The call that broke the Camels' back
Posted June 1
Columbia, S.C. — In actuality, Campbell’s second -- and most successful -- run in the NCAA baseball tournament came to an end a little after 4 p.m. Sunday with a 9-0 loss to South Carolina in Columbia in the regional round. For all intents and purposes, however, it ended just before 1:30 p.m. when an interference call went against them – dashing their spirits with more than eight innings yet to play.
What was said to be a 12-minute “rules interpretation delay” seemed like two hours for Campbell, who thought they would be coming to bat after a quick and scoreless first inning against host South Carolina.
The debate focused on an interference call on a 3-1 pitch with one-on and one-out in the top of the first.
On the play, Chapel Hill native Max Schrock broke for second as Joey Pankake swung and missed. Campbell catcher Steven Leonard came up firing to second and was visibly impeded with on his throw. Schrock was later tagged out in a rundown.
The umpires initially ruled that the batter was out on interference and Schrock would return to first with two outs. Camels head coach Greg Goff stormed out of the dugout to say that the runner should also be out because he was tagged out on the continuation of the play.
But hold up.
Rule 6.2.d.2 of the NCAA baseball rule book states, “If the catcher is in the act of making a throw to retire a runner and the batter is in the batter’s box and his normal follow-through unintentionally strikes the catcher or the ball while the catcher is in the act of throwing, “Time” is called and runners return (unless the catcher’s initial throw retires the runner).”
This is exactly what happened, and unfortunately for Campbell, the umpires got it right.
The home plate umpire immediately signaled contact, the second base umpire immediately signaled “Time” and the runner held up, forcing a rundown instead of a direct throw-and-tag.
Goff asked for a protest of the game. The on-site NCAA officials reviewed the play and sided with the umpires.
While Campbell escaped the inning without scoreboard damage, they were not the same team after that. The Camels, who were expecting to sprint into the dugout for their first ups, were instead on the field for two more hitters and walked to the bench about 30 minutes later.
Campbell did not get a hit until the fourth inning and by then, they were already trailing 5-0. An insurance 4-spot by the Gamecocks in the 9th sealed their fate.
But not all is lost with Campbell. Their 41 wins this year tied the second most in program history behind 49 of last year – when they were left out of the tournament. Their 90 wins over the last two years is second most of any Division-I baseball program in the state behind North Carolina’s 94.
Oh, and their 4-1 win in 12 innings Saturday was their first ever NCAA tournament win for a program that has been D-I since the late 1970s.
Let’s be clear, the call did not lose the game for Campbell. In fact it was the correct call. But when luck goes against a group of 18-22-year-olds like that in a high pressure situation, the air seemingly slips from the balloon.