Tayler Cullen's deep drive to right field Wednesday night briefly tied University of Jamestown's first baseball game in 186 days.
The junior left fielder from Santa Rosa, California, turned around a 2-0 Trevor Schreiner fastball in the bottom of the sixth inning with a pair of runners on base, trotted home and celebrated having dug Jamestown out of an early 6-0 deficit by knotting the nine-inning contest at 7-7.
But hold the mustard, folks.
Umpires determined the ball flew into the ivy covering the wall in right field, pulled two runs off the scoreboard and issued Cullen a two-out, ground-rule double. Sophomore catcher Dirk Eymundson would strand Cullen at second and Dylan Dudley at third with a ground-out to third and the Jimmies lost their season opener 7-5.
Let the debate begin.
"It was just a 2-0 fastball down and away and I met it on plane," Cullen said. "It cleared the power lines but the right fielder (Theo May) said that it hit the fence and the umpires took their word. It is what it is at the end of the day."
UJ assistant coach Ryan Iliff, filling in Wednesday for veteran Jimmie baseball coach Tom Hager, believes he saw the ball leave the ballpark. Cullen was in the middle of a solid season last spring -- batting .339 with five extra-base hits and 11 RBIs in 56 at-bats -- when the 18-5 Jimmies had their year cut short due to COVID-19 in mid-March.
"It's their call. Not much you can do about it," Iliff said. "We still had a chance to score guys that inning and we had a chance to score guys other innings as well and it didn't happen. You tip your cap to (Mayville State) defensively, they were very good and their pitchers kept us off balance."
It seemed difficult for anyone to be too upset following the contest. The Comets were 13-7 when the global pandemic forced the NAIA to halt spring sports six months ago, and playing baseball while still in the thick of sports postponements and quarantines was put into perspective by 39-year Mayville State baseball coach Scott Berry.
"It was wonderful to get a chance to play. You're just so happy for the kids," Berry said. "That's why they come to places like Jamestown and Mayville. We're giving them opportunities and when you get those opportunities taken away it's heartbreaking."
What did Berry see in right field? He's guided the Comets to over 1,100 victories since 1982.
"I saw it hit into the vines," Berry said. "(Cullen's) running around the bases, so then I'm going 'No, that wasn't' and that's when I went out."
The Comets' 6-0 lead in the third came at the expense of UJ starter Kensaku Akiya who was charged with four earned runs after allowing eight hits, including home runs produced by Skylar Forst and Adam Senden.
Senden, the Comets' starting pitcher, put up a monster night. He earned the win with four innings pitched and batted 3-for-3 with a pair of homers and three RBIs.
"We got off to a pretty good start," Berry said. "I think (Akiya) can do a good job of pitching. He might throw one bad pitch out of four, but it looked like we were hitting it."
UJ chipped away scoring on an error in the third and back-to-back solo homers by Tanner Shepard and Jared Bentley with one out in the fourth. Cullen first produced a run-scoring single in the fifth, getting UJ to within 7-4, before hitting what will arguably go down as his most memorable RBI double in the sixth.
"We've got depth like we've never had before, and at the end of the day we're out here getting to play baseball," Cullen said. "We're just lucky to be out here."
Jamestown relievers Andy Reed (2 IP, 1 ER), Robert Evans (2.1 IP, 0 R) and Austin Pesicka (0.2 IP, 0 R) gave the Jimmies a shot at the comeback. UJ will get a second shot at the Comets at home next Thursday, following Wednesday's home matchup against Valley City State.
"Our pen did a great job of keeping us there and we told our offense we're never out of a game, and we can see that," Iliff said. "We'll bounce back."
Mayville State 7, University of Jamestown 5
MSU 042 010 000 -- 7 10 1
UJ 001 211 000 -- 5 11 1
Adam Senden, Preston Edinger (5), Trevor Schreiner (6) and Marcus Wohl. Kensaku Akiya, Andy Reed (5), Robert Evans (7), Austin Pesicka (9) and Dirk Eymundson. W--Senden. L--Akiya. S--Schreiner.
Highlights: MSU, Senden 4 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 HR, 1 BB, 2 SO, 3-3, 2 HR, 3 RBI; Edinger 1.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO; Schreiner 3.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 1 SO; Michael Theise 2-5, 2B, RBI; Payton DeLuca 2-4, 2B; Kyla Forst 1-4, HR, RBI.
UJ, Akiya 4 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 HR, 1 BB, 2 SO; Reed 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 HR, 0 BB, 0 SO; Evans 2.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO; Pesicka 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 SO; Taylr Cullen 2-5, 2B, 2 RBI; Jared Bentley 1-3, HR, RBI; Tanner Shepard 1-5, HR, RBI; Grant Okawa 2-3, 2 R; Brian Rice 2-3, R.
Records: Mayville State 1-0. Jamestown 0-1.