Confounding blown call helps UCLA upend Florida in Game 2 of 2018 WCWS

By Adam Silverstein
June 2, 2018
Confounding blown call helps UCLA upend Florida in Game 2 of 2018 WCWS
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No. 2 Florida Gators softball was running through the No. 3 UCLA Bruins for much of their game Friday night … until an unfathomably bad call at home plate completely reversed the momentum at the 2018 Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Florida led UCLA 4-0 entering the top of the fourth inning when junior right-handed pitcher Kelly Barnhill began struggling — in more ways than one. After committing an error on a throw to first, Barnhill hit a batter, threw a wild pitch and walked consecutive batters to give the Bruins their first run of the game.

With the bases loaded, redshirt sophomore shortstop Sophia Reynoso (2/2, HR, RBI, R, BB) snagged a foul ball for the second out of the inning and gunned it to home where senior catcher Janell Wheaton (0/4, 3 K) caught it clean and tagged the runner before she reached home plate. But instead of making the obvious call, the home plate umpire — clearly out of position down the third base line — called the runner safe. Without the benefit of replay that would have corrected the call and ended the inning, the Gators saw their lead cut to 4-2 … until it was erased completely as Barnhill gave up a three-run homer to the very next batter, one that never would’ve had the chance to take the plate in that frame had it not been for the blown call.

Florida smacked three home runs in the game with Reynoso (second inning) and sophomore pinch hitter Jordan Roberts (sixth) hitting solo shots, while senior first baseman Kayli Kvistad (3/4, HR, 2 RBI, R) jacked a two-run bomb in the third to build the 4-0 lead. UCLA also connected with a another homer in the sixth.

Following Roberts’ shot, the Gators were able to put the game-tying run on third with two outs in the sixth, but senior left fielder Amanda Lorenz (0/3, 2 R, BB) uncharacteristically hit a weak grounder to the pitcher on an 0-2 count to end the inning and Florida’s best chance of tying the game. One frame later, head coach Tim Walton got tossed after arguing with the same home plate umpire who blew the call earlier in the game. This led to some even more questionable strike calls in the game’s final frame that ultimately forced UF batters to swing at bad pitches.

Even more depressing for Florida is that Barnhill (7.0 IP, 3 H, 6 R [1 ER], 2 BB, 13 K) was dealing before her rough frame and relative implosion; she struck out eight straight to open the game and only allowed a single hit through the first five innings. Rachel Garcia was equally impressive for UCLA as, despite the three homers allowed, she struck out 15 on the evening and kept UF at bay after her team took the lead.

Rather than advance into the winner’s bracket and be one game away from the WCWS Championship Series, the Gators move into the loser’s bracket and must now win three games over the next two days to advance. Florida will play the winner of No. 4 Oklahoma vs. No. 8 Arizona State on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET. The winner of that game will face No. 5 Washington on Sunday at 1 p.m., needing to win two games in order to play for the championship. Florida had started 2-0 in its last three WCWS appearances.

40 Comments

  1. Doug says:

    Why is it so hard to find the name of the umpire for this game? What a loser. Disappointed in the NCAA.

    • Cliff says:

      I’ve been trying to find out who he is so I can file a report with the NCAA head of officials, if anybody has the name it would be nice to include it in my report.

      • A woods says:

        Brandon Bluhm was his name

      • Ryan Lundy says:

        Brandon Bluhm

      • Jose says:

        Who the heck are you to file a report? What kind of report? Do you think the entire NCAA Women’s Softball Committee wasn’t at the game, including the head of the Softball Umpire Program?

        • Nicholl says:

          If they were there why did they not say anything or do anything. Considering that this play was the wrong call.

      • Jose says:

        Hey Cliff, what kind of report are you going to file? Who are you to file a report? Don’t you think the entire NCAA Women’s Softball Championship Committee was at the game watching> And the head of the NCAA Softball Umpire Program?? Send your report to #sourgrapes@dontcrydotcom

      • Dave Hickman says:

        It should be in the box score. What everyone is missing in this game is that the first runner that got on from the bunt and “bad throw” from Barnhill SHOULD have been called out for interference–she ran INSIDE the baseline and that impacted the play–contact does not have to occur to be called out. A bad high school game is this umps limit; he is in way over his head at this level. Just another reason that replay should be allowed at this level since it will now affect the entire outcome of this World Series.

    • K. says:

      Agreed!!!

    • Lynn O'Connor says:

      I agree, that guy should NOT be allowed to Ump any more games. Even the commentators remarked how badly his calls were. He lost the game for Florida.

    • Joe Wright says:

      I’m with you I hope he never gets to call another game after this one!

    • Joe Wright says:

      I’m with you why can’t we find out his name, I hope he never gets to call any more games,to make as many mistake as he made in such an important game or any game please don’t let him mess up any more stats

    • Anita Nukar says:

      The ump was correct in his call.No controversy here.

