SAN DIEGO — Losing a high fly ball in the sun isn’t all that uncommon. Turning it into an unassisted triple play? Well, that’s another story.
Brigham Young shortstop Andrew Law completed an unassisted triple play Thursday under such circumstances in the Cougars’ 8-2 win over San Diego State in a Mountain West Conference Tournament game at Tony Gwynn Stadium.
The unassisted triple play is one of the rarest occurrences in baseball, which probably explains why there is no listing for it in the NCAA record book. There have been 15 unassisted triple plays in the major leagues, five fewer than the number of perfect games pitched in the majors.
This had not been one of the most fundamentally sound games by the Aztecs, who, among other things, allowed opposing runners to take the extra base, misplayed a rundown and swung at questionable pitches. But, trailing by six runs, SDSU had the makings of a rally when it loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh.
That’s when it happened.
SDSU’s Jomel Torres, swinging at a 3-1 pitch that appeared to be out of the strike zone, started the sequence when he hit a high fly behind second base.
"As it unfolded I was like, ‘This all might work out,’ " said Law, a senior co-captain who is the son of BYU head coach Vance Law. "As it came off the bat I knew we had an infield fly for sure. So I got under it. But as it was going towards the sun, I thought, ‘Uh, oh, this could be bad.’ But I acted like I had it for sure and waited for the umpires to call infield fly."
Once second base umpire Jason Rogers made that call, Law said he stepped just enough out of the way so the ball didn’t hit him as he allowed it to fall to the ground.
"Once it hit I knew somebody was going to be confused," said Law. "Seeing the guy off second base, he was kind of standing there like, ‘Uh, oh.’ And the man between first and second kind of jogged back as well."
Baserunners may advance at their own peril after an infield fly is called. SDSU’s Evan Potter chose to remain at third, but teammate Cody Smith came off second base and Pat Colwell left first. Both Smith and Colwell said they did not initially hear infield fly called by the umpire.
"I saw the ball drop and started running because I saw Cody start running," said Colwell. "Then I heard (the umpire) yell it again and thought, ‘No way.’ "
Law picked up the ball, tagged Smith off second base and then tagged Colwell between first and second to complete the triple play.
"It’s definitely tough to see everybody struggle, make so many mistakes and get beat like that," said Colwell, a senior playing in his final game as an Aztec.
Law was part of a 5-4-3 triple play with the Cougars in 2009. This time, Law was just hoping to get two outs on the play.
"I was hoping for a double play that really would have helped us," said Law, "but to get that (third out) really put a dagger in them."
"He’s got savvy," said SDSU head coach Tony Gwynn. "I’ll give him that."
The only thing Law forgot to do was hang onto the ball as a souvenir.
"I flipped it in," said Law. "I don’t know where it went. I should have kept it, that’s for sure."