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Springstead victimized by rule in need of changing

Hernando Today

Published:   |   Updated: May 23, 2013 at 03:14 PM

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Today the Eagles will take the field at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers.

They'll bask in the glory of advancing to the Class 6A state semifinals, where they'll take on Southwest Ranches-Archbishop McCarthy at 10 a.m., a spot in Thursday's state championship game on the line.

But those Eagles will be the ones from Orlando-Edgewater, not Springstead.

The two schools are separated by roughly 90 miles, two hours and a couple counties. A few weeks ago, they had no discernible history with one another.

Then came the late afternoon of May 10. Somewhere between 6 and 7 p.m., Edgewater became Public Enemy No. 1 on the Springstead campus.

This story of the 6A-Region II final has been thoroughly rehashed by now. Edgewater took a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the fifth via Zach Vandergrift's grand slam. Springstead rallied for four runs in the top of the sixth, three on a triple by Brandon Brosher, who then scored on a passed ball.

The Eagles - the ones from Hernando County - held a 9-6 edge, six outs away from their first trip to the Final Four.

And then they didn't.

Mother Nature intervened, and according to Springstead she received an underhanded assist from Edgewater.

I can't tell you if the Springstead accusations are true, that the folks at Edgewater went out of their way to make sure the field would stay unplayable, that they lied to umpires about their lack of tarps and drying agents, that they used their lack of lights and the dwindling daylight to their advantage. I wasn't there, and if I was it still wouldn't be my call to make.

What I can say is that I don't understand why Edgewater ever had the opportunity in the first place.

Unfortunately the integrity of this spring postseason has been deeply impacted by rain. The regional baseball and softball playoffs were thrown into disarray. The 3A and 4A state track meets were turned into chaos.

Twice a regional baseball contest was shortened by rain; one correctly, one not so much.

Plant City thought it had captured its 7A-II quarterfinal at Lakeland-George Jenkins after Jenkins' comeback in the bottom of the seventh was wiped out when the skies opened up.

Instead that game, tied 2-2 when it was stopped, was resumed two days later. Allowed to finish off its rally, Jenkins claimed a 3-2 victory.

By rules set forth by the National Federation of State High School Associations, of which the FHSAA is a member, a game called by weather or darkness that has gone five innings reverts back to the last completed frame.

That's what initially happened in the case of Plant City-Jenkins, with Plant City awarded a win because it led 2-1 after six.

However, there is an exception within the rule that states the game is not complete if the home team ties or takes the lead in the incomplete inning.

That's where Jenkins was granted a reprieve, and why Springstead, as the visiting team at Edgewater, was not.

Regardless of the surrounding circumstances, once the decision was made that the Springstead-Edgewater game could not continue, the rules were properly followed. Springstead even admits it's not protesting the rule.

It just doesn't seem like a very good rule, does it? How does a postseason game of any kind not get played out to a proper conclusion?

Tampa Bay Rays fans will recall Game 5 of the 2008 World Series. The only suspended game in World Series history tested a provision in Major League Baseball that allowed the Commissioner's Office to make the call on when a playoff game can be considered complete.

Commissioner Bud Selig would not allow the World Series to be clinched by a rain-induced technicality, and since then MLB's rules have been amended to now state that any postseason game must be resumed if it does not go the full nine.

I'd suggest the FHSAA, by way of the NFHS, do the same. So has Springstead.

According to Justin Harrison, the FHSAA's assistant executive director for athletic services, at the request of Springstead the last completed inning rule will be brought in front of various committees for review.

Still, the FHSAA can only make recommendations. The power to alter the rule is firmly in the hands of the NFHS. To make its own policy, Harrison said, would essentially force the FHSAA to start from scratch and write its own rule book.

Bottom line, no team should have to endure the disappointment of Springstead, feeling cheated out of such a major achievement, nor the emotional roller coaster of Plant City, which for a couple of days thought it had survived.

Neither should a team like Edgewater be put in a position where it can commit impropriety, or be wrongly accused of such.

Not to mention the police were called to Edgewater's field that fateful Friday, as an ugly, emotional scene unfolded and spectators were forced to clear out. Suddenly safety became a major issue.

Nothing will save Springstead's season now. The Eagles overcame the adversity they faced over the past two seasons to advance further than they ever have. But that's sadly bittersweet, because they won't be the Eagles on the field at JetBlue Park this morning.

Sparking changes may serve as little solace. Nevertheless, hopefully their pain will insure this never happens again.

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