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AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL: Despite reports, Mustangs still await ruling

Medford Mustangs manager Nate Mayben said Thursday night that he had spoken with American Legion officials and the results of the team’s appeal following Wednesday’s Legion AAA state championship game will be determined this morning.

This contradicts a report about an hour earlier by the Corvallis Gazette-Times that said Mid-Valley manager Troy Babbitt had told the paper that Medford’s protest had been denied regarding the eligibility of Briley Knight in Wednesday’s state final.

American Legion officials likely cannot afford to wait beyond today to make an official ruling since the Northwest Regionals begin Wednesday in Missoula, Montana. Both teams are continuing to prepare as if they will be Oregon’s state representative.

Mayben spent the better part of Wednesday night after the game, won 6-2 by Mid-Valley with Knight pitching four scoreless innings and scoring twice from the leadoff spot, and Thursday on the phone trying to make contact with Oregon commissioner Ronnie Long and Steve Cloud, assistant director of American Legion baseball, to clearly document his appeal.

“I just want to make sure people have the right information,” said Mayben. “I tried the best I could to get the best information out there in our appeal but there’s so much too it and it’s so twisted that I just hope they get the right information to work off of and we’ll see what’s right.”

Medford’s appeal was based on eligibility rule 10 in the American Legion rule book that dictates a player may not miss any days of an official Legion tournament or exhibit dual participation. As the “point of emphasis” section states: The American Legion believes team loyalty is a key ingredient for any team sport.”

In the case of Knight, the recent Crescent Valley graduate made his first and only appearance for Mid-Valley in the opening four innings of Wednesday’s championship final. The night before — and three of the four days prior to the tournament’s final day — Knight had been playing for the West Coast League’s Corvallis Knights.

In all, Knight has played in 44 games for the WCL club this summer, batting .229 with 18 runs and 21 RBIs. He has one save in three pitching appearances with a 3.00 ERA against his college-level peers.

Babbitt said that he gained prior authority to put Knight in the lineup as a “strategical move” by Long and other Legion officials, noting that Knight’s name was on his team’s June roster and he left a roster spot open hoping Knight would choose to play for the Southpaws.

A point of contention, however, is that Long told Mayben he was not aware that Knight was also playing for the Corvallis Knights during the week of the state tournament in Roseburg, which is vastly different than dual participation during the regular season.

Under the heading of dual player eligibility in the American Legion rule book, it states: “Once department championship tournament play has begun, the department based chairman cannot grant permission to participate in other baseball events, baseball tournaments, exhibition games, showcases or combines. Any player missing any game of an American Legion national tournament because he participated in another baseball event, exhibition event, showcase or combine shall be ineligible for postseason tournament play.”

The late addition of Knight to the roster — he wasn’t part of Mid-Valley’s opening-day win over Corvallis to reach the final — was a complete surprise to Mayben and the rest of the Mustangs.

“He hasn’t been here all tournament and didn’t play the last game (we played them), so why would we expect him to be in there?” said Mayben, whose team earlier beat Mid-Valley 12-0 in six innings.

Knight’s name was removed from the Corvallis Knights online roster when checked Wednesday, but his game status for the week was obvious after it showed he went a combined 5-for-11 with two runs and four RBIs playing for his father, Corvallis Knights manager Brooke Knight.

The Utah-bound Knight was hit by a pitch on his right shoulder in the bottom of the fourth inning but remained in the game and eventually scored during the three-run frame. Babbitt removed him from the game because his arm was sore after being hit. Knight exited the ballpark with his baseball bag slung over his right shoulder and an ice pack in his left hand.

The Class 5A player of the year this past spring reportedly had his shoulder examined once he arrived back in Corvallis, and Babbitt told the Gazette-Times that Knight won’t play in the regional tournament in order to recover from the injury.

Caleb Beach (right shoulder) and Kevin Crowell (head) were also hit by pitches during Wednesday’s game, and Brendan Bliss took a ball to the face after trying to bunt in the sixth inning and had to be removed after a lengthy cleanup of blood near the batter’s box. There was no report on whether that trio would be available for the regional tournament.

Should the appeal by denied, Mid-Valley will have claimed its first Legion AAA state title since 1954. Should it be granted, it was would be the fifth straight state title for Medford and 16th overall.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

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