By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
OMAHA, Neb. — Leadoff man Steven Kwan skied a ball toward left field off Alex Lange with LSU leading Oregon State 2-0 in the bottom of the third inning at the College World Series Friday.
Off the bat it looked like a harmless fly ball slicing foul deep down the left field line at TD Ameritrade Park. That’s how third base umpire Danny Collins, the crew chief, ruled it, too; a foul ball.
Here’s where the controversy starts: video replay shows it probably wasn’t, but the play was never reviewed.
Instead of what could’ve been ruled a game-tying double, Kwan popped up and Lange escaped the inning having allowed just one run. LSU went on to win, 3-1, and force a winner-take-all contest set for Saturday.
The NCAA released an official statement regarding the play and review protocol in question:
During the bottom of the third inning in today’s game a ball was hit down the left field would line. Our third base umpire went out down the line and ruled the ball to be foul.
It 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 have received had the ball been ruled fair.
The NCAA does not publicize the name or the location of the replay crew but that they are members of the NCAA Baseball Umpire Program most familiar with umpire mechanics and the NCAA playing rules.
Obviously Oregon State coach Pat Casey would’ve been well within his rights to take umbrage with the umpiring crew. Especially when considering that the crew chief is the one who made the potentially-incorrect call and had a far better angle than did Casey in the third base dugout.
After the game, Casey said he’s considering asking for a review but didn’t and put that decision on himself.
“I should have asked for a review,” Casey said. “My understanding from the NCAA is the crew chief should have asked for a review. But I can ask for a review, and I didn’t. And I should have.
“That’s on me. I should have asked for review. And I don’t know how that would have affected things, but it certainly would have put us in a pretty good position, that’s for sure.”
There’s nothing like the human element.
For the third game in a row, Kramer Robertson stung a bid for a leadoff single in the first inning.
For the third game in a row, his hard-hit smash was gloved with nothing to show for it.
It once again set the tone for a frustrating afternoon at the plate. Robertson went 0-for-5 with a strikeout Friday, and he’s now 1-for-18 through four games at the College World Series.
At this point, despite hitting a four-or-five balls hard over the past couple games, the senior shortstop concedes it’s starting to get a bit frustrating.
“It’s frustrating because you look at what I’m doing and it looks like I’m doing terrible,” Robertson said. “The numbers are bad, and I don’t think they show exactly what I’ve been doing. Hopefully tomorrow I can come and have a big impact offensively.”
Baseball is a game of heaters and slumps, but Robertson’s unlucky streak has certainly cropped up at the worst possible time.
Still, both he and LSU coach Paul Mainieri expressed confidence that all those hard-hit outs are cause for optimism that a breakthrough performance could be coming.
“I sure hope so,” Mainieri said. “He’s hit several balls hard that, had they dropped, we wouldn’t be talking about Kramer’s little whatever you call it — I hate to use words like slump — because he’s hit some balls hard. And we need Kramer. Kramer is one of the most important players we have.”
Alex Lange picked up career strikeout No. 400 in the second inning of the 3-1 victory, becoming only the second LSU pitcher ever to reach that plateau and sixth in Southeastern Conference history.
The LSU record is held by Scott Schultz at 409, and Lange’s eight strikeouts Friday put him at 406, just four shy of setting the record. Another start would mean a chance at program history for the LSU ace.
As far as the SEC record, well, that’s way out of reach. Here are the six members of the 400 strikeout club:
- 602 — John Powell, Auburn (477 innings) | 1990-94
- 457 — Kip Bouknight, South Carolina (482 innings) | 1998-01
- 441 — David Price, Vanderbilt (313 innings) | 2005-07
- 428 — Eric DuBose, Mississippi State (364.2 innings) | 1995-97
- 409 — Scott Schultz, LSU (398 innings) | 1992-95
- 406 — Alex Lange, LSU (350 innings) | 2015-Present