LSU was down to their last out of the ball game, trailing Auburn 4-3. Austin Nola stepped into the batters box. Down in the count 0-2, Nola drove a Slade Smith pitch all the way to the left field wall for a double. Arby Fields came in to pinch run for Nola and closers Justin Bryant relieved Smith. Grant Dozar took a pitch (ball one) then hit a soft grounder to second baseman, Creede Simpson. Simpson picked up the routine ground and looked to make the throw to first for the final out. Instead, Simpson threw a low ball to first baseman Garrett Cooper, who bobbled the ball, and Dozar was safe. Meanwhile, Fields had rounded third base and was trying to score. Cooper picked the ball up and made a last second throw to the catcher, who caught the ball clean and applied the tag to a feet first sliding, Fields. Fields was called out and Auburn’s players rushed the pitcher’s mound.
The problem is that Fields was clearly safe. When Auburn’s catcher Blake Austin caught the ball he was on the first base side of the plate. By the time he applied the tag on Field, his mitt looks to be around the middle of the plate. Thanks to the low budget of college baseball telecast, the best view we could get was a camera shot from the press box (at least 100 ft or more from the action). The telecast showed a few replays, but poor angles could not give us a definitive answer, all you can see is where the player’s bodies were. If you are a LSU fan he was safe, an Auburn fan could convince you other wise. Basically you left the game just as confused as trying to comprehend how or why John Goodman “adopted” his girlfriend.
The run would not have won the game, but it would have kept the game going. I am not ripping the umpire, it was a bang-bang play and he made the best call he could make. Similar things have happened before in college football and basketball, but because of new technology, they were able to review these close calls. Why do we not have a replay system in college baseball?
If any sport needed it, it is baseball. Normally there are only three umpires during the regular season games (numbers increase to five for post-season). Even though the game’s tempo moves much slower than the other two sports, because of the size of the field and ball the individual plays usually happens much quicker. Even if the ump is on top of the play, it is still hard to make all the calls. You mean to tell me these guys couldn’t have a replay official to double check home runs, catches, tag outs or throw outs?
Unfortunately, a great back and forth game between Auburn and LSU will be stained by both fans trying to justify the call or using the call to throw the game away. College baseball needs to take a page out of the MLB playbook and start to improve the overall quality of its officiating with the use of technology. They are already using this by trying to speed the game up with the 25 second pitch clock. We need to take the next step by either giving the coaches a chance to challenge a certain number of calls, or have a replay official on hand just like the other two sports. Not only will this improve the officiating, but it should put an end to these embarrassing umpire-coaches arguments on the field.