BLUEFIELD — An umpire can be a lot like an irritating co-worker. There are times when you can’t live with them and you certainly can’t shoot them.

The Bluefield Orioles may have felt like that way on Saturday afternoon, dropping a 6-5 Appalachian League decision to the Princeton Devil Rays in front on an enthusiastic crowd of 986 at Bowen Field.

While Princeton improved to 4-0 in the Mercer Cup series between the two clubs, Bluefield manager Alex Arias was one of three Orioles ejected by an embattled duo of umpires.

“It was a tough day, everybody has bad days,” said Arias, who was ejected in the fifth inning after a balk call wasn’t made. “It’s just one of those games, we thought he missed some pitches, and he missed that one balk call.

“It’s over, it’s not a big deal. We’ll just continue with the next game.”

That next game came four hours later when the teams met again in the nightcap of a doubleheader in Princeton. Neither Arias nor P-Rays manager Jamie Nelson were happy with that reality.

“This is a horrible schedule,” Nelson said. “It’s borderline retarded, but we’ve got to play it. What are you going to do, you’ve got to play it.”

Arias added: “I don’t like it, I think it is a little too much, but that is my opinion.”

Lost in the developments on the field was the improved play of Jeff Carroll. A free signee out of Cal State-Los Angeles, Carroll had his second straight three hit game, collecting a double, two singles and three runs batted in for the Devil Rays.

“You just come out and work hard every day,” said the 6-foot-2, 192-pound Carroll, whose average has jumped from .172 to .258 in a matter of two games. “You’re on top one day, but every single day is a different day out here.

“Yesterday (Friday) I had a good day too. I stayed with my approach and tried not to get too big and the results happened.”

Ben Humphrey also had what may have been his best game of the season, collecting three hits, including a double, and one RBI. However, it didn’t end good after he was beaned in the ninth by an Ezequiel Selen 87-mile per hour fastball.

“I’m a little disappointed because Ben got hit, he’s probably got a concussion now and he’ll be down for a while,” Nelson said, “but Jeff Carroll really has made some tremendous adjustments and it’s a credit to his hard work.”

Richard Heller led Bluefield with double, single and three runs batted in, while Jacob Julius doubled, walked twice, stole a base and scored a pair of runs.

An RBI single by Mark Thomas gave Princeton a 1-0 lead in the second, but Bluefield answered in the bottom of that frame with a two-run single by Heller. However, the P-Rays scored two in the third when Carroll drove in two runs with a single.

Bluefield tied it at 3-3 in the fourth on a double by Richard D’Oleo and single from Mike Gioioso. Princeton then sent Orioles’ starter Pat Egan to the showers, scoring three runs in the fifth on RBI doubles from Carroll and Humphrey and sacrifice fly by Thomas.

That’s when the Orioles became unglued. With a runner on first and no outs, Kraig Binick was at the plate. Princeton starter Jose De Los Santos did everything normally on a 2-1 pitch until it came to the point of release. He didn’t release. He simply held the ball.

Arias assumed a balk. Plate umpire Will Little thought differently. After a brief argument, Arias was ejected.

“I’ve played a long time and I’ve never seen that call,” said Arias, who played 11 years in the big leagues. “I’ve seen it made that if the pitcher doesn’t throw the ball to the plate, and there is no time called, it is an automatic balk.

“He said the batter was deceiving the pitcher, I don’t know what that means.”

Arias would later be joined in the clubhouse by Binick, who argued after being called out on a close play at first base, and coach Jim Saul, who disagreed with Little’s strike zone.

While Arias understands that the Appalachian League umpires are developing just like the players, he does have one stipulation.

“The only thing I ask is them to know the rules, they’ve got to know the rules of the game,” Arias said. “I know they’re learning, but in certain circumstances, they’ve got know the rules...

“It’s just the way it was happening today. It was just one of those games, hopefully the next game will go our way.”

Selen replaced Egan and kept the P-Rays off the board, striking out nine and allowing just one hit over the last five innings. Kevin Chavez got the win for Princeton, while Kevin Fessler earned his third save.

Bluefield pushed across a pair of runs in the eighth on a Heller double and a Jason White ground out, but went down in order in the ninth.

“We executed on offense and on the mound today,” Nelson said. “Our pitchers did a good job when they needed to, executing some good locations with some pitches.

“Unfortunately, later on in the game, we walked a couple of leadoff hitters , but we regained our composure and made the right pitches when we needed to. Fortunately, for us, we had enough cushion that when they did mount that rally, it didn’t hurt us.”

While neither manager was happy about having to play another game on Saturday night, Carroll was willing and able.

“It’s different, they’re both nine inning games, but it’s just another day at the ball park,” said Carroll, who will turn 23 next month. “You’ve got to love it, you’ve got to love being here.”

Bluefield (12-12) will start a two-game series tonight at Bowen Field at 6 p.m. against the Kingsport Mets, while Princeton (13-11) will travel to Greeneville.

Saturday night’s contest was completed after press time.

— Contact Brian Woodson