AMHERST — As Cooper Mrowka crossed the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning, the UMass bench and the crowd at Earl Lorden Field leapt to their feet in celebration.
After 8½ innings of scoreless baseball, the final game of not only the season but of coach Mike Stone’s 30-year career appeared to be ending in perfect fashion.
But then the cheering stopped and Stone ran out of the dugout to argue with first base umpire Matt Hansel. A murmur of confusion passed through the quieting crowd.
Mrowka was on second with two outs when Nolan Kessinger hit a slow roller to shortstop. Max Bazin scooped the ball and threw off balance. First baseman Brian Fortier had to lean far to his right to get the throw. His momentum eventually pulled him off the base.
Whether his cleat stayed on the bag long enough to have the ball in his glove will remain in infinite dispute between Hansel and Stone.
Fortier turned and fired home, but his throw was too late to get Mrowka. It didn’t matter. Hansel had called Kessinger out at first.
After Hansel and Stone argued, the three umpires caucused, but upheld the call.
Following the emotional swing, Davidson scored five times in the top of the 10th. Minuteman senior Jon Avallone answered with a two-run home run in his final career at-bat in the bottom of the inning. But UMass couldn’t make up the rest of the difference and fell 5-2.
Stone was still frustrated.
“I thought we had it. I thought the call should have been changed. I don’t know why they didn’t do it. I saw it plain as day. Obviously the kid didn’t think he had the bag because he threw to the plate. The umpires had a chance but didn’t show enough gumption apparently.”
When the game ended Stone took his players down the third baseline, gathered them into a huddle and thanked them.
“I told them I was proud of the fact they battled today. I appreciated their dedication and commitment to stay with things and not quit,” he said. “I wished them good luck in the future and…