The story tonight should be that South Carolina once again overcame all the odds and won their way to the College World Series championship showdown with Arizona. Or perhaps, if you want to go way down the list of ifs and the things that could have happened, that an Arkansas team that few neutral observers counted as a front-runner at the beginning of the NCAA tournament was now two wins away from being the national champions.
One of those things should be the story tonight. But neither will be, neither can be, after a terrible job of umpiring marred what was otherwise a pretty good game that ended as so many others in Omaha have ended over the last few years: With South Carolina eliminating yet another opponent from contention for the championship.
Yes, there were questionable calls involving both teams. But you can't really blame Arkansas fans for being angry right now, because the team that ends up losing the game is always going to have a strong case that the bad calls hurt it more. Which is why it's so unfair to both teams.
It's unfair that South Carolina has to go for its third College World Series championship -- a feat only one team has managed in the history of the game -- with a cloud of controversy brewing overhead. And it's unfair that Arkansas players and fans are left wondering not whether they could have done anything differently, but whether it would have mattered even if they did.
And the NCAA should have to answer why this was allowed to happen in the first place. It's not like the home plate umpire has never had issues before -- he has, with the kicker being that some of those issues came in a game involving Arkansas. The man behind home plate for a decisive game in the College World Series has to be the kind of umpire that everyone can view as fair. Fans are always going to criticize the umpire, but even neutral observers suggested that some of the calls in this one were -- interesting.
Obviously, as a South Carolina fan, I think that the Gamecocks are to be commended for giving themselves a chance to take home the sport's ultimate prize. I'm proud of them and their win no matter what anybody says about the umpiring, and I'll be cheering for them to beat Arizona in the finals. Unless you're found breaking the rules, there are no asterisks next to championships.
But it would have been nice to write a post about Tyler Webb or Matt Price or something else from tonight's game. It also would have been fundamentally dishonest. Even one of the umpires in Friday night's game probably would have been able to see that.