The photo is pretty clear. Northwest Whitfield High School shortstop Diego Peralta tags Cass’ Chris Morton before he reaches third base.
Had the Bruins lost, here’s how the start of my article in Saturday’s paper would’ve gone:
“Everyone from the Northwest players to coach Todd Middleton thought Cass’ Chris Morton was out, but the umpire’s opinion is the one that counts.”
“And he thought Morton was safe.”
Then the sixth inning happened.
The Bruins won 7-6 Friday in the third game of the Region 7-4A championship best-of-three series over the Colonels. Northwest trailed most of the game, but four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning launched (pun intended) them over the Colonels like a rocket ship.
Kyle Brock’s dive. Peralta’s double. Seth Pierce’s save. These are the things you read about. But before that sixth inning, it was going to be another moment, one that would’ve caused so much pain for the Northwest faithful.
In the top of the second inning Cass led 1-0 and had the bases loaded with two outs. After a pitch, Northwest catcher A.J. Orozco saw Morton creeping off second base and threw behind him. With Morton caught in a run down between second and third, Peralta chased him down and got the tag on before he reached third.
It would’ve been the third out, but the third-base umpire called Morton safe. Austin Gore had taken off from third to home, and collided with Orozco when the throw came. As the ball rolled to the backstop, Morton came home and scored. 3-0 Cass.
To say coach Middleton was furious would be an understatement.
However, I didn’t need to ask anyone about the play after the game.
Brandon Smith’s single drove in a run to cut Cass’ lead to 6-4 in the sixth. With just one out, Brady Middleton sent a grounder to shortstop Sam Ayers. Kyle Brock, on third, ran home on contact.
Ayers’ throw brought catcher Sam Russell into the baseline and to his knees. Once Brock saw the ball in the catcher’s glove, he dove up and over. Russell didn’t get the tag, and Brock’s fist and leg landed on the plate. Peralta hit a two-run double on the first pitch of the game’s next at-bat. Pierce shut the door in the seventh.
“It really matters for me to come in there and shut it down,” said Pierce, who pitched in game one and lost 4-1.
There’s a video of the play on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icZbd4b2dGc&feature=player_embedded) with a call from a radio station in Cartersville.
It’s pretty obvious the play-by-play commentator didn’t think Brock was safe. Here’s the call: “Two (balls), two (strikes) delivery now from (Chaz) Wilson. And it’s lined right out to Sam Ayers. He’s coming home with the play. And he got him out. NO, HE CALLED HIM SAFE! HOW DID HE CALL HIM SAFE?! HOW ON EARTH DID HE CALL HIM SAFE?! HOW ON EARTH DID HE CALL HIM SAFE THERE?!”
He was safe, even though according to the National Federation of State High School Associations, Brock’s dive isn’t allowed.
NFHS rule 8-4-2d states, “It is illegal to jump or hurdle a fielder, with or without the ball, who is standing or kneeling. Hurdling, jumping, or leaping over a fielder is legal — only if the fielder is lying on the ground. This means laying flat on the ground in a prone position. It is legal to jump or hurdle over an outstretched arm. The key to this is jumping or hurdling over the torso or head is illegal unless the fielder is laying flat (prone) on the ground. It does not matter if the fielder has the ball, is attempting to make a play, or just in the base path. Diving over a fielder, regardless of the reason, is always illegal. For purposes of this rule, diving means ‘headfirst.’”
The GHSA follows the guidelines of the NFHS. Brock dove head first over Russell, who wasn’t laying flat on the ground in a prone position but rather kneeling upright. Based on the rules, Brock should’ve been called out.
And so should’ve Morton, who was tagged before reaching third base. Stuff happens. Umpires, also known as imperfect human beings, make the wrong calls sometimes. Sometimes two of them make contradicting calls.
In the series’ second game, Edwin Hernandez hit a two-run triple in the top of the 10th inning to give the Bruins a 4-2 win. Earlier in the inning, with two outs and Andy Whisenant on first, Peralta looped a single to right. Whisenant slid into third as the ball got to Cass third baseman Hunter Souther, and one of the field umpires rules Whisenant out. However, the home plate umpire called him safe. After discussing for several minutes, Whisenant was ruled safe and brought Hernandez to the plate.
There’s a saying in basketball. “Ball don’t lie.” That means sometimes a ref will make a bad call, whether it be on a foul or an out of bounds. Regardless, the ball's bounce will fix it. Even with a perfect free throw shot, it’ll rattle out. It’s just the basketball gods’ or karma’s way of righting the wrong.
There may have been some incorrect calls, but “Northwest 7, Cass 6” is all that matters.
Scoreboard don’t lie.
Devin Golden is a sports writer for The Daily Citizen, and the ball didn’t lie Saturday in his Bulls’ comeback versus the Nets. Thank you, Nate Robinson. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.