Back in the day, we had several occasions to bat against Mike White, a native New Zealander who happened to be one of the greatest fastpitch-softball pitchers of all-time. Whitey wasn't a big guy, but he had great command of all of his pitches, and was an absolutely fierce competitor.
So, last night, we turned on the tube to watch ASU begin its national-title defense at the College World Series in Oklahoma City, and there was head coach White (now in his early 50s) leading his Oregon Ducks against the Sun Devils.
ASU and its ace pitcher Dallas Escobedo ended up winning the first-round game 3-1, and we are quite sure that Coach White didn't sleep so well last night. That's because his scrappy team totally got screwed in the first inning in a play that set the tone for the rest of the night.
Fastpitch is a game of momentum, and in naturally tight spots like the first game of a national championships, the team that scores first often is sitting pretty.
When the Ducks seemingly scored on a sacrifice fly to right in the top of the first, it seemed as if ASU was going to be in for an uphill tussle against a conference rival with whom it split two games in the regular season.
The ESPN live camera work wasn't so hot on this one, but suddenly ASU was running off the field and celebrating the end of the inning with score still 0-0.
The third-base ump, who was all of about five feet from the base, upheld Devils' head coach Clint Myers' appeal and said the Oregon runner had left for home too early--a tick before the outfielder caught the ball.
The replay showed that the ump blew the call.
It was far too close to change the complexion of the inning--and the game--by taking away a precious run from the underdog Oregon team. Naturally, ASU--which is a well-coached and tenacious team--came back in its half of the inning and put up a run to take a 1-0 lead.
Like we said, momentum....
The Devils wound up winning 3-1, despite managing just three hits. Timely hitting and defense, and a solid effort by Escobedo was enough for the champs to hold off Oregon, which had the bases loaded and none out in the seventh, but managed just one run.
ASU is set to play Alabama tonight at 6 p.m. in a winner's bracket game that will be televised on ESPN. The Devils have a good chance to repeat as national champs, though it will be anything but easy.
As for Whitey's team, they play Tennessee tonight, with the loser going home. Knowing his personality, we know that the Ducks will be fired up for tonight's game to the max.
We'd love to see Oregon face ASU again in this tournament.