COLUMBIA - South Carolina's regional elimination game against Campbell was delayed 12 minutes, 30 seconds in the top of the first inning Sunday at Carolina Stadium as umpires consulted an obscure ruling.
The umpires left the field for several minutes and entered their locker room to check their decision with a rulebook. Afterward, crew chief and first-base umpire Jeff Henrichs explained the decision to stop play and leave the field.
"When you have a protest, you have to have a rule book," Henrichs told a pool reporter. "We have to make sure we have the rule right. We got everybody together. We knew we had it right on the field. We wanted to go back into the locker room. We had it underlined (in the rule book), brought it back out. So we were happy with the answer. So that's why we came off the field. We didn't want to go to the dugout; we knew it was in our rulebooks, because it was a rule change a couple of years ago, so that's why we all came into our locker room to get our rulebooks."
With South Carolina third baseman Joey Pankake facing a full count and one out, he was called for batter's interference on his back swing. A backswing interference is unintentional and does not result in an out, assistant NCAA rep Ron Sebastian told reporters in the press box.
South Carolina sophomore Max Schrock was trying to steal second base on the play and stopped midway, getting caught in a rundown. Umpires called the play dead and told Schrock to return to first base, and Campbell coach Greg Goff animatedly argued the call with umpires.
That's when umpires left the field, retreating to their locker room behind the left-field wall. According to NCAA rules, a ball is ruled dead "if the catcher is in the act of making a throw to retire a runner and the batter is in the batter's box and his normal follow-through unintentionally strikes the catcher or the ball while the catcher is in the act of throwing. 'Time' is called and runner returns (unless the catcher's initial throw retires the runner)."
Because Campbell catcher Steve Leonard's initial throw did not retire Schrock, and a rundown naturally ensued, the play was called dead and Schrock was allowed to return to first base.
South Carolina did not score in the first inning. The Gamecocks went on to beat Campbell 9-0 to advance in the regional.
Campbell initially protested, but it removed the protest after hearing the rule.
"I just sat over there and bit my fingernails," South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said. "There's nothing I can do. It's a rule deal, and they had to make sure they got it right. I'm glad they took their time to make sure they got it right.
"It's an obscure rule, but it's a rule that they had to make sure they got right. I think they did the right thing and handled it the correct way."
South Carolina will play Maryland in an elimination game at 7 p.m. at Carolina Stadium. Continue checking PostandCourier.com for live updates from the game and pick up Monday's edition of The Post and Courier for full coverage.