FREMONT — Coming into Tuesday night's Class A softball regional rematch, the biggest discussion surrounding the contest was the pitching matchup between South Central ace Holly Noveroske and Fremont's Autumn Godwin, a Western Michigan commit.
What the fans got at a packed Vistula Park was another victory by the Eagles over the Satellites that was marred by Noveroske being pulled after 18 pitches in the first inning with 15 of those pitches being called illegal by the first-base umpire.
When I spoke with Satellites coach Tony Wallace and Noveroske after the defeat, neither one mentioned a full explanation as to what the sophomore right-hander was apparently doing wrong that warranted the calls. Speculation centered on the notion of crow-hopping, that her back foot was not touching the ground, as is required, when she released the pitch.
"I asked for help from the home plate umpire and she said, 'It's his (the first-base umpire) call. We have to go with that,'" Wallace said.
During the utter madness that took place in the home half of the first, Wallace did in fact look for an explanation from the first-base umpire. (Apologies for not knowing his name because he and the other two umpires bolted out of the stadium before I had a chance to ask for comment.)
He didn't get one. Wallace continued to ask questions "to fill in the blanks," as he put it Tuesday night, and got either no response or a one-word response.
I've said this a few times about my job to an array of people. I get paid regardless if the team I'm covering wins or loses. I report what happens in said contest on most nights and what happened to South Central was utterly nonsensical and quite frankly, ridiculous.
It's like Wallace told me after the game, umpires are human and they'll make their fair share of mistakes.
That's correct, but when a coach is trying to get a clear clarification on what your star pitcher is doing wrong in the biggest game of the season and most of the questions are answered with a blank stare like you just want the coach to shut up, that's not doing your job. That's making yourself the center of the attention and I'm positive all of the parents and supporters of South Central softball players didn't drive over two hours to see an ump show.
It's not fair to say that with a different umpire South Central for certain wins the game, but it wasn't just Noveroske who was affected by the illegal pitches. Satellites reliever Lauren Bowmar was thrown into a crazy situation with just a few warmup pitches and all of a sudden, it was 6-0 after one inning, following the four Noveroske walks and three straight Eagles singles.
Wallace admitted his team was shellshocked from the first inning, but it's not crazy to think that with a much simpler start — that included two outs on plays where illegal pitches were called — those on hand would've seen a much closer contest. In the final five innings, South Central outscored Fremont 4-1. Obviously, fortunes and strategies change in closer games. Unfortunately, we'll never know what could have been between the two sides.
"You take that umpire and that first inning out of the equation and it's a 4-3 ballgame," Wallace said.
It's truly unfortunate that a rematch of this magnitude was tarnished by the calls of umpires. Similar to what Wallace and I discussed after the game, how did South Central get to this point with Noveroske as their every-day pitcher if she's throwing illegal pitches at an 83.3 percent rate?
"It's the 28th game of the season, so how did we get this far and come all this way if she's throwing illegal pitches all the time apparently," Wallace rhetorically asked me.
That's a question the three-person crew working Tuesday's game should try to answer instead of myself.