Gary Tanner's 16-U Phenix T's softball team didn't escape pool play of the American Fastpitch Association National "B" Tournament without a little drama.
After winning their first two games, the Phenix T's were expected to be the first seed from their pool for the double-elimination tournament when they went up against the Flames of Nebraska on July 20 at Clinton Lake Sports Complex.
After the second batter, Sam Sledd, singled and advanced to second base, an umpire called her out. He said she had taken too long to decide to return to second. Tanner appealed the decision to the umpires, and they ejected him from the game. For the rest of the game Wayne Pearse took over as the coach of the Phenix T's.
Tanner said he wasn't as disappointed with the call the umpire made as the manner in which the umpire had handled it. Because of a two-hour rain delay the day before, some umpires had been calling games until 3 a.m. and had to return for games at 8 a.m.
It wasn't the first experience in the tournament that the Phenix had with an umpire's decision being the center of attention. The Phenix endured a 30-minute delay July 19 while the umpires reviewed a play during their pool play game against the Kansas City Eclipse
Jessica Simecka said the umpire troubles in the first inning gave the team a reason to play harder.
"We tried to use Gary being ejected to motivate us," Simecka said.
After the Flames scored two runs, the Phenix responded in the top of the second inning. Simecka got on base with a two-out walk, then Amy Craig hit a double to put the Phenix T's on the board.
After the Flames took a 4-1 lead, Lisa Pearse came in to pitch for Courtney Johnson, a player the Phenix had picked up from John Hamilton's 14-U team for the tournament.
The Phenix T's made another attempt to come back in the top of the fourth inning. Simecka led off with a single, and Pearse's single advanced Simecka to third. Simecka then took advantage of a Flames overthrow to score.
Simecka said that the team's lack of offense was caused by the players not feeding off of each others' hits the way they usually do.
If the Phenix had to lose a game, Tanner said this was the one to lose.
"We would be first in our pool win or lose," Tanner said. He added that he was glad the girls played, though, and thought it would help them as they entered the double-elimination tournament.
Before the rain canceled games Saturday, the Phenix T's had played softball for eight straight days. The Phenix T's came to the July 18 opening ceremonies immediately after taking second place in a tournament July 16-18 at Johnson County Girls Assn.
Of the Phenix organization's three 16-U Phenix teams, Tanner's Phenix T's made it furthest in the tournament.