MEDFORD -- Two days after losing 6-2 in the American Legion state championship game, the Medford Mustangs were declared state champions. Medford won its appeal that Mid-Valley was playing with Briley Knight, an ineligible player who hadn't played for the Southpaws all season long.
Knight had been playing with the Corvallis Knights, a college summer league team akin to Medford's Rogues or the Klamath Falls Gems. American Legion rules explicitly state once postseason play begins, a player can't play for another team. Mid-Valley's head coach, Troy Babbitt, said he got Knight's eligibility cleared by state and national officials before the state championship game. However, it's unclear whether or not he disclosed Knight's situation when inquiring about his eligibility.
"It doesn't matter if they told him he was eligible or not," Mustangs head coach Nate Mayben said, "The rule about participating with another team during postseason play made him ineligible."
Babbitt may try to appeal the ruling, but based on the language of the ruling, it doesn't seem likely to change anything. The release sent out by American Legion Baseball National Appeals Board said, "...the decisions by the National Appeals Board are final."
Mayben said he feels for the Mid-Valley players who played on the team all season long and are now being denied the chance to play in Regionals.
"I feel sick for their guys, because 17 of those guys committed to that team all summer long. They were out there in the 100-degree heat playing double headers and grinded all the way to the title game," Mayben said, "Then they're told -- I don't know -- that they wouldn't be good enough beat us without him? I just don't know why they decided to do that."
At the same time, Mayben and his coaching staff felt the need to file the appeal out of fairness to their own players, who they said were denied the right to prove worthy of representing Oregon at Regionals.
"We're happy for our kids. We're excited our kids are going to get an opportunity to go on and represent Oregon," Mayben said.
Now, the Mustangs turn their attention to Regionals, which start on Wednesday.
"Hopefully they do get excited. Hopefully they see an opportunity, a reset with what happened here," Mayben said, "If you can't get excited about that, then I guess we really shouldn't be going."
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