  2. David D says:

    Im not a florida fan but that was clearly an ump that took this game into his own hands for his own personal reasons.Disgusting……

  3. Cliff says:

    Brandon Bluhm was the home plate umpire

  4. JESSICA says:

    That was the worst called softball game I have ever seen. He’s lucky the game wasn’t near Gainsville.

    Someone should start a GoFundMe to get that umpire glasses.

  5. Richie Mo says:

    In 20 + years of watching WCWS I can say that I’ve never seen an umpire make such blatantly bad calls that go consistently against one team. It was embarrassing for all parties involved.

  6. Stilly Sprague says:

    I was rooting for UCLA to win, but not like this. It was a horrible call at the plate, which allowed a bunch of runs for UCLA when the inning should have been over, followed by ridiculous called strike threes against Florida that just looked like an umpire trying to teach someone a lesson. What a disgrace.

  7. Stilly Sprague says:

    I was rooting for UCLA to win, but not like this. What a disgrace, first the obviously blown call at the plate, which should have ended the inning, followed by a bunch of runs that never would have scored. Then the umpire was obviously trying to teach Florida a lesson with all those ridiculous called strike threes that weren’t even close to the plate. What a jackass.

  8. jaldana says:

    please people settle down the world isn’t coming to an end even after watching the reply over and over its was an extremely hard play to call due to the angle of the tag and the runners feet.umps are pay to call what they see NOT WHAT YOU THINK HAPPEND and by the way if you think it’s easy to ump a game I challenge you to volunteer and ump a game I am sure you will change you’re mind how difficult it is to ump.

    • Wade says:

      It may be difficult to ump but this is the COLLEGE WORLD SERIES. This guy is obviously unqualified to be calling a game at this level OR he is an ASS who decided to influence the outcome of the game. Either way there is PLENTY to complain about. Stop making excuses for such a horrible job.

  9. Roger Moser says:

    this I totally an ingenious who calls himself an ump. Ray Charles could see better than that!!! Something needs to be done about this call!! The stakes were too high for this nonsense!!! Cost FL. The game maybe the series!! Everyone needs to file complaint!!

  10. Lynn O'Connor says:

    I cannot believe how this Umpire was allowed to continue to stay in that position after the obviously wrong home plate call. The Gators were obviously targeted to lose that game. It didn’t matter who you were rooting for, the calls from him were so bad, even the commentators agreed how badly his calls were. I hope to God he’s not allowed to be a home plate Ump in any more of these games. Tim Walton had every right to argue with this association.

  11. Lynn O'Connor says:

    I cannot believe how this Umpire was allowed to continue to stay in that position after the obviously wrong home plate call. The Gators were obviously targeted to lose that game. It didn’t matter who you were rooting for, the calls from him were so bad, even the commentators agreed how badly his calls were. I hope to God he’s not allowed to be a home plate Ump in any more of these games. Tim Walton had every right to argue with this ass.

  12. Jim Hendry says:

    Not only was there a bad call at the plate in the fourth inning but the umpire started calling pitches strikes outside by 6+ inches off the plate in the last 2 innings when the Gators were trying to come from behind virtually sealing their fate

  13. jerry says:

    There were 15 strikeouts, and the position I’m reading from the fans is that “all” of them were not in the strike zone because they weren’t even close to the plate. As for the ejection, this is clearly defined in the rulebook:
    “Prohibition on questioning calls based purely on umpire’s judgment. Discussion of these calls (out/safe, strikes/balls, foul/fair, illegal/legal pitch) are examples of plays that WILL NOT be overturned, unless there is a point of rule such as a fielder being pulled off the base, whether a third strike hits the ground, or if a tag is missed.
    However, strikes cannot be changed to balls, dead balls cannot be revived to
    become live, foul balls changed to fair and illegal pitches cannot be declared
    legal, even in the current climate of “getting the call right” with additional
    information. So these and other questions as to the accuracy of an umpire’s
    call WILL NO LONGER BE ALLOWED to disrupt the flow of the game and WILL RESULT
    in a warning for the first and ejection for the second.”

    My theory is that these are casual fans, baseball fans, that don’t understand strike zone dynamics, and don’t understand the discretion of the umpire is final. Meaning, if they are calling them strikes all night, don’t you think by the 3rd time in the inning it happens, the batter should adjust and take a swing? The Florida strategy to sit back on these balls was evidently because they wanted to produce baserunners without the risk of a putout in the field. That strategy backfired.

    As for the play at the plate, I watched it six times. You can say that it occurred during a pivotal point in the game. You can say that the umpire was at a different angle than we’re used to seeing in MLB. But they don’t have the luxury of four umpires in college softball, and they do not have replay analysis. The position of the umpire was not inappropriate, and he could see the play. To get a call like that overturned (even in sports that now diminish the officials’ role with replay, which this is not), there would have to be a lot of conclusive evidence, which this video does not provide.

