WATERVILLE — Rod Stevens has been involved with youth baseball for 17 years. So when he had to make a tough decision Friday, he didn’t make it lightly.

As the state Junior American Legion baseball commissioner, Stevens is in charge of the state tournament this weekend at Colby College. On Friday, Cape Elizabeth coaches assured Stevens they would have a full roster, or at least nine players, ready to go when they faced Skowhegan in the second game of the first round Friday night.

“When I was given the lineup card, I looked it over, I looked at the roster. I was told they’d have nine, but then they did not,” Stevens said as he swept the third base dugout before Sunday’s championship game between Hampden and Cheverus. “Friday was a real problem for them. They had a kid get injured, he broke his hand. They had two kids go off to Italy on a family trip. They had a kid up in Bangor, a dual-roster player, with the Senior team.”

When Cape submitted its roster as the teams warmed up, it included just eight eligible players. That left Stevens with a dilemma. By rule. Cape Elizabeth had to forfeit the game. At the same time, the other two teams had already played their game. They had already used pitchers and were subject to pitch limit rules. To send Skowhegan on to the winner’s bracket meant one team would be completely rested for the second round.

Without any time to really think about it, Stevens made what he thought was the right decision. He elected to play it out, and tell Skowhegan about the forfeit when the game was over.

“It was a tough call, but I thought it was fair and equal for the other two teams that had played already. I could have done something different if I’d known for sure this was going to happen,” Stevens said. “In a four-team tournament, we need all four teams to play… Skowhegan really had to play the game. I couldn’t let them sit and then play Cheverus.”

After the game, a 7-6 Cape Elizabeth win, Stevens told the teams what only he and Cape Elizabeth coaches knew, the game was a forfeit. Cape players were disappointed, but understood. Skowhegan, which was already preparing for a loser’s bracket game against Hampden, was pleasantly surprised.

Did Stevens put the intrepidity of the tournament ahead of the integrity of the game? That’s debatable. That he was deceptive is not up for debate. One can make the argument that his decision could have punished a Skowhegan team that showed up ready to play more than it helped a Cape Elizabeth club that arrived short-handed.

What if a Skowhegan player had been seriously hurt, only to find out the game’s result was irrelevant? Cape Elizabeth rallied from an early five-run deficit to take a lead, and the game was tied 6-6 going into the seventh inning. Was Stevens prepared to let a game that was already decided go extra innings?

“I believe I would have, after seven innings, said hey we’re going to stop this,” Stevens said.

Stevens, who coached many of the Skowhegan players as the high school junior varsity coach in the spring, said he hasn’t heard dissent from anybody from Skowhegan regarding his decision.

“I’ve heard from people, old time baseball guys, who said I did the right thing in a tough situation. I feel good about that,” Stevens said.

Cape Elizabeth was able to field an eligible team on Saturday, and was eliminated. Skowhegan also was eliminated after losing a pair of games. The game that didn’t count is just a footnote in the tournament.

“It was a tough decision, but I felt right that they should play that game. Cape Elizabeth earned the right to come up to the state tournament. They have issues getting players here, that’s not my fault. I really wanted to get the kids who could come up here an opportunity to play the game,” Stevens said.

Stevens said he made the right decision. The truth is, he was put in a situation where there was no right decision. With no time to consider options and two teams ready to play, Stevens went with his gut. He can live with that.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


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