NJ tournament game ends in uproar after umpire makes controversial call on game-tying home run

A potential game-tying, three-run home run in the final inning of a high school baseball state tournament game was waved off after an umpire ruled that a runner had not touched home plate, which ended the game.

Northern Highlands High School in New Jersey was down to its final out on Wednesday in the first round of the state’s Section 3, Group 1 tournament when Beckham Stern blasted a three-run home run – all for naught.

The big lefty flipped his bat in the air for good reason, as he had just tied the game at three in miraculous fashion – or so he thought. 

However, the home plate umpire said that the first baserunner, who had originally been on second, never touched home.


The opposing team in Mount Olive seemed to notice right away, as their catcher immediately jogged to the pitcher’s mound.

According to New Jersey Advance Media, Mount Olive head coach Pete Zoccolillo said that the catcher had gotten no inkling from the umpire, but the ump did appear to turn toward the area behind the dish after the runner had crossed.

The video shows it is unclear whether the runner did, in fact, touch home, although he clearly is in the vicinity of the plate.


As Northern Highlands headed back toward the dugout, Mount Olive had a mound visit with the entire infield, all while Northern Highlands head coach Paul Albarella was talking to the next batter.

There clearly seemed to be a bit of confusion from the Mount Olive side, but Zoccolillo, several feet from the foul line, instructed his pitcher to step off the mound and throw it home.

The catcher caught the ball and stepped on home, and the umpire ruled the appeal successful, thus giving Mount Olive a 3-0 win.

The runner in question, and the head coach, argued with the umpire, but to no avail.

“He completely jumped over home plate and missed by like three feet,” Zoccolillo said Thursday. “The umpire was standing right there, and he saw it. He saw it. And he was watching everybody touch home, and the kid jumped over home plate. So the second kid came around, and the third kid came around, so I appealed it. Everybody saw it. Myself, the crowd, everybody saw the kid completely jumped over home plate.”

This isn’t the first controversy in the New Jersey Interscholatic Athletic Association this year. Manasquan High School thought they had won a trip to the boys’ basketball Group 2 state championship after a buzzer-beater against Camden. 

However, despite the shot clearly having gotten off in time, officials gathered afterward and reversed the call, giving Camden a 46-45 victory. Camden eventually won the state tournament at Rutgers, with Manasquan players in attendance.

The seventh-seeded Mount Olive squad advanced to the second round, where they will play No. 2 Ramapo on Wednesday.

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