    The Florida fan needs to accept this loss and move on. No one is entitled to favorable calls. The championship mentality does not allow for faulting an umpire for a one run loss when there are nine opportunities to score runs and Florida struck out their opportunity side in the ninth.

    • Rick Helms says:

      Stop by my house, we’ll discuss it.

    • Tom says:

      Non of what you wrote made sense. Not a single fan blamed all of the strikeouts on the umpire. And the play at the plate should have been called correctly – not favorably. Also, with field umpires, the positioning for the home plate umpire is a no brainer. He doesn’t go running down the line with a runner at 3rd base and a field umpire there on the line. His job is to stay behind the plate the entire play, observe the runner on 3rd, and if there’s a play, to position for the view of the play. He did none of that. The game was stolen from Florida, it’s that simple.

    • Shannon says:

      The integrity of that game and the institution of the WCWS was seriously damaged because of a single person’s consistently poor calls. That video IS conclusive. There’s no doubt it was a good tag well in time. Florida did have the chances to put more runs on the board. Those girls are elite athletes, and have built the emotional fortitude to face down bad calls and overcome late game setbacks (see super regional game 3). Florida, in an ideal world, would have taken the power back and put runs on the board, even in the face of bad calls and a liberal strike zone. But the two are not mutually exclusive. Florida lost that game because first, the ump made a bad call that allowed a go-ahead home run the next play that turned the emotional tide of the game. Then, sadly for the gators, they never regained the lead because they couldn’t rise above in the face of some extreme adversity.

    • Buck says:

      Seriously!
      You want to be the guy defending that umpires one way calls all nite.
      The game is over and so is UF season. This umpire did decide the outcome.

      True UF put them self in position to let umpire calls decide the game!

      The runner on the error play, clearly was on the playing field and should by rule be called out.
      The play at the plate was bang bang play. Without reply home umpire should have consulted with other umpires. Bottom line to bad for Gators.

      The stike zone only widened in the last two innings. It looked like umpire was teaching UF that they should not question him, because I (home plate umpire can make it very hard for you). Umpire let UCLA pitcher throw strikes 6 inches outside the strike zone. He changes the strike zone the last two innings. UF batters could not swing at balls well outside the strike zone and have them called strikes, or they could swing at balls they could not reach and strike out. This was intentional on the umpires part, or he just decided to get the game over and call everything strikes.
      No reason to think he wanted UCLA to win, but it appears he wanted UF to lose after UF coach challenged him.

    • Chris says:

      What does nine opportunities to score runs in your last paragraph mean ?

    • Bill says:

      The Florida coach was tossed for questioning strike calls on pitches thrown by the Florida pitcher that were clearly balls because the Florida coach had instructed the Florida pitcher several times to not throw a strike so she didn’t but the umpire called them strikes. The Florida coach did not argue the pitching calls when Florida was batting, he was questioning the umpire calling strikes thrown by the Florida pitcher that should have been called as balls because the Florida pitchers do as they are told and if the coach says do not throw a strike, the Florida pitchers will not throw a strike, they will clearly throw a ball out of the strike zone and yet the umpire called “STRIKE” even the Florida pitcher indicated that she did throw a ball as she was instructed and it was not her fault the umpire called it a strike.

  14. Kent Brooks says:

    The call in the Washington / Oklahoma game was far worse. Girl bobbled the ball, tried to secure it with her hand, dropped it again and it ended up on the other side of her body, and fell to the ground.

  15. Karla Benton says:

    Are the Gators home or away for Saturday night game? I want tickets on the Gators side.

  16. Mark says:

    I’m not a Gator fan but I like to see the game’s decided by the players not officials. It will be harder but Florida can still win this. I’m pulling for the Gators now. RTR Mark

  17. THigson says:

    These are bang bang plays happening at the speed of real life and “in the moment” and like it is very often said by those of us who coach and have to deal with “daddy ball,” join the ranks of umpiring and see what it’s all about. Bad call or not, Walton has no excuse for his actions. Hidden well in front of the camera, his true demeanor shows too often. Unacceptable.

  18. SWFL Joe says:

    Old guard softball wants the championship back in the Pac 12 and will screw over any other team to make it happen. Watch there will be an all Pac 12 final.

  19. Barrett Kemp says:

    I referee soccer and as assistant referee calling off sides is your primary responsibility. In order to do so you have to be IN POSITION to make the right call. The umpire in question was in no way in position to make the call. There is no way he could see if the runner touched the plate before being tagged or if the catcher tagged her first. Had numb nuts been in position he would have seen the runner was out. If nothing else more people would have been convinced that the runner was safe since he was “in position” to make the call. He had no business being halfway up the line. He saw the throw coming so why did he wait until the ball had passed him before running (?) towards the plate. An umpire should never be chasing the ball. Enough said.

  20. tom says:

    Any word from the NCAA on disciplining that umpire or bringing instant replay in?

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