted the ultimately abandoned third-place game between Wiesbaden and Stuttgart. But that field was deemed unplayable under the deluge of rain, so DODEA-Europe officials determined that the game could not be resumed Saturday.
DODEA-Europe athletic director Karen Seadore said the organization then explored the concept of resuming the game on a later date, which was feasible due to the close geographic proximity of the competing teams. But that idea was discarded for a variety of reasons, Seadore said.
Family travel plans would make a number of players on both sides unavailable Sunday and Monday, the latter a federal holiday. Other obstacles - including senior exams and scheduled medical procedures for key participants, including Ramstein head coach Tom Yost - took the idea of resuming the game on Tuesday or another weekday off the table.
"There were a lot of issues trying to get everybody together," Seadore said.
With all that in mind, and since the game had reached the regulation threshhold of five innings, DODEA-Europe made the decision to simply end the game. While certainly controversial, the circumstances avoided the chaos of the Division I and II/III softball finals across base, where weather and travel issues wiped out both title games and saw Stuttgart and Aviano crowned champions on the strength of pool-play tournament wins.
"Because we had met the rule, we were able to call the game," Seadore said. "We were able to get back on the field and play and that's the best way to do it."
Kaiserslautern head coach Chris Grogan trudged back to the visitors' dugout from the fateful home-plate meeting and relayed the decision to his team, which reacted with roughly equal measures dejection and anger as they watched the jubilant Royals embark on celebratory headfirst slides through the sloppy infield.
"Those are the rules," Grogan said, confirming that the Raiders "accept" the ruling and won't pursue any kind of appeal. "It's a bummer that it has to end that way. We'd rather end it on the field."
Ramstein's Yost offered a similar assessment.
"I would have liked to have seen it all the way through," said Yost, who led his team to a 15-0 rout of Stuttgart in Saturday morning's semifinal round. "I feel bad that it wasn't played all the way."
When the teams weren't confined to their respective dugouts, the Royals steadily outplayed the Raiders. Daniel Thompson, Reed Marshall and Andrew Mehringer delivered RBIs to keep the runs trickling in, while pitching ace Jonny Oswald hurled a five-inning one-hitter with nine strikeouts.
The victory, which caps an undefeated season for No. 1 seed Ramstein, carries no asterisks from the Royals' perspective.
"It was actually a great win," Oswald said. "A win is a win."
The win was also the fourth in the span of a single week for the Royals over the Raiders, including a May 21 sweep on the final day of the regular season and a 6-2 pool-play victory Thursday. But until one final rain cloud gathered over their collective heads, things were turning around for the Raiders.
After a frustrating regular season that earned them the eighth seed in the tournament, as well as a pair of Thursday tournament losses that put their hopes of advancing in serious jeopardy, the Raiders earned an unlikely berth in the semifinals with a 6-1 defeat of Naples on Friday and the edge in the ensuing three-way tiebreaker. They reached their long-deferred potential earlier Saturday in routing Wiesbaden 12-2 to advance to the afternoon championship game.
Grogan lamented that his team was set to send the heart of its order, including senior star JaMarkus Myles, to the plate to attempt what will forever be only a hypothetical sixth-inning rally.
Kaiserslautern senior Devin Towlson envisioned one more trip skyward in what he called a "roller-coaster season" for the Raiders.
"We were confident," Towlson said. "I'm still confident we could have beat these guys."