Tommy Benson

Chesterton's Tommy Benson remains outspoken about the umpire ruling in the 4A semistate game that cost the Trojans two runs.

Time heals all wounds, so they say.

Maybe not for Chesterton's baseball team.

The Trojans' ire over a missed call that cost them two runs in a 5-3 loss to Fishers in the Class 4A Plymouth Semistate hasn't abated more than a week later.

Fishers' win in the 4A final was a bitter pill to swallow, and the fact that James Craig — the home plate umpire who made the incorrect ruling on the delayed dead ball play in the semistate — handled first base in the 3A final added insult to injury.

"Shame on the IHSAA," Chesterton coach Jack Campbell said. "They're always quick to punish everybody else who made mistakes but they take care of their own. (Craig) talked to (IHSAA assistant commissioner Robert) Faulkens and he said he was sorry, he blew it. Great. That doesn't do us any good. Go ahead and ump the state finals."

Chesterton trailed Fishers 4-0 in the second inning when Benson singled to center field, scoring two runs. Unbeknownst to many as the play was unfolding, Craig had blown the action dead because Benson's bat made contact with the catcher's glove. Benson was put on first and the other runners were sent back. Campbell and teammates had to hold back an angry Benson as he vehemently protested the call.

"I was trying to keep him in the game," Campbell said. "He's a bright kid. He knew the rule. I assumed they knew the rule."

Chesterton failed to score in the inning and the angst only grew stronger with the eventual closeness of the score.

The loss can't be blamed on the call, and there was no guarantee Chesterton was going to win, but the Trojans obviously would've liked to have taken their chances with the two other runs.

"(Craig) failed at his job," said Benson, who emailed a letter to Faulkens. "If a regular employee messes up at their job, there are consequences. He ruined our whole season. They won't accept the fact they were wrong. They took our dream away and they took no responsibility for it."

Via email, IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox said there was no conversation held with respect to removing Craig from the state crew.

"Across all our tournament series events, while we strive for perfectly adjudicated contests, there are instances where mistakes in judgement and application occur," Cox said. "It is the human element associated with sports. ... From our perspective, this issue has been resolved."

Campbell also emailed Faulkens and spoke with him Friday at Victory Field. Faulkens responded in a cordial if not contrite manner to Benson, telling him he respected his passion and appreciated his suggestions.

"This incident has been and will continue to be a teachable moment for our umpires," Faulkens wrote.

Approached on the subject prior to Saturday's 2A game, Faulkens would not address the subject.

"Not one time did he say they were sorry," Benson said. "He said the ump feels awful, what about us? The fact that they put him back out there was absolutely ridiculous. I was stunned. I didn't think I could be more upset. Honestly, though, nothing surprised me. I didn't expect them to take responsibility. It was so disrespectful. They owe us an apology. It's a slap in the face to us and to coach Campbell. He's coached 48 years and done nothing wrong. He's the perfect coach for high school."

Campbell admitted he didn't know the rule as the play happened so he didn't react as emotionally.

"Obviously, it's a freak thing. I've never been involved in a game where there was catcher's interference and a base hit," he said. "It's always been a ground ball back to the pitcher. Tommy knew the rule, his dad knew the rule, his uncle knew the rule and they were all shut down. They threatened to kick them out of the stands. I wish I had known the rule. I would've sat on home plate. I'm going to defend my team, my kids, do whatever I have to do to get it right."

After getting home and Googling the delayed dead ball rule, 8-1.1 in the National Federation of High Schools manual, Campbell attached a picture of it to an email to Faulkens, who was also at the semistate game. In response, he said Faulkens cited the back swing rule, though Benson's bat struck the catcher's glove going forward. Faulkens told Campbell he subsequently spoke to Craig, who clarified to him that the play should not have been blown dead and Chesterton should have been given the option of taking the result.

"I've talked to five basketball officials who are also umpires and they all knew the rule," Campbell said. "I wasn't aware of it, but I don't have to be. They should know. Either all four of them didn't know or the other ones knew and didn't step up. All we ask is they get it right. There should have been something done. Why can't they go back and change it?"

Two umpires contacted after the game said the dead ball ruling negated any further action. Faulkens cited in the letter that he is unable to change calls, as indicated in IHSAA by-laws, as Cox also affirmed.

"They want to forget it, put it behind them, get as far away from it as possible," Benson said.

In Faulkens' letter, he told Benson he appreciated his suggestions, which included establishing a rules review panel, something that's already done with football. He also raised the idea of having a pre-tournament refresher for officials on rules like this one that can be a potential stumbling block.

"That's something good that came out of it," Benson said.

Chesterton's only solace is that another team, hopefully, won't be the victim of the same mistake in the future.

Small consolation, no doubt.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at jim.peters@nwi.com.


Sports reporter

Jim was keeping standings on his chalkboard from the time he could print and keeping kickball stats in grade school at St. Bridget's. He covers all manner of prep sports for The Times and is a long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan.