Eastern Tech forfeits berth in baseball final

Violation of pitching rule puts Liberty in title game

High Schools

May 27, 2004|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

Eastern Tech's baseball team had to forfeit its berth in Saturday's Class 2A state baseball final after one of its players was found to have pitched more than the number of allowable innings, Ned Sparks, executive director of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, confirmed last night.

Junior Gerard Sokolis pitched 15 innings in three playoff games (five in a 10-0 win over Hereford on May 19, three in a 13-5 victory over Overlea on Friday and seven in a 4-0 win over Liberty in the state semifinals on Tuesday), exceeding the innings maximum by one. Eighth-ranked Liberty (19-3) will now play in Saturday's championship game.

The MPSSA rulebook states: "A pitcher may pitch in a maximum of 14 innings in any seven calendar-day period and a maximum of 10 innings within a three calendar-day period."

"They violated the regulations," Sparks said. "We put the rule out there pretty clear in the book that we send all the coaches and the [athletic directors]. Once they play with an ineligible player, they forfeit. There's no other course of action."

Rick Wiles, director of the state baseball tournament, said the issue was brought to the attention of the MPSSAA by a region director, who was told of it by an anonymous source.

Coach Spike McElfish informed his No. 15 Mavericks, who would have played James M. Bennett for the title, at practice yesterday.

"You could've heard a pin drop," said the second-year coach.

"Had Liberty beaten us, fine. They are a great team and who knows? They may go on to win a state title. But if they do, it's going to be hard for the kids to sleep at night, knowing we beat them. You can tell they were devastated. There was many a tear flowing."

McElfish attributed the violation to a misinterpretation of the rule book. He said the thought that a calendar week stretched from Monday to Saturday, meaning that the eight innings Sokolis pitched against Hereford and Overlea didn't count against this week's total.

He thought that the same rule stipulating that teams are not allowed to play more than three games in one week - Monday to Saturday - also applied to the pitching restrictions.

"If that's the rule, I can live with that, but my gripe is how they interpret the same rule two different ways," said McElfish. "... I feel bad because I took an opportunity away from them."

The forfeit is not unprecedented. In 1998, state officials wiped out both Loch Raven's Class 2A semifinal win over Atholton and the Raiders' loss - declaring a double forfeit because pitchers from each team totaled 15 innings.

Said Sparks: "The pitching is different [than the games-per-week rule] but we've had those rules for 10 to 15 years. If you pitch on Wednesday, the clock starts running and it's up on the following Tuesday night."

Liberty coach Erik Barnes learned about the situation from a reporter at 7 p.m. He was at a school varsity club banquet, and said he had not received official word that his team would be playing on Saturday.

"This is an odd situation," said Barnes. "I spoke to my athletic director and he said that this would be an unfortunate way to advance. [Sokolis] pitched a great game. We didn't play our typical game, but our kids had a great season and this would be one of the second chances that you don't get very often."

Eastern Tech, which finished its season 18-6, lost to Walkersville, 5-4, in last year's Class 2A title game. Senior center fielder Bryan Moffa, who has been on two Eastern Tech soccer teams that made the state semifinals, said that the Mavericks were looking forward to a chance to avenge that loss.

"I was expecting to win a state championship before my high school career was over," said Moffa, one of four seniors. Moffa has a soccer scholarship to UMBC. "It's just shock and sadness. This will hurt for a long while."

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