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Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

Springstead denied chance at baseball appeal

BY DANNY AIELLO Hernando Today correspondent Hernando Today

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Even after more than a week had passed since Springstead High School lost its Class 6A, Region II final to Orlando-Edgewater in a controversial decision, the Eagles still pressed the Florida High School Athletic Association with one message: “Do the right thing.”

The Eagles administration released a statement Saturday saying it had filed paperwork that Edgewater coach Keith Walsh had deliberately lied to the umpires stating he didn’t have drying agents or tarps to fix the field, while Springstead provided the FHSAA pictures of the tarps and drying agent sitting on the field.

“We aren't protesting the rule,” Springstead head coach Jim Diven said. “If it rained for three hours and we couldn't play we would get on our bus and go home. We are protesting the fact he didn’t try to fix the field and lied to the umpires about having the ability to fix it.”

If the accusations of lying to the umpires were true, the Eagles administration feel Walsh and Edgewater would be in violation of FHSAA Constitutional Bylaw 2.1, which requires interscholastic athletics programs to “encourage good behavior, enhance the integrity of education, and promote civility in society,” and requires coaches to “adhere to the fundamental values of honesty, integrity, respect, caring, cooperation, trustworthiness, leadership, tolerance and personal responsibility.”

This sportsmanship requirement is further outlined in FHSAA Operating Bylaw 7.1.1, which requires coaches to “practice and promote the highest standards of sportsmanship and ethics before, during and after any interscholastic contest.”

Principal Susan Duval was adamant in her protest, filing an emergency relief injunction with the FHSAA. Outlined in the six-page document were accusations that Walsh kept his players from putting tarps on the field and even lied to Springstead assistant coach John Walls, saying he didn’t have any rakes available to dry the field.

The document also went on to state the game should be resumed from where it was left off (9-6 Springstead, top of the sixth, two outs) and it should be played at a neutral site or an empty stadium to preserve the safety of everyone.

During a conference call with Duval, Diven and athletic director Bob Levija, it was made clear several times that Springstead would not have let this happen if it was hosting, and that it was blatant disrespect for the integrity and sportsmanship in the game to let the field become unplayable.

Duval issued this statement on Saturday:

“For the last week we have been actively working through the appeals process with the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) to allow the completion of the Springstead vs. Edgewater Class 6A, Region II baseball final that was suspended on May 10, 2013, due to poor field conditions following a brief period of inclement weather during the game. We immediately requested an appeal of the game’s conclusion due to the failure of Edgewater, the home team, to take any action to protect and preserve the field of play from bad weather, which ultimately gave Edgewater a ‘technical’ win over our Springstead baseball team and a spot in the state baseball playoffs.

“Players on both teams deserved to complete the game under regulation, in the spirit of fair competition, but Edgewater’s inaction and the FHSAA’s decision denied the players that opportunity. We are extremely surprised and disappointed with the FHSAA’s ruling that allows conduct such as this to win over the opportunity for us to even present our case. The regional playoff game’s outcome should have been decided on the field by the players, not by a technicality. Springstead affirms its long-standing commitment to excellence in education and integrity in all we do. As disappointed as we are in the FHSAA ruling, we are more than proud of how our players and coaching staff have conducted themselves throughout this arduous process. They have represented Springstead with integrity and sportsmanship throughout the season and our players exemplify what it means to be Springstead student-athletes.”

When Springstead learned of the FHSAA ruling, fans and players alike took to social media voicing their displeasure with the ruling.

Levija said it was an “injustice to the team that the FHSAA, a group who is prided on sportsmanship, could let such a blatant act of dishonesty and poor sportsmanship pass.”

When asked if they thought Walsh’s quotes after the game about wanting to finish it and not being happy how his club won via a rule was true Duval, Diven and Levija agreed.

“What do you want (Walsh) to say?” Levija said. “We are happy we cheated to win? It was saving face. He said what he had to.”

“We feel cheated.” Diven said. “We had a game taken away from us. I feel we could have won the whole tournament.”

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