Thomasville baseball skipper Erik McDougald received an incriminating email Wednesday morning from Fitzgerald coach Jason McDonald regarding Tuesday night’s regional game.
The message contained a picture, albeit blurry, accusing the home plate umpire of missing a call that played a pivotal factor in the 1-0 outcome in favor of Thomasville.
The play involved a Fitzgerald runner who, after reaching third base on a sacrifice bunt, charged home to score when Thomasville catcher Austin Clark overthrew the ball into left field.
Bulldogs assistant coach Kyle Fiveash challenged McDougald to appeal the call on the premise that he believed the runner’s foot never touched the plate. After a brief confusion in both dugouts and the stands, McDougald signaled pitcher Payton Dixon to step on the plate at which point the umpire called the Fitzgerald runner out.
McDonald, who had already challenged a few questionable calls earlier in the game, stormed the batters box to argue the call to no avail.
The plate and fielding umpires briefly met at the pitchers mound to discuss the play, and upheld the controversial ruling.
Thomasville won the game the next inning on a near identical play when the Fitzgerald catcher overthrew the first baseman while attempting to throw out Morgan Meyers on a sacrifice bunt.
“If we didn’t score at the end right there, we might’ve gone 20 innings,” McDougald said after the game.
The coach added at practice on Wednesday that he received the email from McDonald at roughly 1:30 p.m., which only read: “Picture of controversial play.”
The image, which was made available to the Times-Enterprise at practice, was taken by someone in the stands on the first base side, evidenced by the fenced canvas. That section of the bleachers is generally reserved for fans of the visiting team.
McDougald said he didn’t respond to the email but that he “understands Jason’s prerogative. He’s a guy that wants to win as many games as the next guy, but more importantly, he wants to do it right by his players, and I respect that.”
Thomasville (9-7, 3-3) trails Fitzgerald (11-4, 4-2) by a half game with just under half of the regional season remaining.
The two teams will meet again in the final game of their respective seasons at Fitzgerald on April 25.
“We’ve got every reason to believe that game is going to be important for seeding,” McDougald said. “They sure as heck aren’t going to forget about [Tuesday’s] game.”