For three hours Thursday, the center of the baseball universe resided in a black box that hung over the facade behind home plate at Clipper Magazine Stadium. The box, a source of intrigue and controversy, of hot takes and history, determined balls and strikes in the Atlantic League contest between the Lancaster Barnstormers and the visiting Somerset Patriots.
In the regular-season debut of the Automated Ball-Strike System, the Barnstormers stretched their season-long win streak to four games with an 10-0 decision, earning their season's first three-game series sweep behind a complete-game shutout from Buddy Baumann.
Earbuds in place, Lancaster Barnstormers manager Ross Peeples leaned toward a laptop screen,…
"Any time you've got something new," said Ross Peeples, Lancaster's manager, "everybody's going to have an opinion on it. When you've got the computer calling strikes, some people overthink it instead of just letting their athletic ability take over. We've just been talking about not going out to the plate thinking so much. Just be aggressive and play your game, stay in your approach."
Lancaster's approach yielded four runs in the first inning and four in the fourth, giving starting pitcher Buddy Baumann the backing he needed. With an average of 3.1 runs of support in 14 previous start, Baumann took advantage of the offensive outburst, striking out five and walking one while allowing four hits in his shutout performance.
Lancaster starter Buddy Baumann gets a called third strike against Somerset's Justin Pacchioli to open the sixth. Stadium's PA system plays Marvin the Martian quote: "Oh drat, these computers. They're so naughty and so complex, I could pinch them." pic.twitter.com/aHvIfUosmE— Tim Gross (@TimGrossLNP) July 26, 2019
"He threw the ball unbelievable," Peeples said of Baumann (4-7), who threw 126 pitches, 86 of them strikes. "He was attacking the zone. They were swinging early. He got some quick outs, and we hit the ball well for him."
Andrew Aplin sparked the first-inning four spot for Lancaster (5-8 second half) with a two-run single that scored Caleb Gindl and Joe Terdoslavich. Greg Golson, who finished the night 4-for-4 with 3 RBIs, drove in two of those runs with a double to the gap in right-center field.
With another run across in the fourth and Terdoslavich turned on the first pitch he saw from Somerset (5-8) starter Vince Molesky, driving it over the right field wall for his 14th home run of the season.
Lancaster tacked on runs in the seventh and eighth innings.
But before the first-inning runs poured in, Lancaster's K.C. Hobson drew a two-out walk to load the bases for Aplin. Molesky (3-1) slung a 3-2 pitch low and outside and close to the edge of the plate. The ABS, using TrackMan radar technology, registered ball four, home-plate umpire Bill Worthington relayed the call, and the Barnstormers proceeded to break the game open.
Lancaster's Andrew Aplin smacks a two-run, two-out single off the wall in right field to give the Barnstormers a 2-0 lead over Somerset in the bottom of the first. pic.twitter.com/lTBvkwFi1z— Tim Gross (@TimGrossLNP) July 25, 2019
The ABS also made ball-strike calls in Thursday's Atlantic League games at High Point and Long Island, adding a 21st-century wrinkle to a timeless game.
"I think it's going to be tough to tell with TrackMan," Peeples said, "until several games are played, especially for (the players) and how they know their strike zone, according to what we've been told that it's going to be."
The ABS era, and the Barnstormers six-game homestand, continue Friday at 7 p.m., when Lancaster hosts Southern Maryland for the first game of a three-game series.