STOCKTON — Jillian Goulart was sprinting to first base, confident she could beat out her infield chopper, but East Union High's fastest runner never had a chance.
The base umpire, out of position in shallow left field, already had launched into his exaggerated "punch-out" call before Goulart or the throw reached the base. Only problem, said EU coach Brian Goulart, was that his daughter should have been safe.
"She was crossing the bag when the throw got there, but the umpire had already made up his mind that she was going to be out," said Goulart. "He made the same call earlier, making up his mind that a girl was out, and it cost us a run there, too."
The premature calls, combined with EU's inability to hit off-speed pitches, allowed Center to escape with a 2-1 win in the winners' bracket semifinal of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 playoffs.
The other semifinal wasn't as dramatic: Three-time defending champ Bear River scored four runs early in a 6-0 win over Valley Oak League champ Oakdale.
That was part of a rough night for the VOL, which sent three teams to the playoffs and went 2-3 Wednesday night. While Sierra (17-10) was sent home by a 5-0 loss to Bear River, EU (22-7) and Oakdale (21-7) will play again — thanks to the double-elimination format that is used after the first round.
The VOL rivals, who split their league meetings, play Friday at 5 p.m. in the losers bracket at Arnaiz Stadium. The loser goes home, while the winner stays on the field to play the loser of Center (22-8) vs. Bear River (22-4).
EU trailed Center 2-1 with the loaded the bases and two out in the bottom of the seventh when the left-handed Goulart slapped a two-strike chopper to shortstop Hayley Miles deep in the hole. The umpire was even deeper, behind Miles and closer to the line. Goulart dashed down the line as Miles threw, and already had her foot on the base when the "pop" was heard from the first baseman's glove.
Neither umpire would comment afterward, other than to say "it was a judgment call."That dramatic finale was as intense as Oakdale's opener, a 10-inning, 1-0 win over Whitney.
With pinch-runner Franchesca Orvis on first base with two out, Sarah Peterson ripped one to the fence in left-center. Whitney never had a chance at throwing out Orvis, but the Wildcats' alertly threw to third base — where Peterson was tagged out before Orvis could reach home plate.
After a brief discussion, the umpires correctly ruled that the final out of the inning had been recorded before Orvis score, so the game went on to the 10th.
The Mustangs loaded the bases with a single, a walk and hit batter. Marissa Toy then ripped a shot that sailed between the left and center fielders, rolling to the wall to produce the game-winning run.