Pop flies along the outfield line are never a guaranteed out, particularly when the ball travels to the opposite field and an area that's home to a bullpen mound and a crowd of relievers, much like the setup at Winston-Salem's BB&T Ballpark.
That's the situation that presented itself in the eighth inning of Class A Advanced Down East's 4-3 loss to the Dash on Friday night. With one out and Blake Rutherford on first, Wood Ducks reliever Tyler Ferguson made a 2-2 offering to Gavin Sheets that created chaos.
Video: Down East teams up for unique double play
As Sheets skied the pitch down the left field line, nothing appeared certain. Not even as left fielder Alex Kowalczyk hustled from the gap, while shortstop Anderson Tejeda and third baseman Brendon Davis gave chase, the play was still -- as they say -- up in the air.
Kowalczyk went into a slide as the ball made its descent and just got his glove in the way. Inches from the ground, the ball bounced off his left palm and deflected off the tip of his glove before being snatched out of the air by Tejeda, the Rangers' No. 11 prospect.
Gameday box score
The quick glove work led to even quicker thinking by Tejeda, who turned and noticed Rutherford had drifted off the bag and fired to first baseman Charles Leblanc. The throw was high and far enough off line that Leblanc needed a leap to bring it down. But in the same motion, the 6-foot-3, 195-pounder dived and tagged Rutherford's right hip.
Wild though it was, the inning-ending double play was the Wood Ducks' third head-turning play of the night.
Video: Rollin's diving catch for Down East
Franklin Rollin had gotten off to a great start for Down East, cracking his fourth homer of the year -- a solo shot -- in the first inning. The right fielder did it with the glove in the following frame, using a full-extension dive to catch Nate Nolan's fly ball in the gap.
Video: Martinez slick play on hill for Wood Ducks
Rutherford, the seventh-ranked White Sox prospect, found some more hard luck in the fourth, knocking a ground ball back through the legs of starter Emerson Martinez. The Wood Ducks right-hander reached down behind his back and snagged the comebacker. As cool, calm and collected as he made the grab, he trotted to first and lobbed to Leblanc for the out.
Martinez (4-8) took the loss after allowing four runs -- two earned -- on five hits and a walk over 6 1/3 innings, striking out three. Rollin also singled and walked, while Tejeda singled.
The eighth-inning single was the only hit for Rutherford, MLB.com's No. 81 overall prospect, who missed one game after tumbling over the right field fence on Wednesday. No. 18 White Sox prospect Luis Gonzalez slugged a first-inning solo shot for his first Carolina League homer and added an RBI with a sacrifice fly to right in the seventh. The 22-year-old is batting .370 through 12 games on the circuit.
Tanner Banks (8-2) surrendered two runs on nine hits and a walk with five strikeouts over eight innings for the win.