WILSON — Garner Post 232’s quest for the American Legion Baseball state championship shifted from the grass and dirt of Fleming Stadium to a national American Legion Baseball national appeals board Monday afternoon.
Garner (24-5) was set to play Randolph County (33-6) and played a half-inning (a 1-2-3 Garner half of the first) before both teams decided to stop the contest and get clarification on a rule.
American Legion national tournament rules for 2013 state that “teams competing in ALB national tournaments must have 12 players available for participation. … Teams with less than 12 players will forfeit their right to participate and the National Appeals Board … shall determine a suitable replacement team.”
Post 232 had 11 players in attendance, one short of the 12-man roster it has played with for much of the past three weeks of the playoffs. After starting the summer with 18 players, Garner’s roster has shrunk with players leaving the team for various reasons.
Garner Post 232 officials – manager Chris Cook and athletic officer Ross Whitfield – questioned whether the national rule was in effect for a state tournament because there is no specific designation of state tournaments as with national tournaments.
The state’s area commissioners, led by state legion baseball chairman Roy Waters, asked for a ruling via phone from the national office and were told that the state tournament falls under national rules, Area I commissioner Bob Figulski said.
Cook said he informed legion commissioners and Waters on Saturday that if his team ended up in an afternoon game Monday he would not have 12 players present because one of those players would be in summer school at college until 1:30 p.m. He did not get a complete answer to his question at that time, he said.
“They said they should have told me then that we couldn’t advance,” Cook said. “But they didn’t. It’s just about standing up for what’s right. What frustrates me is that there is no common sense used in situations like these. We’ve got several guys who could have played their last game ”
The Garner squad includes players from Garner, Fuquay-Varina and Middle Creek high schools, and had won its first two games in the tournament before falling to 28-1 Wilmington Post 10 – the defending state champion – 6-5 Sunday night.
As of Monday afternoon, Randolph County Post 45, Kernersville Post 36 and Wilmington Post 10 were still eligible to win the state title. Unbeaten Wilmington and once-beaten Kernersville were set to play Monday night.
As host of the Southeastern regional tournament, Randolph County will advance to that event no matter what it does the rest of the way in the state tournament.
Figulski said he would expect a decision from the national appeals board by mid-morning Tuesday at the latest. If Garner’s appeal is successful it would play Randolph County to start the day, then one or two games would remain to determine a state champion, depending on the winner of the Kernersville-Wilmington game.
“Everybody wants to see the game played on the field,” Figulski said. “It’s been a great tournament. We’re dealing with a national rule and that’s what we’re going to have to figure out.”
Best: 919-524-8895; Twitter: @dclaybest