Oregon State gave up a slugfest loss to LSU on Friday after trouncing the Tigers earlier in the week, 13-1. That certainly lit a fire under the collective ass of Paul Mainieri’s LSU outfit, because the Tigers stormed back for a 3-1 victory behind strongarm pitcher Alex Lange.
Now the Tigers and Beavers will meet for a bracket-deciding rubber match on Saturday.
In the bottom of the third inning, with the Beavs trailing, 2-1, center fielder Steven Kwan stepped up and laced a high looper down the third base line. It curved left, then more left, before eventually striking the left field wall right at the yellow painted foul line on the padding of the fence. This is a very, very close call.
Here’s a stopped screenshot of the moment the ball contacts the fence.
It’s nigh impossible to tell whether the ball strikes the yellow — which it clearly does — further to the left or right of the left edge of the stripe. Whatever the case, this hit should probably have been ruled a fair ball — good for, let’s say, a double. It was ruled foul on the field.
College baseball fairly recently installed rules of video replay assist, and fair and foul calls are absolutely reviewable plays. On a too-close-to-call play without any real conclusive proof in real time, this play should have been reviewed immediately. Furthermore, either the umpires or coaches can initiate a video review, which does not take place on-site. So if the umping crew didn’t call for a review, why didn’t Oregon State skipper Pat Casey? According to NOLA.com’s Ron Higgins, Casey said afterward:
That's on me, I should have asked for a review.
Uh, yeah. Why Casey didn’t ask to stop for a review in such a high-stakes moment — Kwan’s is a big bat and he had runners at first and second — is inexplicable. Perhaps he didn’t see the ball’s flight path clear enough to raise a stink about it. Whatever the case, he most certainly should have asked for play to stop right there.
The controversy spun out onto the internet — above the fray of the field of play — so that the NCAA issued a statement regarding the policies in question in such an event as this.
Statement from the NCAA on the fair-foul call in today's Oregon State-LSU game. pic.twitter.com/WcdU8dQ1ks— Michael Lananna (@mlananna) June 23, 2017
And a partial transcription of the relevant passages (emphasis added):
[The hit] was obviously a very close call but one that the umpire crew thought they ruled correctly.
Per our replay protocol either the head coach may come out onto the field and request the crew to get together or the umpire crew may get together on their own if they feel a review is warranted. In either situation, it is the sole authority of the crew chief to decide if any play is to go to review.
Nothing happened on this play that triggered a review.
Had this play gone to review AND was ruled fair by replay, the replay officials would have placed the runners on the bases they think they would [sic] of received had the ball been ruled fair.
“Nothing happened on this play that triggered a review.” Well, nothing except the ball hitting the yellow stripe on the left field foul line in a very ambiguous spot. Per that last paragraph, Oregon State would have been awarded a run — maybe two — owing to the fact that this hit probably would have yielded a double for Kwan.
But it didn’t, because no one thought to review a clearly unclear strike on the outfield wall in an elimination College World Series game.