Ashly Erickson's home run should have been a home run.
Rewind to the Minnesota College Athletic Conference state tournament Friday at St. Cloud for the game between the Central Lakes College Raiders and Rochester Yellowjackets, the top-ranked team in Division III of the NJCAA.
Erickson, a Central Lakes College freshman from Little Falls, hit an apparent walk-off, solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning that seemed to have beaten Rochester 1-0.
As Erickson rounded third base and headed for home, ecstatic teammates ran out to slap her hands, something the Raiders have done all season after home runs. This ritual came before Erickson crossed the plate.
Let the hubbub begin.
At that point Rochester coach Jean Musgjerd protested, saying teammates can't make contact with a player who has hit a home run until that player has crossed home plate and she claimed Erickson should be out.
"The girls were so excited, everyone came running out of the dugout," Raiders coach Heidi Rogge said. "They were lined up halfway between third and home. They had their hands out and were giving (Erickson) high fives as she was going past. She hit home plate, and their coach started yelling. I thought Ashly missed home plate so she turned around and stepped on it again."
After Musgjerd's objection, umpires conferred with tournament officials and ruled Erickson out, nullifying the home run in a game CLC eventually lost 4-0 in nine innings.
Wait a minute.
Rule 12.3.1, on Page 165 of the NCAA softball rulebook, which governs the NJCAA and MCAC, states that:
"Offensive team personnel, other than base coaches and runner(s), shall not touch a batter or base runner(s) who is legally running the bases on a dead-ball award until the player(s) contacts home plate.
"For a first offense, the umpire shall issue a warning to the offending team."
That was precisely Rogge's point when the home run was nullified.
"Rules are rules, I understand that," Rogge said. "I should have known we can't do that. But I also knew it should be a warning first.
"Either way it's more about sportsmanship than one game. We hit a walk-off home run on the first pitch in the bottom of the seventh. These girls have a passion and love for the game. To come running out of the dugout at the top of their lungs screaming, how do I hold them back from that?
"I could never do that, even if it happens in the next game, in the same circumstances."
Despite the brouhaha and rule clarification, CLC will not be awarded a win.
"In a regular-season game you have 72 hours to file a protest," Rogge said, "whereas in postseason play you have to file a protest before the next pitch. Once I found (the rule) afterward ... it wouldn't have mattered because we didn't play the rest of the game under protest.
"No one has come to me with the rule they used ... that states the runner is out, without first issued a warning."
Despite the nullification, both teams still will play in their respective region tournaments this weekend.
They could meet again if both make it to nationals May 14-16.
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.
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