UCLA assistant softball coach Lisa Fernandez suspended 2 games
UCLA softball assistant coach Lisa Fernandez has been suspended two games for bumping an umpire after being ejected from the Bruins' Women's College World Series win over Texas A&M on Saturday.
Fernandez was ejected in the sixth inning after protesting a play at home plate involving UCLA's Gabrielle Maurice and Texas A&M catcher Ashley Walters. A throw home led Walters to tag Maurice in the face. Fernandez came onto the field and argued there should have been an obstruction call, and she bumped the home plate ump.
The fired-up Bruins scored five runs in the seventh and beat the Aggies 8-2 in Oklahoma City, but their tournament run ended in the evening. With Fernandez watching from the stands, Washington eliminated UCLA 1-0.
Bruins coach Kelly Inouye-Perez liked what she saw from her team against Texas A&M after the incident.
"You can have big debates about what momentum is, but I think what you got to see is there was a real strong belief in having each other's backs. That's something that is very, very powerful," Inouye-Perez said. "We know that we're in a battle, and anytime somebody potentially is put in position to get hurt or in any position that may put themselves in a need for somebody to have their backs, this team steps up."
Inouye-Perez appreciated Fernandez standing up for Maurice. She said she was disappointed there was no obstruction call because of the risk Maurice had to take to try and reach the plate.
"I have no regrets because what Lisa did -- if you know how much she has Gabi's back, I'm glad it only got to be an ejection," Inouye-Perez said. "But clearly Lisa, she has a great respect for the game. Lisa is an icon in our sport. Lisa is the epitome of 'role model'. When it comes to understanding her responsibility, we don't necessarily condone, that's not who we are. Yet, once again, it's an opportunity to fight for our players."
NCAA Softball Secretary and Rules Editor Vickie Van Kleeck disagreed with the way Inouye-Perez and Fernandez saw the play.
"The fielder has the right to field the errant throw, and the base runner has the right to run to home plate, and then we have a collision," Van Kleeck said. "It's not an obstruction issue. They both had a right to be where they were, and unfortunately, they came together and made contact. Obstruction doesn't enter into that particular play."
While Inouye-Perez said Fernandez's outburst showed the kind of commitment to the players that the team preaches, the head coach said things could have been handled better.
"They are doing everything they can to be able to fight to the last page and there's some calls out here that are questionable. But that's the job; it's the game," Inouye-Perez said. "Our goal is to not get caught up in that. And I've got to check myself also. Lisa definitely put herself in a position to always have the players' back but the message is: we've got to understand what's in our control. Those calls are going to be tricky at times and I've got to make sure that we don't let it be the reason that we kind of go overboard."
Fernandez's suspension will carry over into next season.
Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.