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Ridgewood can advance, but will face penalty

By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 5, 2002

DAYTONA BEACH -- Ridgewood can sleep a little easier tonight.

Despite a protest from Daytona Seabreeze that the Rams broke a state rule in Friday night's 2-1 victory by using a pitcher for too many innings in a week, the official with the final decision in the matter said the Rams will be allowed to play in Tuesday's region final at Ocala Forest.

"Ridgewood will advance," said Paul McLaughlin, baseball administrator for the Florida High School Activities Association. "However, they will be penalized for the violation. We've got to send a message that we can't condone any violation of the rules."

That's welcome news to Rams coach Larry Beets, who thought he had cost his team a dramatic 2-1 victory in eight innings when Seabreeze coach Anthony Campanella told him he was calling the FHSAA in protest. Campanella was correct in that Rams pitcher Ronny Lowe should not have been allowed to pitch the eighth inning, his 15th this week. But because the umpire allowed the final inning to be played, the results stand.

"You don't know what this does to me," said a relieved Beets, who said he was unaware of the rule and would have put a reliever in the game had he been told during the game. "Thank God they're not penalizing the team. It shows that in 24 years of coaching, I'm still human and I can make mistakes like anyone else."

McLaughlin said the FHSAA will wait for a statement from Ridgewood before assessing its penalty, which could range from a monetary fine to limiting the number of games the Rams play in the regular season next year. Another option he mentioned would be a roster limitation, which would suspend Lowe, the county's top pitcher, for an unspecified number of games in the current playoffs.

The uncertainty of his team's future gave Beets a sleepless night after he returned home with his team around 3:30 a.m. on Saturday. His fears heightened when Saturday's Daytona Beach News-Journal reported that the game likely would be forfeited and neither team would advance to the region final, giving Forest a pass to the state semifinals.

"I laid my head down, but I didn't sleep," said Beets, who will start senior Richie Hittel on the mound against Forest. "Even (Lowe) said there was no reason to worry, because we beat them on the field and that's what matters, but I tossed and turned all night."

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