by Dennis Atwood
Do you remember the last time you heard about an inside-the-park home run in a Valley League game? Perhaps not too long ago.
How about two inside-the-park homers in the same game, by the same team? That’s certain to draw a “never!” answer, even from observers with decades of experience.
Yet, it did happen, by the New Market Rebels, at home versus the Staunton Braves on Wednesday.
In the second inning, with one out and one on, Rebels catcher David Smith (Georgia Highlands College), a left-handed batter, extended to reach a low, outside pitch yet managed to send a rising line drive to left-center field. Staunton left fielder Duncan Pastore came in a few steps then made a desperate leap as the ball sailed over his glove and landed at the base of the wall, about 380 feet from home plate.
Smith jetted (for a catcher) around the bases, hot on Hunter Hart’s heals, got the windmill “go” sign from his third base coach (head coach Matt Schaeffer) and made a head-first slide, safely under the tag at home. The initial official scoring was “E-7,” a four-base, two run, error. Smith made the trip in 14.64 seconds.
The scoring decision generated a lot of immediate discussion and was likely talked about late into the evening by Rebels players, coaches, and fans, wondering why it wasn’t scored an inside-the-park home run. The official scoring was changed on Thursday to be a home run.
(You can see this play at 41:00 on the timeline, in the Facebook Live video file)
As rare as that play was, the baseball plays odds meter was smashed when designated hitter Blake Ebo (U. of Kansas), a right-handed batter, led off the fifth inning with an 0-2 count, then used a full-power swat to launch a high arcing fly ball to the right of the scoreboard, to the wall in left-center (approximately 385 feet from home). Ebo put on the after-burners to touch them all, and slid across the dish under a high throw, for another inside-the-park home run, completing the circuit in 15.24 seconds. (This is at 1:41:00 in the video file.)
Two such trips around the bases coming in the same game, by the same team, has nearly certainly not happened in living memory of Valley League players, officials, and fans. Now they are captured in the video for further appreciation and posterity.