Six players, coaches ejected following skirmish in loss
It was Johnstown Tomahawks night at Peoples Natural Gas Field, a NAHL junior hockey team.
A lot of what happened on the field resembled a hockey game.
For just the second time at home in Curve history, benches were cleared and punches were exchanged in a full-fledged brawl in the fifth inning of the Curve’s 8-5 loss to Harrisburg before 5,180 on Friday night.
Just like any fight in baseball, several events led to punches being exchanged:
n First, Senators third baseman Carlos Rivero hit a solo homer in the second inning and then another solo shot in the fourth inning, which tied the game at 2-2.
n In the bottom of the fourth, catcher – and leadoff hitter in the inning for the Curve – Charlie Cutler was hit by Robert Gilliam.
“No, not at all,” Cutler said when asked if he felt he was hit by Gilliam on purpose.
n Then, in the top of the fifth, Rivero – the fourth batter in the inning – was once up again. That’s when Curve pitcher Ethan Hollingsworth hit Rivero on an inside pitch that Hollingsworth said “ran away from” him.
“Obviously,” Harrisburg manager Matt LeCroy said when asked if he felt like Hollingsworth hit his player on purpose. “The guy hit two home runs, you had a base open and a ball up at his ribs. Just baseball, you know. They can say what they want, but it is what it is.”
Curve manager Carlos Garcia, Cutler – doing the catching – and Hollingsworth all denied hitting Rivero on purpose.
n After the umpires issued warnings to both benches, Senators pitching coach Paul Menhart was ejected for arguing. Menhart became very animated and had to been physically restrained while arguing with the umpiring crew.
“I just don’t feel that a warning was necessary,” LeCroy said of the argument. “If [the umpire] felt like he did [hit Rivero on purpose], he should have thrown [Hollingsworth] out.”
n After all had settled back down – somewhat – Senators pitcher Matt Grace warmed up in the bullpen, despite that entering the bottom of the fifth inning, Gilliam had allowed two runs and thrown only 47 pitches.
“Definitely, I knew the guy was going to throw at our guy,” Garcia said. “You don’t do that. You have a starter who is throwing a very good game.”
n Mel Rojas Jr. then walked up to the plate, and on the first pitch, he was hit by Gilliam.
As soon as he was hit, Rojas walked toward the mound, benches emptied and bullpens ran in.
The fighting ensued a few seconds later and lasted for more than 45 seconds. Both Curve and Senators players threw a number of punches.
It was nearly two minutes before teams finally parted ways, and the fighting stopped.
It was just the second time the Curve have cleared the benches and brawled at home. They have cleared the benches before, but it was the first time a brawl broke out at home since Aug. 11, 2001, nearly 12 years to the day.
“The guys in here did what they had to do, and that’s part of the game,” LeCroy said. “I’ve got every kid in that room’s back, and that’s just the way we’re going to play.”
When things settled, Rojas, infielder Drew Maggi and relief pitcher Luis Sanz were ejected from the Curve side.
LeCroy, Gilliam and relief pitcher Ryan Perry were all tossed from the Senators’ side.
“Yes, that’s what they felt or he felt,” Garcia said about the Rivero beaning and if it was intentional. “But he doesn’t say anything. He just cried like a baby, and threw his bat back to his bench and kept walking to first base. If you believe somebody is throwing at you, don’t you want to take care of business right away?”
Garcia repeatedly said Rivero wasn’t thrown at intentionally, but if he had issues with Hollingsworth, why didn’t he go out and fight him then?
“I played the game a long time,” Garcia said. “I don’t have a problem with [knowing Harrisburg felt like Hollingsworth threw at Rivero].”
Both Hollingsworth and LeCroy said they felt like the incident was over and shouldn’t carry over into tonight’s game.
Garcia wasn’t sure.
“Baseball takes care of itself,” Garcia said. “Tomorrow is another nine innings, and we will see what happens.”
Key player: Carlos Rivero went 3-for-3, scoring four runs.
Key play: Curve and Senators fought in the fifth inning.
Key stat: It’s the first brawl at home for the Curve since August 11, 2001.
How they scored
Top 2nd: Rivero homered (0-1).
Bottom 2nd: Cutler tripled, scored on Howard single (1-1).
Bottom 3rd: Hanson reached on a wild pitch, scored on Santos double (2-1).
Top 4th: Rivero homered (2-2).
Top 5th: Leon singled, scored on Bloxom double (2-3); Head reached on a force attempt, Bloxom doubled, Rivero hit by a pitch, scored on Hague double (2-6); Hague doubled, scored on Burns bunt single (2-7).
Bottom 5th: Tejeda pinch ran, scored on Hanson single (3-7).
Top 6th: Rivero doubled, scored on Hague single (3-8).
Bottom 6th: Polanco singled, scored on Tejeda single (4-8); Cunningham singled, scored on Vasquez single (5-8).