Belle Vernon Area baseball playoff may end before it starts
During the last two weeks, due to the tightness of the race in Section 4 AAA, Belle Vernon Area baseball coach Dan Palm said every game was a playoff game for his team.
At the time, he didn't realize that he very well may have been a prophet because those games just might have been the Leps' playoff season.
Even though the Leps (11-8) have qualified for the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs and hope to get back to the championship game for the second consecutive year, their playoff picture - and season - is in peril.
During Monday's 10-8 loss to Elizabeth Forward, assistant coach Ryan Shetterly, who was running the team while Palm was serving a district-imposed three-game suspension, was ejected for questioning a controversial call in the third inning.
While that may seem to be a minor issue in most cases, for BVA it could signal a death penalty to their season due to PIAA sanctions imposed on the team last year.
During a PIAA playoff game against Punxsutawney June 5 at St. Mary's, a melee between the two teams took place that saw Palm, two assistant coaches and one BVA player get ejected, along with a coach from Punxsutawney.
As a result of that incident, the PIAA brought down sanctions on the BVA program for two years.
One stipulation in those sanctions, according to BVA Principal Greg Zborovancik and Athletic Director Jesse Cramer, is that no member of the team - coach or player - can be ejected or subject to unsportsmanlike mention in an umpire's game report that is filed to the PIAA.
If that sanction is violated, the PIAA said in its ruling, BVA's baseball team will not be permitted to participate in any postseason play.
Zborovancik and Cramer said that BVA conducted its own investigation into Monday's incident at EF and filed a report with the PIAA. They are awaiting a decision on BVA's playoff participation fate shortly.
“(WPIAL Executive Director) Tim O'Malley is aware of the situation and said he needs to know by Thursday if we are in the playoffs because that's when the WPIAL makes it playoff pairings,” Zborovancik said. “We are hoping that the PIAA will allow our players to play in the playoffs.”
PIAA spokesperson Melissa Mertz said Tuesday afternoon that the PIAA had all of the information it needed and, “has been discussing the case as a staff.” She said she had hoped a decision would be handed down by the end of the day.
However, as of Tuesday night, no decision had been announced.
Cramer said that the district has already decided that if BVA is permitted to play in the WPIAL playoffs, Palm will coach the team as his suspension will end by then. However, Shetterly will be suspended the rest of the season.
Both Zborovancik and Cramer said that Shetterly denied saying anything derogatory to the game umpire and claimed that when he came out of the dugout and approached the umpire he was immediately ejected.
“You never know, considering our situation with the PIAA, if an umpire may have a quick hook or not,” said Cramer. “It's an unfortunate thing. But we want to do what is right and that's why we had our own investigation.”
Cramer said either he, Zborovancik, or both will be in the Leps' dugout throughout the playoffs if BVA is permitted to participate in the postseason.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.