LANDIS — Rain poured at the South Rowan field Sunday night, and sitting in a mostly dry home dugout, umpire Mike Thompson had time to tell the one about the hog that poked his snout through a hole in an outfield fence and swallowed an extra-base hit.
“The umpire’s ruling was an inside-the-pork home run,” punch-lined Thompson, the only one with his sense of humor still intact after a gully-washer Friday and a long day of miserable madness on Sunday afternoon — and night.
The final verdict on the Southern-Stanly County finale fiasco was that it never happened, that it was just some sort of bad dream from both teams eating too much pizza before bedtime — although South made two relatively costly trips to Stanly, while Stanly made one to South, and the bills for those travels will be very real.
“It’s all very frustrating,” Southern Rowan catcher Bryson Prugh said. “But this is how it plays out sometimes. You never know about the weather.”
“Mother Nature,” added SR outfielder Tyler Fuller, “can be pretty mean.”
Southern Rowan and Stanly have been battling for a while to determine the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in the Southeastern Conference in the Southern Division of Area III. No. 2 and No. 3 face each other in the first round, but home field in a best-of-five series matters. It definitely matters to SR, which is 8-3 at home as opposed to 5-5 on the road.
Southern (5-2) will be No. 2. Stanly (4-3) will be No. 3.
The final day of this regular season was supposed to be June 28. That was clearly spelled out in the preseason ground rules.
Unfortunately, when Southern played at Stanly on June 28, weather intervened. SR led 9-0 in the fourth, but the game was not yet official when play was halted.
At that point, the rules were tweaked to allow a game later than June 28, with the thinking being that Stanly and Southern should settle things on the field.
A shred of doubt lingered about the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds because if Stanly beat Southern Rowan, the teams would then be tied in the conference standings and would have split their meetings.
The relevant tiebreaker was runs allowed in conference games. Southern had an eight-run edge there, so Stanly not only had to win, it had to pound SR by eight runs to force a coin flip for the seed or by nine runs to claim No. 2 outright.
It was an unlikely scenario, at best, because SR hasn’t lost to anyone this season by as many as eight runs.
Still, the teams were set to duel at Stanly at 1 p.m. Sunday to settle things. That plan failed badly. It was raining at already saturated Montgomery Park by 1, and the game never got under way. By 3, the field was deemed unplayable, and the venue was switched to the South Rowan field, with first pitch at 6 p.m.
The teams managed 2/12 innings at SR, with Stanly up 1-0 when lightning stopped play. Rain followed. Then more lightning. Then more rain. At 8 p.m., with the field deteriorating, coaches and umpires admitted it was hopeless.
“Both teams tried in good faith to play and made every effort,” umpire J.T. Bost said. “We just couldn’t do it.”
Common sense finally prevailed, with commissioner Jim Lippard ruling the teams would not have to attempt to play the game today.
No forfeits. No fines. No anything. Officially, the ill-fated contest simply never happened, although soaked fans might disagree.
“It’s kind of disheartening,” said SR coach Ben Hampton, whose team will host Stanly in a playoff game Tuesday if the weather cooperates. “You want to play all the games, and the umpires, coaches and players did everything anyone could do. But you can’t risk injuries, and what both these teams need most right now is a day off. Now we’ll get that.”
The most notable moment on Sunday night was SR hurler Tyler Sides redefining the term taking one for the team when a bug flew in his mouth.
“I wasn’t sure whether to throw up or to try to swallow it,” explained Sides, who could not identify the species. “So I just swallowed it.”
Almost everything about Sunday was hard to swallow.
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