Prep baseball: Del Campo wins appeal, controversial playoff victory reinstated

·4 min read
Paul Kitagaki Jr./

Kevin Dawidczik has been on an emotional roller coaster this week. He will embrace the good vibe while he has it.

A day after the Del Campo High School baseball coach was “sick, just sick” about having to forfeit a game his team won in dramatic fashion, Dawidczik expressed elation Thursday. The Sac-Joaquin Section reversed course Thursday, reinstating Del Campo’s win over Buhach Colony in a controversial game Monday, the first of a best-of-three series. Buhach Colony fans tried to attack an umpire after a close play at the plate ended a 3-2 Del Campo win in that Division III playoff game. Then, Wednesday, the section ruled Del Campo had broken the rules by taking batting practice on the varsity field before the game. Thursday, an appeals panel including a current softball coach and several retired and active athletic directors and administrators met via Zoom for nearly two hours. They eventually overturned the forfeit.

Here’s what set up all the drama Monday:

Del Campo beat Buhach Colony 3-2 on a game-winning slide at home. BC coach Joe Medeiros immediately hurled his hat down and angrily charged toward home plate umpire A.J. Spina to argue the call. Buhach Colony fans were relentless in their verbal assault of Del Campo coaches during a heated game; some Del Campo fans barked right back at the opposition.

In the parking lot after that game, the umpires were assaulted by Buhach Colony fans.

But the forfeit had nothing to do with the events on the field or in the parking lot. The section office on Wednesday announced that Del Campo had to forfeit for having batting practice on the field before Monday’s game, which was considered a competitive advantage, though Del Campo and other schools regularly take BP before a game. What added to the confusion is Buhach Colony was invited by Dawidczik to use Del Campo’s junior varsity batting cages, as the Atwater team arrived nearly three hours before the first pitch.

The section on Wednesday also said that the remaining games of the best-of-three series would be played at neutral sites, without fans in an effort to curb boiling tensions. The section on Thursday reversed those decisions.

Game 2 will be played Friday at Buhach Colony, with fans, except those identified as being out of control at Monday’s game. Seven Buhach Colony fans will not be allowed to attend any games the rest of this series, the section said. The Merced Union High School District said Wednesday that it would take “appropriate action” against those fans. Buhach Colony has directed all questions regarding this saga to the district office.

“I feel just fantastic that we’re back on track,” Dawidczik said. “I’m so stoked. I’m happy for our team and our parents and fans. I’m so grateful that the panel asked the questions they asked. They heard us. They allowed me to speak, for my principal, Greg Snyder, to speak. We’re good to go.”

Dawidczik said appeals board member Mary Jo Truesdale, the Sheldon softball coach, asked one key question during the appeal meeting: Does Del Campo have batting practice on every home game at the same time, in a classroom setting..

“Yes, every single time,” Dawidczik said. “”We’re not trying to cheat or be sneaky. I’d never do that.”

Section assistant commissioner Will DeBoard told The Sacramento Bee on Thursday, “We’re designed so everyone gets their due process, and Del Campo had every right to appeal. This is how our system works. If a school doesn’t agree with one of our interpretations of a rule (batting practice on game day), then they can appeal.”

DeBoard said fan behavior is a continuous concern and that it is the primary reason there has been a dramatic decline in people wanting to officiate prep games.

“It’s been a growing problem this year and it’s gotten worse over the last several years,” DeBoard said. “It’s something everybody needs to concentrate on improving. It didn’t improve on the game on Monday, and I hope those fans that (got out of control) stay away. Whatever you’re doing at a high school sporting event, or after it, expect that you’ll be on camera. That’s our new day and age.”

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