The controversy surrounding the field of teams participating in the Northern 4A zone baseball tournament came to a conclusion on Thursday when Galena High principal Ross Gregory withdrew the Grizzlies from the tournament.
After being postponed for two days, the tournament will begin today at McNutt Field on the Carson High campus with four games. Douglas will play Fallon at 10 a.m.; Reno will play Reed at 1 p.m.; McQueen will play Wooster at 4 p.m.; Sparks and Carson will play at 7 p.m.
In a written statement, Gregory stated that Galena's withdrawal "is the right, fair and honest thing to do that will hopefully allow the other teams in the conference to move forward and get the tournament underway"
The entire controversy stemmed from the fact Galena had used an ineligible player, Josh Green, during its season. What was never resolved was the Grizzlies' punishment for its use of the ineligible player; in fact, a District Court Judge Connie Steinheimer ruled on Wednesday that Galena did not have to forfeit any games because of Green's situation and should be the No. 2 seed entering the tournament with its original 19-5 record.
Had Galena not withdrawn, the question surrounding Reed High's exclusion from the tournament would have continued. The Raiders believed they were one of the tournament's eight qualifiers until Steinheimer's ruling on Wednesday restored Galena's season record without any forfeits and moved Reed into ninth place in the final Northern 4A standings.
Reed had planned to ask for a restraining order early Thursday, but Galena's decision made it unecessary. Interestingly enough, Reed's case would have been heard by Steinheimer, who had criticized all parties on Wednesday for taking the matter to court.
With the Grizzlies' withdrawal, Reed enters the tournament with the No. 8 seed. Every other team except for No. 1 Reno also moved up one seed in the tournament.
"It was a bad situation for everybody," said Reed athletic director Jamie Felten. "We are certainly glad that we are in the tournament and get to participate, but we feel bad for those kids who had to go through this process."
Dr. Jerry Hughes, the executive director of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association, thanked the Galena High administration for resolving the situation.
"I respect the decision of the Galena High School administration and thank them for helping to bring closure to this most unfortunate incident," he said in a written statement.
Gregory's decision changed Carson's seeding in the tournament from No. 3 to No. 2 and scrapped the anticipated meeting between the Senators (16-8) and Douglas (13-11) in the first round of the tournament. Even though the Senators now face Sparks (10-14), the draw is not an easier one by any means.
"Every game you play is different," Carson coach Ron McNutt said. "They've got an outstanding pitcher (Jon Troop) I'm sure we're going to see. He's a crafty left-hander with a good move to first, he's a quality pitcher.
"Our kids are very aware of the situation we're in. They know how important that first game is."
These two teams split a doubleheader at McNutt Field to conclude the regular season on April 21 - Carson won the opener 11-1 while Sparks took the nightcap 11-7 behind Troop, an all-conference pitcher in 1999. Troop is 3-5 this season, but has experienced some hard-luck losses and no-decisions along the way.
McNutt hasn't officially announced a starting pitcher for tonight, although he did say seniors Chris Padgett (5-2), Ken Heald (5-3) and Randy Loff (5-1) "will be available for the first game."
The Senator players should be extremely motivated for tonight's game against the Railroaders. A loss would force the Senators to play in the losers' bracket against either McQueen or Wooster on Saturday at 4 p.m. - just hours before the Carson High senior prom is set to begin.
The prom situation is nothing new to the Senators, according to McNutt.
"You've always gotta be concerned; you're dealing with 15-, 16-, 17-year-old kids so you never know where their minds are going to be, but our kids have known about this situtaiton all along. We discussed this the first week of the season, so they're not unfamiliar with this."
The bottom line is that McNutt is glad to hear that some baseball is finally going to be played.
"We've worked very hard to get ready for this, the tournament T-shirts and the barbecue" he said. "The kids have worked hard to get the field ready, it's been sitting there for two days, everything intact is ready, it's just ready for some baseball games."