In baseball, nine players take the field. You hit the ball and run to first (after tee ball, that is, when it feels almost mandatory for those adorable kids to run to the wrong base at least once).
Most everyone knows the guidelines for playing the sport, and to “play by the rules” is the most fundamental idea in organized competition.
But in the Fort Worth Super Regional, the rule book is playing a bigger role than normal. Especially for the TCU Horned Frogs.
For the uninitiated, the biggest out in Sunday’s game two of the best-of-three series with a trip to Omaha on the line came in the eighth inning, when TCU’s Jerrick Suiter tried to score from second on a single to center field. Pepperdine pitcher-outfielder Aaron Brown threw a strike to the plate to erase the tying run as Suiter attempted to leap-Frog (get it?) over the Waves' catcher, Aaron Barnett.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Richard Rodriguez got this photo of the play at the plate.
The tag was applied on Suiter’s inner thigh, and no objection was made to the out call by the home plate umpire. After the game, TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle backed up the notion that Suiter should have been sent home.
"Definitely. How many other two-out hits did you see us get?," he said. "You have to force them to play catch, and he made a great throw."
Schlossnagle said his only question on the play was whether there was obstruction from Barnett, but he said Brown made a great play and the call was correct. Obstruction is defined by the rule book as a player who is blocking a runner’s path while not “in the act” of fielding.
By the rule, Barnett did not obstruct Suiter’s path to the plate, as he was “in the act” of receiving Brown’s throw.
Suiter also could’ve collided with Barnett rather than trying to leap over him. The collision rule in college baseball, however, is a slippery slope.
“We have some crazy rules in college baseball, and that’s a play that’s tough to practice,” Schlossnagle said. “So many times you see the flagrant stuff. It’s easy to look back and say he should’ve gone through the catcher, but that’s not a play you can practice at any time.”
The rule book cites an intent “to encourage base runners and defensive players to avoid such collisions whenever possible.”
In theory, Suiter could’ve been ruled out by the umpire’s judgment if he collided with Barnett. Caught between a metaphorical rock and a hard place, Suiter took flight.
Away from home at home?
The rule book also puts the Frogs in a precarious situation Monday -- once again in the visitor’s dugout at Lupton Stadium, TCU’s home field, despite being a national seed and hosting the Super Regional.
Here’s the rule on determining home field in a Super Regional:
At the pre-tournament meeting, TCU lost the coin flip and will play two of three games at their home stadium as the visiting team.
“Those are the rules…That’s part of it,” Schlossnagle said.
He also referred to 2010, the last time TCU made it to Omaha, when the Horned Frogs were not a national seed but played two of three games as the home team in Austin against the no. 2 seed Longhorns. The Frogs won that series and competed for a national title, losing to UCLA in the semifinal.
Southlake Carroll grad and TCU freshman Tyler Alexander (10-3) will be on the mound for the Frogs in Monday’s game 3, facing Jackson McClelland (8-3) and the Waves.
First pitch is slated for 3 p.m. in Fort Worth.