It was the kind of game that will be talked about for years to come.

But for all the wrong reasons.

Florida beat Clemson 11-10 on Sunday in an epic 13-inning, 5-hour Super Regional instant classic that sent the Gators to the College World Series. It was a game full of plot twists, momentum swings and clutch individual performances.

All of that, however, was overshadowed by the actions of an umpiring crew that didn’t come close to matching the level of competence shown by the young players on the 2 teams.

It’s not as if the calls of home plate ump Greg Harmon and crew members Billy Van Raaphorst, Tim Cordill and Scott Letendre directly affected the outcome of this game. Florida made more winning plays, including the walkoff double by Michael Robinson, and earned the hard-fought victory.

But if Clemson had won and extended the best-of-3 series to a deciding game on Monday, their decisions would have had a massive, potentially game-altering impact.

The Tigers would have had to play the game without starting first baseman Jack Crighton, head coach Erik Bakich and assistant coach Jack Leggett because of ejections that should never have happened.
Crighton was sent to the showers following a minor altercation in which he wasn’t even involved.

It happened after Clemson’s Nolan Nawrocki and Florida pitcher Jac Caglianone began exchanging words after an aggressive tag that ended the top of the 2nd inning. Players from both sides came to the aid of their teammates and were eventually separated without further incident.

No harm, no foul.

Right?

Nope.

Nawrocki and Caglianone were allowed to stay in the game, as they should have been. But after a lengthy review, Crighton was ejected.

A few innings later, during an in-game interview on ESPN’s broadcast of the game, Bakich said that his player was thrown out for leaving his position as a runner on second base “even though it was the third out of the inning and he was coming back to the dugout.”

Because the ejection carries a mandatory 1-game suspension along with it, the Tigers not only had to do without the .313 hitter for the rest of the game but for a decisive Game 3 had it been necessary.

They would also have been without Bakich because of another egregious example of over-officiating.

This one happened after Alden Mathes hit a 2-out homer to give Clemson a 10-9 lead in the top of the 13th. Immediately after the Tigers’ leadoff hitter rounded the bases, the umpiring crew huddled, presumably to discuss Mathes’ celebratory bat spike.

That prompted Bakich out of the dugout, eventually leading to his ejection.

Both situations could easily have been avoided had the adults in the room had a better feel for the importance and emotion of the situation and given the kids a little leeway instead of making themselves the center of attention.

Maybe then we’d be talking about Cam Cannarella’s dramatic game-tying 9th-inning homer and circus catch, the lead changes, Robinson’s clutch walkoff hit or anything else that happened during one of the most dramatic, exciting and meaningful college baseball games in recent memory.

Instead of the Ump Show that upstaged it.

Florida wasn’t the only team to earn a trip to Omaha on Day 3 of the Super Regionals.

While Saturday was the ACC’s day to shine, with 3 teams clinching their spots in the College World Series, Sunday belonged to the SEC. Tennessee joined the Gators as a series winner with a 12-1 Game 3 victory that finally put away pesky Evansville while Texas A&M and Kentucky swept their respective series’ by closing out Oregon and Oregon State, respectively.

The Aggies came from behind to beat the Ducks 15-9 on the strength of a 9-run 7th inning rally highlighted by a Kaeden Kent grand slam. The Wildcats saw their shutout streak end at 26 consecutive innings. But they plated the winning run, also in the 7th, in bizarre fashion when Nolan McCarthy scored all the way from second on a strikeout that got past the catcher for a wild pitch for a late-night 3-2 victory.

The results give the SEC 4 teams in Omaha, tying a CWS record. It will either break the record or the ACC will match it with 4 entries of its own depending on the outcome of Monday’s winner-take-all showdown between NC State and Georgia.

The Bulldogs returned the favor from an 18-1 Game 1 beatdown at the hands of the Wolfpack with a series-evening 11-2 rout of their own.

No matter what happens in Monday’s deciding game, the nation’s 2 best conferences are guaranteed of turning this year’s CWS into a baseball version of basketball’s ACC-SEC Challenge by filling all 8 of the spots in this year’s national championship bracket.