Softball: Game ending call scratches Tigers from playoffs

Umpire calls interference on Woodlake baserunner in failed double play giving Fresno Christian a one-run win

WOODLAKE – Close playoff games are usually decided by the team that makes the biggest mistake in the biggest moment. It’s usually not the umpire making the mistake, though.

That was the case on Friday night when the Woodlake Tigers lost their Division V home playoff game to the Fresno Christian Eagles, 3-2. It’s no surprise the game was close as the teams were evenly matched heading into the quarterfinal matchup. Both teams entered the game with 9 wins in league and tied 2-2 in their previous meeting on Feb. 23. The Eagles scored 256 runs this year and the Tigers 263. 

But there was a surprise ending.

Woodlake entered the seventh inning down 3-1 after several missed opportunities to score throughout the game. Fresno Christian’s pitcher walked Carissa Lopez and head coach Ramon Lara brought in Arianna Hernandez to pinch run to move into scoring position. Hannah Lafferty grounded out before Evelyn Acosta lined a ball up the middle allowing Hernandez to score and putting the tying run on first base. Audrina Rodriguez hit a grounder to the shortstop who stepped on second base for a force out and then made a wild throw to first base. Rodriguez stayed at first to ensure the tying run was on base as the Eagles scrambled to get the ball back to the pitcher.

A few moments later, the first base umpire called interference on Hernandez, saying she interfered with the throw to first. 

Lara protested but the umpire didn’t change the call and ended the game. As the Eagles were soaring along the third baseline, the Tigers were reduced to tears knowing their season ended without a chance to play out the inning. After consoling the girls, Lara said baserunners are not required to get down to give infielders a clear line to throw and no rule says jogging up to the base is considered interference. The throw was also well over the first baseman’s mitt and probably wouldn’t have been an out if the baserunner had decided to slide.

“He had to go out of his way to make a bad call,” Lara said. “If he would have done nothing and we went on to lose the game, I’ll take that over this.”

Lara said it was difficult to watch the season end on a bad call because the girls had played hard all year. Most starters rarely got breaks as the Tigers only carried a 11-player roster for all but a few games to start the year. The Tigers were gritty and stayed focused and engaged in every play despite falling behind 2-0 in the first inning. 

“This was a good group of girls,” Lara said. “They played hard all year long.”

The good news, Lara said, is that most of the players will return next year. Six players were freshman, three sophomores, two juniors and just one senior. The team usually carries 14 or 15 players. Woodlake won its first round matchup 6-2 at home against Porterville on May 18. Fresno Christian moves on to the Division V semifinals on May 25.

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