The Junior A Warhawks have been bounced from the playoffs after a do-or-die defeat that turned on a controversial ruling that a dropped ball had actually been caught.
The Warhawks, who made a finals appearance last year, went into game two on September 14 with a 1-0 deficit in the best-of-three quarter-finals series against the Terrebonne Gladiators.
After a tough 6-5 loss in game one, the Warhawks felt they could keep their playoff hopes alive in Terrebonne, even without star pitcher Cole Snow, if they could stay disciplined at the plate and keep their focus despite the stakes.
With Kahnawake down 4-3 in the sixth inning, Warhawk Cameron Mayo stepped up to the plate. There was one out and runners on first and third, but Gauthier Laurent quickly stole second base, putting a second runner in scoring position and raising the tension another notch.
That’s when Mayo launched the ball deep into centre field.
“It drops!” Brandon Bordeau exclaims in live commentary in a recording for his Baby Blue Memories YouTube channel. “Two runs score! Cam Mayo! A two-run single! And the Warhawks have taken the lead!”
He thought so, at least, until an awkward confusion crystallized and the pitcher casually tossed the ball to second, the umpire lifting his forearm to call an out.
The ball was deemed caught, and Laurent was called out for not tagging up on second base, leaving the Warhawks going to the bottom of the sixth with a 4-4 tie instead of a 5-4 lead.
The Warhawks went on to lose the game 5-4.
“All I can say is that a dropped ball was called an out,” said Bordeau, although he felt it was not the only reason for the loss.
“I think that if they had Cole Snow, who is one of their top pitchers and batters, they would have won the game. He was a vital piece to the team whose production can’t be replaced,” he said.
Head coach John Mayo, incensed by the officiating, was ejected from the game for his heated objections.
According to Mayo, it was not the only unfair call against the Warhawks.
“It was not even fun,” he said. “My team played great, but the umps broke their spirit and in turn cost us the game.”
Coach Mayo has filed a complaint with the league to protest the game’s outcome. He claims the umpire instructed the pitcher to throw the ball to second base. He also questions the logic of the officiating decisions.
“The ball was never caught, hence the reason the batter that hit it to centre field was safe at first, so nothing makes sense,” he said..
“I really don’t know what to say to be honest,” said Cameron Mayo, who is a pitcher and second baseman.
“I just hit a great ball into the field, see the guy running back for it, then see him drop it and pick it back up, and we kind of lost our minds after that.”
He said he would like the league to review the game to see the truth of what happened, but he doesn’t know what to expect.
“I’ve never been more upset dealing with an official,” said Warhawks catcher, outfielder, and second baseman Maxwell Goodleaf. “The opposing team was rude at the end, talking trash – which is all a part of the game – but they started yelling at us right before we were about to shake hands.”
The game ended bitterly, without the customary shaking of hands between the teams.
William Trudel, both a catcher and coach with the Gladiators, agrees that his squad trash talked the Warhawks, but he claims it was precipitated by a Warhawks player refusing to shake hands and swearing at a Gladiator.
As for the controversial call, Trudel said he had limited visibility from behind the plate. “I was catcher,” he said. “I didn’t really see the play. My teammate told me that the ball was caught, but I don’t know.”
The Warhawks’ earned a 13-8 record in the 2023 season, putting them one spot ahead of the 13-12-1 Gladiators in the standings.
The Terrebonne Gladiators advance to the Ligue de baseball metropolitaine Junior A semi-finals against the Southwest Coyotes, with game one to be played at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Marcil Park.
Marcus is managing editor of The Eastern Door, where he has been reporting since 2021 on issues that matter to Kahnawake and Kanesatake. He was previously editor-in-chief of The Link and a contributing editor at Our Canada magazine.