CORONA DEL MAR — One signal by the base umpire and Corona del Mar High seemed one out away from escaping a bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning.
The Sea Kings almost got away with turning a double play without doing so in their season opener against Chino Hills Ayala on Thursday.
John Emme, CdM's coach, knew the baserunner, who was tagging up on a deep fly ball to left field, didn't leave early from third. The Sea Kings still checked after the runner reached home to break a tie, throwing the ball to third base.
The base umpire called out the runner for, you guessed it, taking off early from third. Ayala's third-base coach calmly walked toward the umpire and reminded him it wasn't his call to make. And it wasn't, it was the home plate umpire's call.
Once the home plate umpire overturned the call, Ayala went ahead for good, scoring the first of three runs in the fifth to win at CdM, 7-4, in a pool-play game in the Foothill Division of the Newport Elks Tournament.
"The base ump called out and I don't think he even knew what he was calling out," Emme said. "I think he didn't remember the situation probably is my guess."
After the two umpires met, they got the call right. Emme hoped the original call would stand, coming out of his dugout to ask the home plate umpire, "Why did [the base umpire] call him out?"
Emme learned why from the base umpire.
"He basically just said, 'I screwed up,'" Emme said.
The Sea Kings didn't help their cause in the sixth. They allowed the first two batters to reach base and that signaled the end for starter Dash Johnson, who allowed five earned runs, four walks, and struck out four.
Emme tried to get another inning out of his left-hander, who went into the sixth having thrown 78 pitches. Johnson left after allowing his sixth hit. Peter Walecka came on in relief and Mikey Ortega loaded the bases with a single to center field.
What followed was the double-play reversal. Tim Nelson's pinch-hit sacrifice fly to bring home the go-ahead run finally lit up on the scoreboard after the home plate umpire got involved.
The Sea Kings found themselves in two more bases-loaded situations in the sixth. Robert Longtree came through for Ayala, driving in a run with his third hit.
Ayala (3-0) added another run in the inning after a throwing error on a rundown following a failed suicide squeeze attempt. The error was CdM's second in two innings.
The first miscue came with two out in the fifth, after Longtree's infield single. After reaching first on a throwing error, Longtree raced to third when the ball got past the catcher backing up the play.
Longtree scored on Anthony Seminaris' double toward the left-field line, giving Ayala a 4-3 lead. The inning could've been Johnson's third 1-2-3 inning, had CdM thrown out Longtree at first.
"Dash obviously showed today that he's going to be a fantastic starter for us," said Emme, who saw his senior last longer than Ayala's left-handed starter, sophomore Erik Cha (41/3 innings, four earned runs, six hits and five strikeouts). "We've got all sorts of things to look forward to."
One of those is getting junior Baron Schwarz on April 1. Emme said Schwarz, a transfer from Mater Dei, has to sit out the first 30 days of the season per CIF Southern Section transfer rules.
"Came back where he belonged," Emme said of Schwarz, adding that the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder played on Mater Dei's junior varsity team last season. "Not sure where we're going to have him in the field, but he's sure going to sit right in the middle of the lineup.
"I have very high expectations. We've got a pretty potent offensive lineup … which we haven't had in a long time."