Before every National Baseball Congress World Series, a rule book is issued for each team to read.
There are few, if any, changes from the rules that teams are familiar with from playing within their leagues. But reading the fine print could have changed the outcome for the San Diego Force in a 9-7 loss to the Liberal BeeJays on Thursday at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
"Rule 13" states that if a coach declares to the umpire his intention to walk the batter, the umpire awards the batter first base without any pitches being thrown.
Instead, Force reliever Joshua Pond lobbed the ball over catcher's Brian Compton's head on his first attempt to intentionally walk Nick Cocking. A run scored to tie the game and unsettled Pond, who threw a wild pitch later in the same at-bat that allowed the go-ahead run for the BeeJays.
"It's tough enough to beat one team, let alone beating yourself too," Force manager Brian Basteyns said. "We hit the ball well enough to win and we pitched well enough to win."
Basteyns said he signaled for the four-pitch walk, but not necessarily to the umpire. When asked after the game, members on each team were unaware of the rule.
"Thanks for telling me that, though," Liberal manager John Martin said. "I'm going to look that up now."
San Diego starter Tyler Elrod was effective in 6 1/3 innings, but when he handed off to the bullpen problems arose. Basteyns used six pitchers to get the final five outs of the game.
"I told them after the game that I thought they were overall the better team in that game," Basteyns said. "The problem was, you beat yourselves too."
Liberal scored eight runs in its final two at-bats. The Bee Jays took their first lead of the game when catcher Mike McCarthy hit a three-run double in the seventh inning for a 6-4 lead. San Diego responded with three runs in the eighth.
Kelby Tomlinson and Blake Bergeron led off the bottom of the eighth by getting on to set up a daring call by Martin for a double-steal.
"I was watching the pitcher in the bullpen and he had a little higher leg kick," Martin said. "Most closers don't look to pick, either. Plus they had a new catcher that inning too, so I took a gamble with our best player out there."
The play at third base was extremely close.
"Being an aggressive base runner, you look for little ways to get a jump," said Tomlinson, who has stolen 32 bases this summer. "I was safe at first for sure, but I did come off the bag, but I don't know if he still had the tag on me."
That led to San Diego attempting to load the bases to set up a double play, and the series of errors.
It gave the BeeJays the break they needed to bust out of their slide, and gave a certainty for the Force — that Basteyns will be reading the rest of the rule book.
"Eventually if you keep on it and keep on it, you're going to find a way to pull out a win," Martin said.