The Centre County Baseball League’s bylaws were not followed, the Howard Hawks claim, and that is why the team chose to drop out of the championship series Sunday afternoon.
The decision resulted in a forfeit, a series sweep and title for the Philipsburg Spike Island Pirates.
It also brought a disappointing end to the season for a league that has a long and rich history in the region.
“It is with much regret that the 2015 Centre County Baseball season ended in the manner that it did. However after much careful deliberation as a team, we felt it was in our best interest to discontinue participation in this year’s playoffs,” the Hawks said in a statement sent to the CDT Monday night. “Our team was extremely dissatisfied with the manner in which the league representatives handled the rule violation by Philipsburg especially with the lack of communication with us prior to the decision being made.”
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The controversey stems from Game 1 of the best-of-five series last Tuesday. Philipsburg won the game 13-1, but the Hawks challenged the result, saying the Pirates used a pitcher who was not on the postseason roster. The decision gave the Hawks a forfeit win, announced on Thursday, when Philipsburg won the second game 4-1.
The Pirates then appealed the forfeit to league President Rob Gavlock, saying the challenge was not made within 24 hours of the game. Gavlock agreed, citing to league bylaws, and the forfeit was reversed, giving Philipsburg the win again.
Down 2-0 in the series, the Hawks decided not to travel to Philipsburg for Game 3, giving the Pirates the forfeit win and series sweep.
In the statement, the Hawks dispute the chain of events and claim the bylaws cited did not pertain to what transpired, saying they never formally protested the use of the alleged ineligible player, but merely inquired about the penalty.
After the reversal, and with a number of heated exchanges during Game 2, the Hawks also felt tensions might become overheated in Game 3 and thus chose not to make the trip to Philipsburg.
“Both Howard and Philipsburg are very competitive teams and desired greatly to win the series,” the statement read. “With emotion running high from both Howard and Philipsburg fans and teams, we believed that we avoided what could have become a very ugly scene. Although the series ended in an undesirable manner, we believe that it could have ended even worse.”
The statement, available in full at centredaily.com, also claimed the Howard players were not given a chance to “state our thoughts.” Hawk players had left the field before the CDT’s reporter at last Thursday’s game had finished speaking with Philipsburg team members, and messages left for multiple Howard players Sunday night also were not answered.
The County League has been around since 1946, many players went on to, or joined after, playing professionally, and just a few years ago had nearly a dozen teams. But with only six teams playing this summer, and in light of this past weekend’s events, the league’s future may seem, to some, to be uncertain.
“I’ll not comment on the situation, as it has been a final decision by the league many days ago,” Gavlock said in an email Monday. “The league will be back in 2016, quite possibly with more teams than this season.”