By BRIAN JENNINGS
What started out as a best-of-three series and the chance to go to Dover, Del. to represent Connecticut in the regional tournament ended in controversy.
Southington was defeated, 2-1, in the District 5 state championship series by Bristol’s Edgewood team, but more came out of the results of the series than just a Southington loss. Southington manager Andrew Levin said that one of his players grew suspicious of a player on Edgewood’s team.
The Little League Baseball board of directors ruled that Bristol’s Edgewood player, Thomas Curtin of Bristol Eastern High School, was identified through numerous emails as an ineligible player.
Under the Tournament Rules and Guidelines of the Little League, the League Eligibility section of the Big League states:
“Any player League Age 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18, with amateur status, who has participated as an eligible player in 40 percent (40%) of the regular season games (Special Games may be counted toward this requirement – See Regulation IX) by the start of Tournament Play in their respective District, with the exception of the high school or college softball season, on a: 1. Junior League Softball team, or; 2. Senior League Softball team, or; 3. Big League Softball team. NOTE: For the purpose of qualifying for a Big League International Tournament team under this rule, participation is considered as having completed one or more of the following: 1. The player completed one (1) at bat as defined in Regulation IV(i); or, 2. The player enters the game in one of nine defensive positions and occupies such for one (1) defensive out or one (1) at-bat; or, 3. The player is entered as a special pinch runner and scores, is retired or three (3) outs end the inning.”
Curtin played in the first to games of the series, but those were the only two games that he played all season with Edgewood.
Brian McClintock is the director of media relations of the Little League International Media Relations Department in Williamsport, Penn. and said that the Little League board of directors released a statement on the situation that occurred earlier this month.
“After review of a situation concerning an ineligible player at the Big League Baseball Connecticut State Tournament, the Little League International Tournament committee found that the player in question did not fulfill the regular season participation requirement, and removed that player from the team,” media relations said in the release. “Also, the Committee suspended the manager of the Edgewood Little League Big League Tournament Team for one physically played game. Due to the timing of the official protest, the Little League International Tournament Committee decided that the results of the Big League Baseball Connecticut State Tournament stand.”
Bristol’s Edgewood team advanced to the regional tournament in Dover to represent Connecticut, and Edgewood’s manager, Mark Tonon, was suspended for a game, considering that an appeal wasn’t submitted within 24 hours after game three was final.
Levin was interviewed by FOX CT News, emailed the Southington Big League board of directors, and disagreed with the final decision.
“I think this arguably the worst decision that Little League can make,” said Levin. “Basically, I can take the best pitcher in Southington, have him pitch one game for me to bring us to the state championship, win it, and I’ll just take a one-game suspension. I think back, and Little League’s slogan is all about playing fair. Last year Chicago Little League got their national title stripped because they played with an ineligible player. This year, Edgewood plays with an ineligible player under Little League rules and their coach gets a one-game suspension. Right away, there’s a red flag.”
Little League stripped the U.S. championship from Jackie Robinson West of Chicago and suspended its coach for violating a rule that prohibits the use of players that live outside the geographic area the team represents.
Southington took game one of the series with a 7-4 win over Edgewood on Sunday, July 5 at Recreation Park.
Southington put up four runs in the second inning, a run in the third, and two in the fifth. Devin Prive’s only hit of the game came off of a solo homerun in the bottom of the third. Tim Carrier went 2-for-2 with a double and a walk. Ethan Minn picked up the win on the mound, going 6 innings with four strikeouts and allowing just two earned runs.
Two days later, Southington suffered a 6-3 loss to Edgewood, bringing the series to a game a piece. Southington took a 2-1 lead after the third inning, but Edgewood’s five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning put the game out of reach for Southington. Minn went 2-for-2 with a walk.
Thursday brought game three and the contest was decided in extra innings. Southington headed into the seventh inning down 4-1, but managed to put up four runs in the inning off of RBI singles by Dylan Sperry, Nick Petro, Julian Cardozo, and a sacrifice fly from Devin Prive to tie the game at 5-5 and send it into extra inings. However, Edgewood responded with eight runs in the top of the eighth to take the state title with a score of 13-5 and advance to the regional tournament.