Generals feel sick about baseball tourney forfeits
Story by Ken Cohen
LOCH SHELDRAKE May 7, 2013 Sullivan County Community College athletic director Chris DePew is sick about what happened to his baseball team Thursday at Rockland Community College in a first-round game of the Region XV playoffs.
“The kids got cheated,” said DePew. “Everyone here feels so terribly bad. They’ve been working so hard since September and had a legitimate chance to go to nationals. To have it taken away is just an awful feeling.”
The Generals were tied 5-5 with Rockland Community College in the top of the sixth inning when Mike Gonzalez hit a three-run home run to take an 8-5 lead.
According to DePew, who was not at the game, but was given information by coach Ryan Snair, the next pitch from Matt Kostalos was high and toward the head of Ariel Pineo. There were words exchanged between Pineo and Kostalos. According to DePew, Pineo said to Kostalos, “Are you trying to throw at me?” To which Kostalos responded, “Yes, I am.” (There has been no confirmation of this exchange from Rockland Community College athletic director Dan Keeley, who was at the game as site chairman.)
What happened next is the big question and what ultimately led to the Generals’ elimination from the tournament. Apparently, several Generals players left the dugout and started charging the mound. Some accounts had five players, others a dozen or more.
Leaving the dugout area or any fixed position on the field to join a confrontation is an automatic ejection, which results in suspension for two games.
What is also in question is whether any Rockland players left the dugout area or moved form their positions in the field.
According to Keeley, Rockland players in the bench area did not come on to the field. In fact, when the umpires initially came over to the Rockland bench to try and gain control, Keeley said his coaches told the umpires, “We’ve got this, we have control of our players.”
Initially, the umpires were not going to eject anyone and resume the game with just warnings. At that point according to Keeley, Rockland’s coach Joe Zeccardi lodged an official protest, claiming that players who left the bench had to be ejected. He wanted the protest resolved immediately because it possibly involved players still in the game who shouldn’t be.
The umpires conferred by phone with Jack Sweeney, coordinator of officials, DePew and Keeley about the protest. Both DePew and Keeley agree and confirmed that the original decision was to eject five Sullivan players.
At that point, the game was set to resume, though Keeley as the official scorekeeper, asked the umpire, “what are the changes,” meaning who are the players who were ejected. When he discovered that none of the five players were actually in the game, he said he asked the umpires to double check that.
At that point Keeley said he went back to the press box and actually was on the phone with DePew when the umpires changed their decision of ejecting five players and ultimately decided to eject the entire team because too many players came on to the field. That meant the game was automatically forfeited.
DePew immediately tried to protest this decision with the NJCAA, but was rebuffed. The ejections stood and left the Generals without players for the loser’s bracket game on Saturday in the double elimination tournament, essentially ending their season.
“We’re not passing blame,” said DePew. “We had guys run go on the field. But how is it possible that my entire team was ejected and no one from Rockland moved during the entire incident. It was just Sullivan players?”
Keeley, who has been Rockland’s athletic director for 20 years and has also served as chairman for several national and regional baseball committees, is convinced his players did not come on the field.
“I’ll be honest with you, I was pleasantly surprised when I looked down. We had all three of our coaches in the dugout and they know the rules about players leaving the dugout.”
Keeley seemed to be suggesting that because SUNY Sullivan was at bat and coach Ryan Snair was in the third base coaching box and another assistant was in the first base box, the dugout was left relatively unmanned, leaving the players to run on the field without anyone stopping them.
Keeley said he didn’t think the umpires were comfortable in their skin that day and that everything happened so fast a matter of seconds. However, he thinks they ultimately got it right.
DePew said that when he initially spoke to the umpires on the phone while the game was halted, they admitted the situation was chaotic and they were not sure what to do.
DePew, who could not attend the game because he was with the Generals golf team believes the situation would have turned out differently had he been there.
“We will never play another playoff game with out a committee present,” said DePew, who happens to be the chairperson of the Division II baseball committee.
“The whole decision is mind-boggling and I’m not getting a lot of answers.”