As we've found out over the years, baseball games can be won or lost on an umpire's decision. The game has always prided itself on letting the guys in blue decide call the balls and strikes, the fate of a home run ball inching inside the foul pole, or a double play where the runner beats the tag to end the ball game.
Tupelo (Mississippi) high school and Madison Central (Mississippi) high school witnessed the power of an umpire's decision in the 6A state semifinals, where a close tag at home plate became the talk of the state in a game that pitted the No. 7 and No. 18 teams in the RivalsHigh 100 Baseball Rankings.
As the Clarion Ledger reported, these two teams were very familiar with each other, after meeting in the state semifinals the last two seasons, with Madison Central winning both matchups. As expected, this year's semifinal was as good as advertised, as the two teams played a total of 27 innings in their best of three series, with all of the games going to extras.
After tying the game in the seventh and sending the deciding game into extra innings, Tupelo took the lead in the top of the 10th inning, setting the stage for a call that will be debated for the next decade. With a runner in scoring position, to tie the game in the bottom of the 10th, Madison Central's David Turner hit a single to center that appeared to be enough to score pinch runner Lee Sanders.
But Tupelo center fielder William Goss had other ideas, throwing the ball on a line for a play at home plate. Sanders was called out at home to end the game. Game over. Tupelo advanced to the state finals.
Or did they? As you can see in the photo and this video from Fox40 News, Sanders appears to get under the tag quite easily. But the umpire didn't see it that way. Of course, Madison Central didn't take the decision lightly, as players and coaches stormed the field to protest the call.
Madison Central head coach Gregg Perry tried to give credit to his players, but he was clearly frustrated by a call he felt should have tied the game.
"Our kids played their you- know-whats off and don't deserve the fate they got tonight," Perry told the Clarion Ledger. "I'm just proud to have been associated with these guys. They fought and fought and fought."
Looking at the still shots on Fox40's website, and taking countless looks at the video, it would appear Madison Central does have a valid argument. But as we've seen in the past, sometimes baseball games aren't decided by the play on the field alone; the umpire can always play a role, and he certainly did in this game.