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South Hagerstown High School forfeits state baseball semifinal win

May 23, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

HAGERSTOWN -- No baseball team in the Maryland Class 2A baseball tournament was able to stop South Hagerstown from reaching Saturday's state championship game.

But a rule book violation did.

The Rebels will not be playing in Saturday's 4:30 p.m. final against Kent Island after the team was cited for violating a National Baseball Federation rule limiting the number of innings a pitcher can throw in seven calendar days.

"We didn't try to circumvent the rules," said Mike Tesla, South Hagerstown athletic director. "Our statistics are on the Internet for everyone to see."

The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) notified South on Friday morning that a claim had been filed stating that pitcher Brandon Knight had been used over the 14-inning limit during the playoffs.

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Washington County supervisor of athletics Ed Masood was asked to investigate the claim and met with school officials. A review of the scorebook showed that Knight had pitched in 15 innings in the seven-day period that began May 15 with South's first playoff game.

"When we found out, we consulted the scorebook," said Richard P. Akers, South's principal. "We met for an hour and a half and then talked with the state. We wanted to see if there were any weather allowances for the rule, but we were told there were no exceptions and the rule couldn't be altered."

Because of the violation, South was forced to forfeit its 14-10 victory over Marriotts Ridge in Wednesday's state semifinals. With the victory, Marriotts Ridge will play Kent Island for the state title Saturday at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, Md.

"That's one inning pitched. With everything that happened, with the weather, and that's what caused it -- that's unbelievable," South infielder Tyler Presgraves said. "We earned it, and we won that game and we should be in the championship game, no question about it. It's heartbreaking."

South became a casualty of the rule because of the wet weather that Western Maryland has experienced this spring.

The Rebels were the top seed for the Class 2A West region tournament, which started May 9. South was awarded a bye and was scheduled to play in the second round on May 12. Rain pushed the first round out of the weekend and kept teams from taking the field until May 14.

Because of the delays, South's first game was pushed back and it faced Winters Mill on May 15. Knight was called on to pitch in relief in the seventh inning in that game.

"We got in trouble because of the weather," Tesla said. "If the games had been played when they were scheduled, we would have been all right. We were off eight days before the first playoff game. The game was canceled three times. That condensed the schedule and we got backed up behind the eight ball."

South coach Ralph Stottlemyer gave Knight the start in the regional semifinal game against Century on May 17. He pitched seven innings in that game, then threw 156 pitches in seven innings Wednesday against Marriotts Ridge.

By the National Federation of High Schools rule, pitchers are allowed to throw up to 14 innings in a calendar week, but where that week begins has been in question. The rule was created to prevent the overuse of young pitchers in an effort to protect them from arm injuries.

The rule used to be enforced weekly -- Sunday through Saturday -- but, according to Masood, the MPSSAA decided to use the calendar day definition, working backward from the day the game was being played. For Knight, the clock started May 15 and meant he pitched 15 innings in the time frame.

"He pitched a part of an inning on the 15th and that put him over," Tesla said. "It got so condensed. We are not allowed to play four games in a week, but we played four games in a week in the playoffs. We had three pitchers, one got injured and we decided to go with two starters for the tournament.

"If we were aware of the case (on Wednesday), we had Tim Leather warming up and we could have put him in in the seventh. It was a simple oversight. It's our fault for not keeping track."

South didn't become aware of the violation until Friday, though, two days after winning the right to go to its first state title game since 2003, when the Rebels won the state 1A title in Stottlemyer's first season as head coach.

It all started with a phone call to Ned Sparks, the executive director of the MPSSAA.

Sparks said Howard County's supervisor of athletics called to report the violation. According to Sparks, a newspaper reporter had alerted the Howard County official of the discrepancy.

"When I called Ed (Masood), I was sick about it," Sparks said. "We talked about it and it was clear-cut. That's tough. We didn't go looking for it, but when it's dropped in your lap, you can't ignore it.

"The safety factor does not change because of the rain. Rain affected different schools in different ways. It is applied evenly. It may rain more in Hagerstown than on the Eastern Shore, but that's what happens in athletics."

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