To say the Flower Mound softball team had a rough week would be a terrible understatement.
The team thought it had Saturday's one-game Class 5A regional quarterfinal against Plano East in the bag on a walk-off hit that scored a runner from second base in the bottom of the seventh.
The play appeared to end when the runner slid past a tag from the Plano East catcher, eliciting a safe signal from the home plate umpire.
But the runner was tagged during the Flower Mound celebration and was called out for not touching home plate.
The controversy boiled down to a small difference in rules between softball and baseball as mandated by the National High School Federation.
Rule 2, section 1, article 9 of the NHSF rule book states: “If a runner misses home plate and the catcher misses the tag, the umpire should hesitate slightly. If no tag is made, the umpire should declare the runner safe. If an appeal play is then made by tagging either the runner or home plate, the umpire should then make a decision on this appeal play.”
In baseball, umpires are instructed to hold position and refrain from making any call if no tag is made on a play and the runner misses the plate.
“The intention of the rule was probably meant to be good but in this situation it was not,” Flower Mound coach Mark Larriba said.
Flower Mound failed to plate any more runners in the seventh and could not come from behind in the eighth after Plano East took a 3-2 lead, ending the Lady Jaguars’ season in a crushing fashion.
And it came while the team was already dealing with tragedy.
Earlier in the week, Flower Mound catcher Christy Lisenby's father died in a car accident. The team did not practice Wednesday and had a memorial service to attend after the Saturday's game.
“There was a lot of emotion going around and then to have that happen,” Larriba said. “It was difficult to tell the girls the right thing. We realized softball is like life – it’s not fair. Sometimes things go against you but how you react to adversity is what coaches teach you and we really had to apply that.”
Larriba said he has no hard feelings toward the umpire, whom he said was trying to do his job to the best of his abilities, and wished Plano East the best of luck in their journey deeper in to the playoffs.
He just chalks it up to the human element to the game – which includes those who write the rules.
“The lesson is that people make mistakes. If we never forgave people for making mistakes, the world would be a hateful place,” Larriba said.
At least one area team destined for Austin
All that remain in the Class 4A Region II bracket are four strong teams from the Metroplex, meaning one will earn a bid to the state tournament in Austin.
Defending state finalist Forney returns to the regional semifinal to face a hot Rockwall squad that has yet to face much of a challenge in its playoff run. The first two games will be held at Forney on Thursday and Rockwall on Friday, with a rubber match Saturday at Plano West if necessary.
The winner of that series has either Frisco Wakeland or Ennis to look forward to in the region final.
Wakeland has been impressive, outscoring opponents 53-2 through four games in the first three rounds of play.
In 4A Region I, Birdville is the only area team still alive.
Hebron ousts Plano in regional quarterfinal
Plano will not make a return trip to Austin after falling to Hebron 4-2 in a one-game Class 5A regional quarterfinal Saturday.
That leaves just Plano East and Hebron representing the area in the 5A bracket, both in Region I. Plano East faces Lubbock Coronado and Hebron takes on El Paso Americas in the regional semis this weekend.