By JOEL McNEECE
A day after learning the Bruce Trojans will be prohibited from competing for a state championship in baseball, school officials remain at a loss as to why.
The Bruce Trojans defeated Hamilton 6-5 last Saturday to win the Class 2A North State Championship series. But after a weekend of reveling in the school's and Calhoun County's first North Half Title in baseball, Bruce Principal Mark Grubbs was notified by Mississippi High School Activities Association Director Dr. Ennis Proctoc that a Hamilton protest of the game would be upheld and Bruce would have to forfeit.
The alleged violation involved Bruce Senior pitcher Caleb Hanley pitching 17 2/3 innings during a "week." The limit for innings pitched is 17 per "week" according to the MHSAA handbook, but the definition of "week" appears to have varied interpretations.
The handbook, in the section "Rules Governing Baseball" refers to both a "calendar week," defined as Monday-Sunday, and a "school week," defined as Monday through Friday. The rule in question is letter "j" on page 20 in the handbook. It reads, "j. A pitcher shall not pitch more than 17 innings per week." It makes no specification to calendar or school week.
(The complete section of the MHSAA handbook is printed at the bottom of this story. It can also be found by visiting www.misshsaa.com and clicking on the tab "publications.")
"We thought that after Friday the innings would start over," Grubbs said. "There's a lot of stories out there of us making a mistake or knowingly breaking a rule. That's not what happened."
Grubbs, along with Bruce Baseball Coach Sid Burt and Calhoun County Schools Superintendent Mike Moore appealed the decision by Dr. Proctor and traveled to Clinton Friday to appear before the MHSAA Executive Committee.
Grubbs said there were some procedural issues with the appeal process that he questioned also.
Dr. Proctor met behind closed doors with the Executive Committee for 20 minutes prior to the Bruce officials being allowed to make their case. After an approximate 15 minute presentation by Grubbs, Moore and Burt, the Committee went back behind closed doors with Dr. Proctor to deliberate.
Grubbs said it struck him as odd that Proctor would be allowed to deliberate with the Committee since it was his decision that was being appealed.
Grubbs said after they were informed by the Executive Committee that their appeal was being denied, committee members acknowledged the rule is "vague" and needed to be changed going forward.
"They admitted to us that it's a vague rule that must be changed," Grubbs said. "So we don't understand why our kids have to suffer because of a bad rule, a vague rule."
MHSAA soon after sent a press release to all media outlets announcing the decision, but only included a portion of rule "c," the portion of the rule mentioning "calendar week," omitting the portion of rule "c" that defines "school week."
Dr. Proctor included a quote in the release saying, "The MHSAA regrets that a situation such as this has occurred at any time—but it is especially regrettable during the post season or play-off season. In order to be fair to all of our schools who have followed the rules, we must enforce the rule and not allow Bruce High School to advance in the playoffs due to this rule violation. It is regrettable that student athletes must suffer for adult mistakes.”
Bruce officials didn't disagree, but noted the "adult mistakes" seem to be coming from MHSAA offices with the writing and enforcement of a "vague rule."
"We've come a long way with baseball in Bruce and now we're the North Half Champions and should be competing for a state championship," Grubbs said. "To see it marred like this has been devastating for everybody involved."
Numerous stories have circulated about the potential of someone filing an injunction in chancery court on behalf of the Bruce baseball team. As of 4 p.m. Thursday that has not yet happened.
Rules Governing Baseball
a. There shall be a state championship for each of the six classifications.
b. Championships in all divisions shall be determined as follows:
1. Baseball practice may begin February 8, 2010. The first playing date shall not be before March 1, with the exception of approved Classic games that may be played the weekend prior to March 1. These games count on the team’s record but not on the tiebreaker.
2. Division championship shall be decided by a round robin schedule.
3. The Executive Committee has developed the following tiebreaker: In case of identical division record, the following method will be used to determine the division champion: refer to Tie Breaker rule under Section D, Athletic Competition Rule.
4. Each baseball division will be allowed to advance two teams to the first round playoffs. As soon as the division champions in baseball are declared, the Executive Director will then set up the North and South playoffs, giving the specific dates, times, and places playoffs are to be held. The school winning the division championship in each classification shall notify the Executive Director immediately so there will be no delay in setting up the North and South playoffs.
c. One (1) game may be played during the school week (school week defined as the start of the school day on Monday through the end of the school day on Friday), with the exception of spring break. A school may participate in two games during the school week if one game is a tournament. A total of five (5) games may be played during the calendar week (calendar week defined as Monday through Sunday). A double header counts as two games played and every tournament game played counts as a game played. Before play begins, the base paths and pitching distance must be regulation. If this cannot be accomplished, the home team shall forfeit. The umpire shall be responsible for checking the distances. If during a tournament, one of the above mentioned infractions occurs, the field will be made ready or not used.
d. If a division game is called before completion of the number of innings and conditions as specified in rule 4-2-3 of the National Federation Baseball Rule Book, such game is considered a suspended game and shall be continued from the point of suspension at a later time at the same site. If a regulation division tie game (5 full innings or more) is suspended, the game will be continued from the point of interruption at the site of the next division game scheduled between the opponents, otherwise the game will return to the original site of the suspended game (last game of the series).
RAIN-OUTS – All cancelled or suspended games that are played less than five (5) full innings as stated above must be made up by the Thursday following the game in question. Division games take preference over any other rescheduled game. If a date cannot be agreed upon, the host principal must request the MHSAA to set a date. If the host site is not playable during the first game of the division series and the opponent’s field is playable, the game sites should be reversed.
e. A limit of 18 games plus tournaments and no more than 26 games shall be played during the regular season. Two Classic games may be played with the approval of the Executive Director. Classic games must be played the same day, same site, and prior to the regular season. A Jamboree may be played one week before the Classic games with the approval of the Executive Director. The Jamboree will consist of two-four innings contest and a pitcher will be limited to pitching two innings during the eight inning Jamboree.
f. Seven innings shall constitute a game, but when the score is tied at the end of the seventh, additional innings shall be played to break the tie.
g. No home official or officials who are related to a player are to be used in any game of the North Mississippi, South Mississippi or State playoff games.
h. The principal of each host school must notify the Executive Director when and where all tournament, conference, or division playoff games will be played. After deducting a fee for umpires, the State Association shall receive 30% of the gross gate receipts for all games leading to North/South and State Championships. The host school is responsible for collecting and remitting to MHSAA. If the amount due the Association is not remitted within ten days from the date the games(s) are played, the amount due the Association shall be 40 percent of the gross instead of percent.
i. Trophies shall be furnished by the MHSAA to the North and South baseball champions and to the first and second place winners in the State finals of all classifications.
j. A pitcher shall not pitch more than 17 innings per week.
k. Junior varsity games will be limited to 1½ hours or 5 innings.