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T’wolves baseball erased from playoff picture

Protest in softball halts coin flip to determine postseason berths

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POSTED May 9, 2009 1:36 a.m.
A coin flip, as it turns out, will not decide the Sierra High baseball team’s postseason fate.

And another one is pending an appeal from East Union, which would also affect Sierra’s softball team.

Athletic directors and coaches from all schools involved were supposed to meet at 8 this morning in Oakdale to determine through blind luck which two teams from each sport will represent the Valley Oak League when the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs begin next week.

Before Friday, Sierra and Sonora wrapped up the season in a second-place tie with mirroring 9-5 records. With Oakdale occupying the top spot for the third straight season, a coin flip was supposed to decide who will take the remaining playoff berth.

But Sonora’s 10-4 loss to Oakdale was overturned by a protest. Oakdale used an illegal player that had also participated in the sophomore game on the same day.

In softball, Ceres, East Union, Oakdale and Sierra were locked in a four-way tie for first place going into Friday’s league finales. Sierra was in line for its first-ever varsity softball championship.

Oakdale, however, sent its official protest to the section regarding a 2-0 loss to East Union on April 22. East Union, Oakdale claims, used an ineligible player that had been dismissed from a contest against Sonora just two days before.

East Union plans to appeal to the section Monday morning. The Division IV playoffs for softball kick off Tuesday, and Thursday for baseball.

“I’ve never been involved in anything like this before,” Sierra athletic director Greg Leland said after the Timberwolves’ 5-1 softball win over Weston Ranch Friday. “Here we have both of our teams with a chance to go into the playoffs, and in a matter of a couple of hours we find out that both are out because of foreits that didn’t involve either of our teams.

“Nobody else got hurt as badly as we did by this.”

Sonora’s approved protest of Thursday’s game was the bitter cherry on top for Sierra head baseball coach Jack Thomson, who was ejected from Thursday’s game against East Union, which won 8-7, after disputing a home-run call that he felt should have been deemed foul.

It was the second time in three weeks that Sierra was on the short end of a bad call. The Timberwolves led Oakdale 1-0 in the sixth inning on April 23, but an Oakdale base runner was called safe on pickoff play to first base that appeared to be a sure out. Oakdale went on to score three runs in the inning en route to a 4-1 victory.

“This is really frustrating, because these are high school athletes that are being affected and I don’t know if their best interests are being served here,” Thomson said. “I feel like our players are being penalized for a lot of mistakes made that are out of our control.

“They’re the ones being cheated in the whole thing. I don’t feel bad for me, I feel bad for our players.”

Sierra’s softball team could suffer the same fate because of games it had nothing to do with.

Against Sonora on April 20, East Union was under the impression that one of its players was dismissed from the game for wearing jewelry. The Lancers discovered, after a phone call was made to the California Interscholastic Federation office, that the player should only be suspended for that game and none other.

Had she been ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct, she would have missed the Oakdale game.

Oakdale protested after being informed that the East Union player in question was in fact ejected for showing unsportsmanlike behavior when being asked to remove the jewelry.

East Union coach Brian Goulart said an ejection was never reported to him and that it was never officially reported by the plate umpire to the head of the officials association.

If Oakdale’s protest stands, the Mustangs will be given the outright VOL title. The second playoff seed would to Ceres, which swept Sierra to earn the tiebreaking advantage. Oakdale’s only league losses other than the East Union one came against Sierra.

 “We got an interpretation from the CIF,” Goulart said. “We were given the facts, and we didn’t think anything different until today. As far as we’re concerned, we did nothing wrong.

“We did due diligence, got the ruling from the CIF office and away we went.  We’re standing firm in that we have integrity and honor, and we didn’t try to pull a fast one on anybody.”

Sierra senior Heather Scharmann isn’t holding her breath for a ruling that would favor her team. A three-sport standout (volleyball, basketball, softball), Scharmann has never been a part of a championship team in high school.

“We had false hopes,” she said. “If we would have known all along we would have been fine with it and been happy with third place. We had a good season.

“Now that we’ve been told what we’ve been told, we’re pretty much putting the cleats away for good.”

Bulletin staff reporter Brandon Petersen contributed to this report.
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