Coach Pam Pine saw it. Catcher Allie Hock saw it. Even the fans saw it. The only person that needed to see it, however, didn't.
Thanks to a two-run single in the top of the seventh inning that included a controversial safe call on a play at the plate, Shawnee Mission South rallied for a 2-1 softball win over Free State in game two of a doubleheader Thursday at the Firebirds' home field.
"It's a real bummer that a play like that has to decide the game," left fielder Rosie Hull said. "I talked to some fans and they said it was obvious. I thought she was out by a long ways."
The controversy started in the top of the seventh with Free State just one out away from sweeping the twinbill after winning game one, 5-2. Shawnee Mission South had the bases loaded with its No. 3 hitter, Amanda Bolton, at the plate.
Bolton lined a 2-1 fastball into center field for a single. The tying run easily scored from third, as the runner from second base, Maggie O'Neal, rounded third and headed for home. Aleese Kopf, the center fielder, threw a strike to Hock, the catcher, who was up the third-base line a few feet and had the plate completely blocked.
"Aleese made a great throw," Hock said. "I was trying to watch the ball and the runner. She tried to hook slide the plate and I don't think she ever touched it. I thought we had her."
As Free State players and fans began to celebrate the out, the home-plate umpire surprised everyone in attendance by pronouncing O'Neal safe.
"Allie had the plate blocked where the runner had to try and go around her," Pine said. "Allie tagged her before she got to the plate. I didn't think there would even be any question about it but he (the umpire) said he was all over it. I didn't think she was safe."
The run put SMS up 2-1 and completed the dramatic comeback. The Firebirds did not score in the bottom of the seventh and were silent as they packed up their gear and headed home. It was a disappointing ending to what was one out away from being a perfect day.
In game one, the Firebirds won behind a strong pitching effort from Summer Mulford. Free State's only senior was honored between games, as she was given an autographed ball by the team and it was announced that a new award had been created in her honor. Mulford went the distance, allowing only four hits and one earned run in seven innings.
"It was really sad," Mulford said of playing her last home game at Free State. "I am going to miss it a lot. I enjoy all of the friendships that I have with all of the girls so I am going to miss it a lot."
Mulford was given some offensive support in the fourth inning when Hull connected for a two-run single to tie the game at 2. Hull later tripled in a run in the sixth inning and on the day went 4-for-6 with three RBIs.
Free State (14-4) will try to regain its winning ways when it travels to Olathe South on Tuesday.