The combination of rain, the LHSAA and frustrations over rules on how to govern best-of-three baseball series are played boiled over Sunday night.
Ultimately, the LHSAA opted to stick with its deadline to complete at least two games of a best-of-three playoff series by midnight Sunday, putting four teams, including Class 3A University High, out of the playoffs.
“They (LHSAA) made a ruling, and we’re out,” U-High coach Justin Morgan said. “They said if you can only play one game by the deadline, it reverts back to the first game. Erath won the first game, and they’re in.”
Two other local teams, St. Michael and Episcopal, advanced to quarterfinal series based on the same rule. So did Riverside Academy. St. Michael’s opponent, Beau Chene, and Episcopal’s opponent, Northlake Christian, also find themselves on the outside looking in along with Riverside’s opponent, Newman.
Meanwhile, the same rule allows two teams tied in a best-of-three series, Catholic High and Hahnville, to play at 6 p.m. Monday to conclude their series. Quarterfinal series start Friday in Classes 5A to 2A.
The LHSAA did not release a statement to the media but did send a memo to member schools that reiterated the importance of following the guidelines after a late afternoon conference that involved LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine and other LHSAA staff members. Input from members of the LHSAA executive committee also was sought.
The memo also stressed the deadlines and the importance of communication and mutual agreement by principals of the schools. The failure of coaches/principals to agree and the availability of a playable stadium before the deadline also was a factor that led to a negative social media storm aimed at Episcopal.
Erath was the higher seed and hosted the best-of-three series with U-High, winning 10-6 on Friday. Likewise, Episcopal beat Northlake 2-0 and St. Michael beat Beau Chene 7-3, also on Friday.
Mutual agreement was the issue in the instance of U-High and Erath. Morgan declined Erath’s request to play a doubleheader on Friday because of pitching concerns. Morgan said he found two neutral sites in the Alexandria area that could have been used either Saturday or Sunday, something the Erath administration would not agree to.
“We were in a situation of needing to win a game to stay alive,” Morgan said. “I was not going to bring a pitcher back on two days rest to pitch Friday. Another day for us made a difference. I understand their concerns and their desire to host a game. So I worked to find what would be a neutral site for both us.”
Episcopal was set to host Northlake at 11 a.m. Sunday at University, which has an artificial turf infield to complete the second game the teams started Saturday morning at EHS. Northlake led that game 2-0. But more rain made the U-High field unplayable.
Episcopal coach Travis Bourgeois provided The Advocate with a text he received from Northlake coach Tim Rogers Sr., saying the two schools should wait to complete the game Monday morning. At that point, Bourgeois said both schools figured the LHSAA would grant an extension, which did not happen.
At 4:30 p.m., Bourgeois said Episcopal Athletic Director Myra Mansur received a call from Northlake stating the schools could play at Newman at 7 p.m.
Bourgeois and Mansur agreed that getting players together and to New Orleans in such a tight time frame would be an issue. Further investigation uncovered another issue: Newman and Riverside had cancelled their game on the same field earlier in the day.
“I feel for those guys … I really do,” Bourgeois said. “I think it’s a bad rule that needs to be fixed to allow for more time. But I’m disappointed by all this social media stuff with people calling us cowards for not wanting to play.
“When we played them Friday and Saturday, I thought we treated their players and coaches with respect. We don’t want to win this way, but there was no way we were going to put our players on a field that a team in the same situation (Newman) opted not to play on.”
Northlake Athletic Director Anthony Agresta also stated his case.
“We were able to locate an alternative site to play or actually complete the second game that had already been started,” Agresta said. “We found a second place to complete the game in New Orleans this evening, but Episcopal exercised their option not to play because they were the host team and not mandated to travel.
“The most disappointing thing is the next series doesn’t start until next weekend. We don’t see why there would be a problem extending the series into this week. But apparently that is how the baseball coaches and principals voted on it.”
David Folse contributed to this report