After UL's emotional 2019 season, the comment I made before departing for the Oxford regional was, "I just hope they either win or lose purely based on their play … no really bad calls, no controversy."
As we’ve learned in life, not all wishes come true.
On Sunday afternoon in Oxford, Miss., all the hopes and dreams of the UL Ragin’ Cajuns softball team were dashed.
Like New Orleans Saints’ fans know all too well, the "what if" game can be the toughest to get over. Sometimes, it’s just easier to get beat.
For this head coach, his family and his team, somehow dealing with "What if this call was made?" just didn’t seem fair.
No, there weren’t any tirades in the postgame press conference. UL coach Gerry Glasco tipped his hat to the Ole Miss players on several occasions. He even said he looked forward to watching them play in the super regionals.
But in the back of his mind, something told him things weren’t right.
Looking back, Glasco was correct on both accounts.
In losing a 5-4 heartbreaker in the winner-take-all regional game, there were several culprits to blame the pain on.
First, there’s Ole Miss centerfielder Kylan Becker. In addition to constantly being on base all weekend, she also robbed Julie Rawls of a two-run homer with a leaping grab over the fence in the second inning.
“I thought Kylan Becker, wow,” Glasco said. “That was the first time I’d seen her play in a couple of years. She’s an outstanding player. I enjoyed watching her compete this weekend.”
Unfortunately, also very high on the list was the third-base umpire. In the first inning of the final game, Autumn Gillespie was initially called out at third base, but the umpire then called obstruction on UL third baseman Kara Gremillion.
A postgame photo clearly showed Gremillion had possession well before the baserunner approached the bag.
Gillespie later scored on a two-out single by Jessica Puk.
For most UL softball fans, Day 1 of the Oxford softball regional was a bit scary.
Then in the third inning, UL’s infield turned a spectacular double play. The second-base umpire ruled Abbey Latham out at second. But then the third-base umpire overruled her and Latham was allowed to return to second.
“We’ve got four umpires,” Glasco responded when asked about the overruled double play. “They’ve each got one base. She called her out. I thought Dalton’s foot was on the bag when the ball went in her glove. I thought it was the easiest play in the world, so I was pretty upset when they reversed it.
“He assured me when I watch it on TV tonight, that was his words, ‘When you watch it on TV tonight, you’ll see I got it right.’ I said, ‘Well, I hope you’re right.’ There’s nothing you can do about that as a coach, but the NCAA gives us four umpires. And you’d like to see the umpires trust each other.”
Instead, TV replays and photos showed Dalton’s foot on the bag with the ball in her glove.
Umpires blowing calls on plays five feet in front of them are tough to swallow, but at least understandable. It's the human element.
But it’s unacceptable for third-base umpires to overrule second-base umpires on plays at second base. If you’re going to do so, it better be a Jim Joyce situation. It better not even be close.
“She (second-base umpire) said, ‘She wasn’t sure she saw it,’ but what’s she looking at?” Glasco explained the dialogue of the argument. “If you’re the second-base (umpire), you’ve only got one thing to look at right there. Is the foot on the bag or not? Then if you’re the other umpire, why would you not trust her? Unless you’re positive you got it right. He probably got it right. He seemed to be real confident he got it right. I was real confident he got it wrong at the time.”
Confident or not, he was wrong.
And for the second time in the game, Ole Miss took advantage of his poor judgement with a two-out single.
UL junior ace pitcher Summer Ellyson may have been pitching on the road in the Mississippi heat Saturday afternoon, but the All-American candi…
So that’s four runs either awarded to the Rebels or stolen from the Cajuns — two by Ole Miss and two by poor calls — in a 5-4 game. That's a brutal way to end the postseason.
So much for my pregame wish for this club.
Sure, there was no denying the offense’s late-season slump that began with four series left in the Sun Belt schedule. But as limited as the offense was at times, Raina O’Neal did tie the game at 3-3 with a dramatic three-run homer in the fifth to squash the Rebels’ celebration temporarily.
“They (Cajuns) kind of did the same thing they did at LSU (regional),” Glasco said. “About the fifth inning, they woke up, come from behind and actually took the lead. I felt really good. I don’t know how many times we went into the seventh with Summer on the mound and we’d come out with a win.”
At the time, many UL fans were likely saying ‘oh no’ because Ole Miss coach Mike Smith pulled Brittany Finney in favor of lefty Molly Jacobsen as O’Neal stepped to the plate.
But O’Neal had other thoughts.
“I honestly felt like I hit better off her than the pitcher that started the second game, so I was actually a little bit relieved,” O’Neal said. “I felt like I had a good chance to get off her.”
And Julie Rawls, Kourtney Gremillion and Kara Gremillion all singled off Jacobsen in the sixth to grab a 4-3 lead.
OXFORD, Miss. There were several sloppy base-running mistakes.
“I think we settled down, we stayed in ourselves and we just wanted to battle in that last game,” Rawls said. “We wanted to give it all we had. Everyone left everything they had on the field. I think that showed. We went up to bat with fight and just saw the battle better and just did everything we could to get on base.”
Now comes the long offseason of what might have been for the 52-6 Cajuns.
“In the next couple of days, I’ll be second-guessing every play, every detail, things I could have done differently,” Glasco said. “There will be a lot of looking back and a little bit of pain the next couple of days.”