Baseball is a beautiful sport because there is no clock. The game isn't over until a pitcher from the winning team throws the last strike or a fielder makes the last out. According to legendary Baltimore Orioles Manager Earl Weaver, it's why the game is the greatest of all, because, "You've got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance."
However, sometimes the umpire inserts himself and ends the game. It's unfortunate and rarely happens, but every once in a while you'll see it. Last year's Michael Conforto-New York Mets win off a hit-by-pitch because the umpire was blind as a bat is a good example of how umpires can influence the outcome of the game...negatively.
On Sunday, a college baseball team similarly fell victim to an umpire's bad call.
Umpire's Terrible HBP Call Ends St. Mary's-LMU Game
Horrible rule! Horrible call! @NCAABaseball @SMC_Baseball pic.twitter.com/wfy7S6t95R
— ??Luis Gallardo?? (@LuisGallardo77) March 20, 2022
The St. Mary's Gaels -- yes, the school with the basketball team in the NCAA Tournament -- had the tying run on third base, down by one with two outs in the top of the ninth inning against LMU.
On a 2-2 count, SMC's Javy Espinoza took a fastball off his thigh from LMU's Owen Hackman. It wasn't anywhere near the strike zone. In fact, it looked destined to drill the hitter.
Espinoza turned his front leg inward and wore the pitch, thinking he was heading to first base to extend the inning and give his team a chance to knock in the tying run.
Home plate umpire Rob Hansen had other plans. He immediately called Espinoza out for intentionally leaning into the pitch, meaning Espinoza struck out and the game was over.
The problem? He didn't lean into the pitch. Sure, he didn't jump out of the way of it, but that looked like a pretty natural reaction for a pitch racing toward you in the blink of an eye.
Of course, it's up to the umpire's discretion.
Rule 7 Section 4 of the NCAA Baseball Rule Book states that a "strike is awarded if the batter is judged to intentionally make a movement to be hit by a pitch, regardless of where the pitch is located; or allows himself to be intentionally hit by a pitch that is not thrown within the boundaries of the batter's box unless it was not possible to avoid being hit."
However, it seems St. Mary's should have been able to challenge the egregious call based on the same rule book.
According to Appenidx E of the NCAA's rules, a play involving a hit by pitch "will be reviewable only by a coach's challenge at any time during the game or at the crew chief's discretion during the last two innings of regulation and any extra innings."
It's unclear if St. Mary's was able to challenge the play, but LMU players immediately began celebrating the call.
It was a shameful call that looked more like the umpire was trying to get home to watch some March Madness game than call the game correctly and let the kids play.
Numerous users on social media complained about it, too.
This is absolutely insane? that ball was inside his batters box. So they put a box there for a reason, now you saying we suppose to move out of ?OUR? batters box because the pitcher can?t throw?? https://t.co/ULCjekCaoi
— Mossy Mueller (@Mossy_mueller) March 21, 2022
"This is absolutely insane... that ball was inside his batter's box. So they put a box there for a reason, now you saying we suppose to move out of 'OUR' batters box because the pitcher can't throw??" one wrote.
"Early entrant in the 'worst call by an umpire in 2022' contest," another wrote.
I think it's pretty clear that kid should have been awarded first base. Instead, the pitcher pads on a strikeout and St. Mary's loses the game.
MORE: Dangerous Softball Collision Draws Passionate Plea for Rule Change From Alabama Coach
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