2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Baseball: Douglas County players pulled from practice after CHSAA mistake

Published: May 9, 2014, 12:05 am, by Scott Kaniewski

Douglas County’s baseball players were fired up. They hit the practice field in preparation for Saturday’s Class 5A district tournament at No. 3 Fairview.

Sure a win might have been a long shot, but the Huskies were riding a five-game winning streak. They were up for the challenge. And just getting in was a big win.

But 45 minutes into Wednesday’s practice, coach Mark Roberts received his second phone call of the day from the Colorado High School Activities Association. This one was informing Roberts that Douglas County was not going to be in the 5A tournament. The Huskies season was over.

Mullen would be taking the final at-large bid after Maxpreps.com had recalculated the wild-card points and found that a game earlier this week for an out-of-state team that faced Mullen earlier in the season and had originally counted should not have. Therefore the removal of that game gave enough points to Mullen to push them back into the postseason and squeezed the Huskies out.

“I asked them to come down and tell my 16 kids,” Roberts said. “It’s hard to look them in the eye. It was a tough pill to swallow.”

The news came about several hours after the Huskies had learned they were in the tournament. As of Tuesday morning, they thought they were out. The players had left their equipment at home. Once they were told Wednesday they were in, the players were scrambling to get their gloves and bats together for practice. Roberts was scrambling to make hotel reservations to travel to Fairview.

“If you’re going to release the brackets, you better be sure they’re right,” Roberts said. “To me, that’s official. They let everyone know it’s a done deal at that point.”

Douglas County athletic director Jeff Gardella, who went through a different style of seeding process with last week’s girls’ soccer tournament pairings, understood Roberts’ frustration.

“The problem lies with when the guy from Maxpreps says he believes everything is OK, but that was not 100 percent,” said Gardella, who spent a lot of Thursday trying to explain the situation to the Douglas County baseball community. “You (CHSAA) should have said, ‘Timeout, we aren’t going to make these public until we get 100 percent clearance from Maxpreps that these are accurate.’”

CHSAA assistant commissioner Bert Borgmann was the one who broke the news to Gardella.

“It was an anomaly that happened to be an anomaly in the program that took six and a half hours to locate,” Borgmann told The Gazette. “We had flagged it like we were supposed to. The unfortunate part is that we released the bracket before we got final confirmation. … That wasn’t the best thing in the world.”

Borgmann apologized, and Gardella understands that mistakes will be made. But it didn’t make it any easier seeing the kids’ reactions.

“What really kills me is you tell these kids, especially the seniors,” Gardella said. “They’re out there practicing and you get a call from the CHSAA commissioner saying, ‘I made a mistake,’ and saying, ‘You aren’t in.’

“The memory our seniors are walking away with is a tough one, … ” Gardella said. “You just don’t want to see it end on a negative.”