South Carolina’s first game Sunday featured an unusual delay of 12 minutes and 30 seconds in the first inning.
Joey Pankake had swung through a 3-1 pitch from Campbell’s Ryan Koopman, and Max Schrock, who was on first base, took off for second. But he stopped running and was caught in a rundown for what appeared to be an out. Then, it appeared as though batter’s interference was called on Pankake and that he would be the one called out.
The umpires conferred and decided to keep Pankake at the plate and sent Schrock safely back to first base, which prompted a protest from Campbell coach Greg Goff. At that point, the four-man crew jogged to their locker room beyond the left-field fence, leaving the coaches, players and fans waiting for a resolution.
They returned with their on-field ruling, confirmed by a check of the college rulebook.
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“When you have a protest, you have to have a rule book. We have to make sure we have the rule right,” crew chief Jeff Henrichs said. “We got everybody together. We knew we had it right on the field. We wanted to go back into the locker room. We had it underlined, brought it back out. So, we were happy with the answer. That’s why we came off the field. We didn’t want to go to the dugouts. We knew it was in our rulebooks, because it was a rule change a couple of years ago.”
The rule is clear as it’s written.
“If the catcher is in the act of making a throw to retire a runner and the batter is in the batter’s box and his normal follow-through unintentionally strikes the catcher or the ball while the catcher is in the act of throwing, ‘time’ is called and the runners return (unless the catcher’s initial throw retires the runner).”
Despite the delay, both coaches were happy with the result. It helped that the Gamecocks weren’t able to turn Schrock and Pankake, who later walked, into runs.
“It’s an obscure rule, but it’s a rule they had to make sure they got right,” USC coach Chad Holbrook said. “I think they did the right thing and handled it in the correct way. It was tough luck for Campbell, but we didn’t score that inning, anyway.”
Goff had no complaints.
“I didn’t know the rule, so that’s why I protested the call,” Goff said. “They got it right. They did a great job. They were very respectful to us. I hated the delay, but I had never seen that before.”
The sophomore from Chapel Hill, N.C., keeps finding a way to amaze.
With two doubles, one of them scoring two runs in the fourth inning against Campbell, Schrock ended the games with seven hits in 12 at-bats in the first three games of the regional.
But his bad back flared up on him in the later innings, and Holbrook took him out so he could get treatment between games. Schrock, who is hitting .301 with five homers and 23 RBIs in 123 at-bats, has missed 27 games due to a sprained ankle, an illness, and the stress fracture in his back over the course of the season.
“He was awfully sore today, but he still came up big,” Holbrook said. “You get a glimpse of the player we know we have in Max Schrock. It’s just unfortunate that he’s been banged up the whole year. Even though his numbers are decent, they could be even better. A healthy Max Schrock puts up All-American numbers. He’s given his heart and soul for the team.”
Schrock also started the second game of the day against Maryland and went 1- fot-4 to finish the regional with eight hits in 16 at-bats.
Five South Carolina players made the All-Regional team – first baseman Kyle Martin, second baseman DC Arendas, outfielder Tanner English, Schrock as the DH, and pitcher Wil Crowe. Maryland outfielder Charlie White was named the tourney’s Most Outstanding Player.
Tanner English’s stolen base in the fourth inning of Sunday’s second game against Maryland was his 21st of the season. That’s the most since Drew Meyer stole 39 in 2002. English had 12 stolen bases as a freshman in 2012 and nine last season. Brian Roberts holds the single-season school record with 67 in 1999.
Staff writer Dwayne McLemore contributed to this report.