The Road to "Oh, My, Ha"
Four teams have made travel plans to visit Omaha next weekend. Tennessee, Florida, and Nebraska swept their respective Super Regionals on Friday and Saturday, while Arizona State went the distance to beat Cal State Fullerton, the defending champions, in a three-game set that ended Sunday evening. The other four series are still in doubt and will be decided today. You can follow these games live by visiting the line scores, play-by-play, and boxscores on NCAASports.com, the official web site for NCAA sports.
The right side of the College World Series brackets has been finalized. The Volunteers and Gators will face each other in the opening round, while the Cornhuskers will square off against the Sun Devils. The Nebraska players, in fact, may have already started their 50-mile trek from Lincoln to Omaha. Cornhusker coach Mike Anderson, however, might want to dry off first. In the meantime, Nebraska fans haven't seen this kind of tackling in years.
Notes and observations from around the Super Regionals:
Let me set the stage. ASU was beating Cal State Fullerton, 2-1, in the bottom of the ninth inning in the first game of the Super Regional. Brett Pill of the Titans led off the frame with a double down the left field line that glanced off ASU third baseman Travis Buck's glove. Danny Dorn reached first base on a bunt single, moving Pill to third. Zinicola, who replaced Brent Bordes at this point, plated the tying run on an errant pickoff attempt to first, scoring Pill and moving Dorn to third base.
Zinicola intentionally walked Ronnie Prettyman to put runners on the corners. He was in the process of intentionally walking Bobby Andrews to load the bases when, on the fourth pitch of the walk, third base umpire Jack Cox charged Zinicola with the balk to score Dorn and clinch the victory for the Titans.
Balk SECTION 3. A balk shall be called for the following action by a pitcher: j. The pitcher delivers the pitch from the set position without coming to a complete and discernable stop, or the pitcher comes to more than one stop from the set position (see 9-1-b); A.R. -- With the bases unoccupied, the pitcher does not need to come to a complete and discernable stop.
Crew chief and second base umpire Paul Guillie sounded as if he wanted nothing to do with the call. "The call was made on the 3-0 count. The third base umpire made the call." He may as well said, "I didn't make the call. Go talk to Jack."
"I'd like to see the players end the game," Arizona State Coach Pat Murphy said of the balk call by Cox. "He's got to live with it. That's not a sound baseball call and he knows it."
Even Cal State Fullerton Coach George Horton admitted he had never won a game that way. "It was a good baseball game," Horton said. "It's just unfortunate it had to end on an unusual play. It certainly would have been more fulfilling I think for our club if we had won on a base hit or a sacrifice fly or something."
I watched the game live and saw the replay of that incident many times. There is no doubt in my mind that Zinicola paused at the belt before delivering what would have been ball four to Andrews. The more germane point though is that Zinicola didn't gain any advantage if, in fact, he failed to come to a "complete and discernable stop." It was simply one of those "no harm, no foul" plays that 99.9999% of the time are "no calls."
Let me tell you, these third base umps had one heckuva weekend during the Super Regionals. When I umpired, we always thought working third was like being given a night off. Ha!
Update (4:00 p.m. EST):
Baylor beat Clemson, 6-1. Kris Harvey homered for the Bears while Cory VanAllen and Ryan LaMotta combined on a nine-hitter.
Tulane outscored Rice, 9-6. The Green Wave scored seven runs in the eighth and ninth innings to support J.R. Crowel and Daniel Latham who combined to stop the Owls.