HARWICH ─ When a softball soared over the fence at Mashpee High last year unbeknownst to the field umpire who thought it bounced first, Monomoy players Hannah Potter and Karley Marchese knew they had to say something. Little did they know that their honesty would result in the program's winning the MIAA Sportsmanship Moment of the Year for 2016.
Available members of the team were feted at Gillette Stadium during a special celebration on Nov. 18. More recently, Potter and Marchese joined head coach Stacy Yarnall in recalling the moment, and the momentum it gained.
“I was playing center field,” said Potter. “The Mashpee field [has] a plastic fence around it. This girl, Jaylynn Merkman, hit a dinger. The ump was facing us and he thought that it bounced on the ground first and then went over, which would make it an automatic double, but it actually went all the way over.”
Home plate umpire Charles Crawford, however, thought the ball bounced before going over the fence, and ruled the play a ground-rule double. But Monomoy's outfielders knew otherwise.
“To me it clearly went over, so I feel like it would have been so wrong if nobody said anything,” said Marchese, who, along with Potter, discussed the situation with her teammates and told officials the truth.
“I had no idea what they were doing,” said Yarnall. “They all gathered on the mound and then he called it a home run.”
That truth resonated powerfully with Crawford and the high school sports world, resulting first in recognition from Monomoy Principal Bill Burkhead, who presented the team with congratulations and flowers, before WHDH 7News Boston picked up the story.
Yarnall said she learned of the award a little more than a month ago.
“I didn't expect anything, but they deserve it,” she said. “You don't really see a lot of that happening nowadays, people telling the right thing.”
The fact that the moment was deemed the top moment of 2016, however, bowled Yarnall over a bit.
“I had no idea it got that big,” she said. “It's the Sportsmanship Moment of the Year out of every Massachusetts school.”
But Yarnall said that along with the fundamentals of the game, she also demands excellence of her players in personality, too.
“I have very high expectations of them being honest and showing good character, especially sportsmanship,” Yarnall said. “I try to show good sportsmanship. I'm not the kind of coach that's going to kick dirt on the ump.”
“I honestly feel like it's partially because of the way Ms. Yarnall coaches us,” she said. “Obviously it's about softball, but she cares about us being good people and doing the right thing and doing well in school. That's always first, and then the softball aspect of it.”
“It's just second nature,” said Potter. “It was just something that seemed like the right thing to do.”
While the run didn't change the outcome of the game since Monomoy still won, it was a tight match in which every run counted, which makes the Sharks' decision even more impressive. But as Yarnall and her players said, Merkman deserved the run.
“It was her senior night,” said Yarnall. “I honestly couldn't see it, but I would never take a home run away from anybody. She deserved it.”
“I have some friends on the Mashpee team and afterwards they texted me and were like, 'That's awesome that you guys did that, especially since it was her senior night,'” said Marchese.
Potter said all the attention was a little surreal.
“It was a normal thing to do and we were like, 'Why is this happening?'” Potter said. “It's good that people know that we're good people.”
“They're just a great bunch of girls,” said Yarnall. “They're honest. I work them hard but they have a lot of character.”
For Potter and her teammates, and now the MIAA, it just comes down to sportsmanship.
“Games aren't fun unless both teams have sportsmanship,” she said. “We'd expect another team to do that for us. That's the most important thing, to have fun and do the right thing.”