FHSAA rules Plant City must forfeit Saladino Final game



By Jarrett Guthrie, Editor 

Plant City High School athletic director Tim Leesburg confirmed on Thursday that the Florida High School Athletics Association (FHSAA) ruled that Plant City's baseball team violated the organization’s pitch-count rule and must forfeit its 4-1 win over Durant in the Saladino Tournament Championship game last Friday.

The move is a heavy blow for the Raiders players, who competed in the weeklong event, winning six games, including a semifinal win over Leto and the final win on the field against the Cougars, claiming the program’s the first-ever Saladino championship.

Under the FHSAA pitch count rule, implemented prior to the 2017 season (the FHSAA pitch-count policy can be viewed by clicking here), a standard was set up limiting the number of pitches that can be thrown by a student athlete in a game, and corresponding rules about how many days they must be inactive after reaching certain pitch-count plateaus.

In the game in question, the Raiders got an impressive effort from Jarod Wingo on the mound as he struck out 10 in a complete-game effort. However, Wingo, a junior is 16-years-old, a fact Fryrear said he was unaware of at the time, meaning that his pitch count limitation dropped from 105 to face a new batter (as it would be if the player were 17- or 18-years-old), down to 95. According to the official scorebook kept by the Saladino Tournament and the book of the Raiders’ team stat-keeper entered both on the GameChanger application and on MaxPreps.com, Wingo finished with 101 pitches having thrown four pitches to the final batter of the game, meaning he had eclipsed the limit of 95 pitches set by the state to begin a new batter.

“I take on full ownership of my honest mistake,” Plant City head coach Mike Fryrear said via text on Thursday. “Rules are the rules, and we will move forward as a community, program and school.”

Fryrear’s text with 813Preps said that all further contact on the ruling should go through Plant City High School Assistant Principal for Administration, Tim Leesburg.

Reached Thursday morning, Leesburg said that the school was still working on a response to the ruling, which was relayed to Plant City High’s administration through the Hillsborough County School Board Athletics Office.

“We as a school have not released anything yet,” Leesburg said. “We received an e-mail from the county. We did a self-report of an ineligible player, who pitched one batter too many in a game, so we will be issuing a statement to the school that we will be forfeiting the game.”

When questioned further as to which school he would be submitting the statement, he added: “We will be submitting it to the school we played.”

He offered no timetable for that statement, and said he had no further comment.

A statement given on behalf of the Saladino Tournament, by tournament director Tony Saladino III, said no official ruling had yet been made by the tournament on whether Plant City would remain, in title, the champions of the 39th edition of the annual event. The statement said that Leesburg had reached out in the morning to make tournament officials aware of the FHSAA’s ruling, and that a meeting with tournament officials had already been set with Hillsborough County athletic director Lanness Robinson for April 8, 2019, where a final decision on how the ruling would affect the tournament would be made.

“We have a meeting set with Lanness Robinson and a determination on who or if a tournament champion (for 2019) is named will be made at that time,” the statement said.

Saladino said the determination of the tournament championship would not be left up to him as tournament director, but that he does not anticipate that the FHSAA ruling of Plant City having to forfeit the tournament’s championship game would change after the meeting on April 8th.

“It’s an unfortunate situation for all involved,” the statement from the Saladino Tournament said, “and we look forward to closure.”

This ruling by the FHSAA is consistent with previous decisions the state’s athletics governing body has made regarding its pitch-count rules, with the goal of protecting the health and well-being of the student-athletes under its umbrella.

For example, in May of 2017, Bradenton Bayshore was forced to forfeit the Class 5A-11 district final game after being ruled to have violated the pitch-count rule in its semifinal win over Sarasota Booker (click here to read the Bradenton Herald’s report) and as a result, Bayshore did not advance to the region playoffs that season.

- The FHSAA official ruling has not been made public at this time, however, its results have been confirmed by multiple sources mentioned in this story.

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