A controversy has erupted in Texas over a softball play on which a seemingly impossible feat occurred: An umpire appeared to rule a runner safe and out on the same play, and he never changed his mind in what the newscaster below is calling "one of the dumbest rules in high school sports."
As reported by the Dallas Morning News, Texas powerhouse softball program Plano (Texas) East High reached the Class 5A Region I semifinals thanks to a narrow, 3-2, eight-inning victory against area rival Flower Mound (Texas) High. Yet Plano East, which has since moved on to the regional finals, almost never even reached extra innings because it appeared that Flower Mound won the matchup with a walk-off hit, going so far as to celebrate the monumental victory until Plano East catcher K.K. Stevens walked up and tagged out Flower Mound's Kelly Powell, who thought she had just scored the winning run.
Here's what happened: With two outs in the seventh inning, Powell came sliding in to home. Stevens tried to apply a tag on Powell during a play at the plate, but she missed. The umpire gave a safe signal.
That safe signal sent the Flower Mound team into delirium as it celebrated what it assumed was a berth in the regional semifinals. That's when Plano East coach Karen Kalhoefer walked over to Stevens and told her to tag Powell. She did so, and the umpire signaled out, ending the frame and sending the elimination game into extra innings, where Plano East scored and advanced.
So, what was the umpire signaling if he threw up the safe sign? As it turns out, he was actually doing his job. According to Article 9 of the National High School Federations Baseball Rulebook, if a runner misses the plate, an umpire is instructed to hesitate slightly. If no one applies a tag, he then is supposed to signal safe. However, if the defending team then appeals the safe call and either tags the runner or touches home plate, the umpire is then to call the runner out.
The rule can seem confusing, and left Flower Mound fuming. Still, by the letter of the law, the umpire got the call right, assuming that Powell had actually missed the plate.
That in itself could be a matter of contention, but in this case there happens to be video of the play in question … though that still doesn't make it clear whether or not the runner touched home plate. It appears as though Powell did hit the bag, though that isn't conclusive or definitive, either. That may not help Flower Mound or Powell feel better about their untimely elimination, but it does at least confirm that even when an umpire appears to rule a runner safe, he or she might still end up being out.
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