East Penn Press

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Mustangs overcome adversity in 2015

Wednesday, July 22, 2015 by CHUCK HIXSON Special to the Press in Sports

Lower Macungie wasn't able to field a team for the 2014 Lehigh Valley Legion season, but came back strong this season, getting off to an 8-1 start. It was at that point though that things took a turn and could have gone very badly for the team, if not for the coaches and players not allowing things to fall apart.

Jeff Moore, who was off to a strong start on the mound for Lower Macungie, was ruled to be an ineligible player because he didn't play in the league during the 2014 season. A legion rule says that a player who is in his last season of eligibility must have played legion baseball the previous season, or he is considered to be ineligible.

The issue became complex, since Lower Macungie didn't have a team in 2014, but since players were allowed to play for the next closest team to their home, it was ruled that Moore was still ineligible.

"That rule helps to protect a situation where a player who hasn't played legion ball suddenly decides to play in his last year of eligibility and it takes a roster spot away from a kid who has come through the legion system," said Barry Werley, Region 2 Director for legion baseball.

The decision was made by the league to strip Lower Macungie of the four wins that Moore had participated in and remove the losses from the teams the Mustangs had defeated.

According to league rules, the games could have been considered forfeits, which would have caused the suspension of Lower Macungie for the rest of the season, since any team that forfeits two or more games is immediately suspended. Instead, Werley said that the league decided to treat the games like nonleague games, which don't count toward league standings.

"They didn't let that bother them," said Jeff Smith, Lower Macungie's manager. "We don't make excuses, win or lose. We go out with who we have, do the best we can and let the chips fall."

Nobody realized at the time that the decision would lead to another issue come time for playoffs.

"They took their idea to the state and were told that as long as the decision didn't adversely affect any other teams in the league, it was okay for them to treat the games the way that they had decided to handle them," said Werley.

At the end of the season, Northern Valley and Fullerton both were at 6-12, but Salisbury, which had a loss to Lower Mac erased, was 5-12. The argument was made that Salisbury was being adversely affected by the decision, since the Falcons would have been 6-12 if the games were forfeited. That led to a three-team minitournament to decide the final two playoff spots, which ultimately went to Northern Valley and Fullerton.

"It was something that was unfortunate," said Werley. "The whole situation was unfortunate, but it was good to see that Lower Macungie still played well and was able to be here [in the regional playoffs] and that they weren't hurt by it."

One misconception that came out of the ruling was that the league officers, who all resigned late in the season and declined to comment, treated the games as nonleague games because had Lower Macungie been suspended, Lehigh Valley Legion would have had just one spot in regionals instead of the two given to the league because it has 10 teams.

"That was never going to happen, regardless of how they handled the situation. I'm not that bad of a guy," Werley sadi with a laugh. "I told them that since they were starting the season with 10 teams, they had two spots in regionals. You can't foresee a team dropping out or being suspended, so I wasn't going to take away a regional spot from the league because of something that wasn't its fault."

The use of Moore, and how it was handled, caused some fragmenting within the league and other issues arose that ultimately led to the officers resigning late in the year. One issue concerned the playoff format and location of some playoff games. The resignations leave a lot of question marks for next season.

"The issue with the officers is a league issue that I won't get involved with," said Werley. "I'm hoping that time will give everybody a chance to calm down and when cooler heads prevail, they'll all be back, but that's a league issue."