May 16, 2009
DAHLONEGA, Ga. -- A lineup card was the difference in game two of the NCAA Division II Softball Southeast Super Regional.
Top-ranked North Georgia was credited with a 1-0 win over visiting Carson-Newman on Saturday afternoon in Dahlonega, Georgia, but not until after C-N had tied the game at 1-1 and loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the seventh, only to see the run stripped from the board.
Junior Stephanie Templeton (Ringgold, Ga.) drew a leadoff walk, and was replaced by pinch runner Ashlee Dillard (Roanoke, Va.) at first base. Junior Sarah Little (Calhoun, Ga.) followed by smashing a double off the centerfield fence to move the tying and winning runs into scoring position.
After an infield pop-up from Whitney Kee (Knoxville, Tenn.) and an intentional walk was issued to Amber Palmer (Kennesaw, Ga.), sophomore Amber Hewitt (Ringgold, Ga.) appeared to tie the game with a bases-loaded walk.
The ensuing protest from North Georgia coach Mike Davenport, and the 70-minute umpire deliberation that followed will forever live in C-N softball infamy.
The umpire involved admittedly incorrectly recorded and then misreported to the North Georgia dugout, the numbers, 8-for-25, in the Dillard-for-Templeton substitution as Dillard-for-Kee, who was standing in the on-deck circle at the time.
After the hour-long deliberation in the outfield that included the onsite NCAA representative, all three umpires and phone calls to the NCAA Softball Committee, it was finally ruled that Dillard became an illegal runner when her substitution was improperly recorded by the umpire, despite being correctly recorded in both the home and "official" book in the press box.
The last pitch to Hewitt was nullified, Dillard was ruled out and the run was removed from the scoreboard, leaving Hewitt at the plate with a 3-1 count. She drew a walk to load the bases, but Leah Price (Spring City, Tenn.) grounded out to second to end the game, as North Georgia escaped with a 1-0 win.
C-N coach Vickee Kazee-Hollifield said she hated to see the Lady Eagles' postseason run end the way it did but was proud of the way they competed this season.
"It just leaves a sick, sick feeling," she said. "We still would have had to come back and win another ballgame. I want to keep it in perspective, but give the kids an opportunity to play another ballgame."
"Enough could not be said for the effort that these young ladies gave, coming down here knowing that you are facing the No. 1 team in the nation. They just played their hearts out. They have been resilient for the past five or six weeks. I am just proud to be their coach."
The umpiring crew and NCAA representatives stuck with the umpire's lineup card as the official record after the long deliberations, essentially issuing the Lady Eagles an out and taking a run off the board on the officials' clerical error.
"We had to go by what the rulebook said," NCAA Representative Jimmy Martin said. "We had no choice. We had to go by what was on the home-plate umpire's card."
NCAA protocol does not make umpires and officials available for comment.
With the loss, the Lady Eagles end the season at 32-17. North Georgia (48-3) advances to the NCAA Division II College World Series in Salem, Va., on May 21-25.
Lost is the controversy was a pair of impressive pitching performances.
Despite holding North Georgia to its second lowest run total of the season, C-N didn't have an answer at the plate for Region Pitcher of the Year Sarah Phillips (37-1), who won her 34th straight game. Phillips allowed just three hits, walked four batters and had four strikeouts in seven innings of work.
Templeton (12-4) was tagged with the loss after giving up one run on eight hits in seven innings in the circle.
Jessie Howard (Knoxville, Tenn.) led the Lady Eagles with two hits, while Little added a double.
The Saints collected eight hits on the day, including a 3-for-4 effort from Kasey Knight.
North Georgia pushed across the decisive run in the top of the sixth. Knight lined a single to left field to lead off the inning and later scored on a Pilar Harden single to give the Saints a 1-0 lead.